★ TouchArcade needs your help. Click here to support us on Patreon.

Niche to meet you! (also: finding success on app store)

06-01-2011, 07:32 PM
#1
Niche to meet you! (also: finding success on app store)

I posted a rant about the state of the game market and why Niche is the way to go on our blog. However I wanted to get the community's thoughts as well. For the ADHD among you here's the TL;DR version:
Casual game market is flooded in ever sense of word. Nobody wants to play your match 3, flying bird, puzzle game and even if they did they stand fat chance of finding you. Making game for the masses turns app development into a gamble where odds aren't in your favor unless you pull off AAA quality polish and marketing. Going niche is the solution. Developing for and getting niche communities involved solves discoverability, marketing, and advertising in one fell swoop. Rinse, wash, and repeat and get a liveable income.

Anyway, that's our philosophy and business plan (one that is completely and unequivocally untested), and you may now disagree with it.
06-01-2011, 08:07 PM
#2
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 603
I definitely agree that aiming for mass appeal at all costs is a dead end street, creatively. It's pretty obvious that most of the app buying public aren't interested in a game that offers depth or challenge, they want simple, mindless fun. By catering to a particular niche, you might limit your audience, but you can potentially generate a lot more excitement and goodwill with your players. If there's a huge amount of appetite for a particular genre that's poorly represented in the app store (like turn-based strategy or metroidvania), you can strongly capitalize on that. I feel like I've been on both sides of this already... Zombieville was a dead simple game that appeals to a lot of people, and remains our best seller. Battleheart was firmly aimed at a narrower niche due to its relative complexity, higher price and fantasy theme. It hasn't sold as many copies as Zombieville, but it's easily our most beloved game with an enthusiastic fanbase.

That said, I disagree that discoverability is still a battle even with triple-A visuals and addictive, clever gameplay. As everyone knows, getting featured in one of Apple's hand-picked lists is the "super bowl ad" of app marketing - it guarantees millions of eyeballs on your product. And in my experience, getting featured is simply inevitable if you can execute at a certain level of polish. That bar is fairly high (and getting higher all the time) but its an achievable goal. There's no way a game as slick and polished as, say, Cut the Rope wasn't going to get the midas touch from Apple. Whether you're making a steampunk-tactical-rpg-dating-sim, or launching birds through the air, execution is the name of the game.

06-02-2011, 04:21 AM
#3
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 240
You only have two choices:
- Casual: high risk Investment (more competitor), but higher profit possible.
- Niche kind of game (usually more hardcore): less Investment risk (no competitor), but lower income possible.

If you are a good business man, you will do both (like MikaMobile).
06-02-2011, 06:07 AM
#4
Joined: Nov 2008
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posts: 121
Send a message via Skype™ to helioxfilm
A very timely thread.

Somehow I came to the same conclusion earlier when I started to make my current game: find a theme which belongs to a special niche (poorly represented in the AppStore) and create such a game which is suitable for that niche and at the same time it is appealing to the avarage casual players, since its representation delivers a higly polished casual experience.

So I will promote the game first and precisely among the people in that niche (forums, banners, specialised giveaways), and I hope it will create enough starting base. (Promoting of course at gaming sites at the same time as usual.) What I have found out, that the other games in that particulary niche are not promoted at all in those communities they should normally belong. But I will do.

And than, as always, the pudding must be eaten to find out, whether it is good or bad...
06-02-2011, 07:28 AM
#5
Joined: May 2011
Location: Edmonton, Canada
Posts: 245
In the long run, I would have thought that niche would ultimately be the way to go. The casual game, may have it's benefits, but as it's rightly been said .... it can be hit or miss. Niche, for me is more targeted but, as with most marketing can you get more hits and longer sustainability by aiming your products more selectively and growing your client base steadily over time.

I think many of us would love the "quick" approach, who wouldn't but, with so much competition out there the tortoise might just win over the jet powered, power up fuelled hare. My thinking is, create a niche for yourself with a solid base and the where possible evolve into the other markets while making sure you don't alienate your core fans.

Fantasy Adventure eBook set on a magical writer's desk available for DOWNLOAD @ http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H9K3KTW
06-02-2011, 12:58 PM
#6
Quote:
Originally Posted by MikaMobile View Post
in my experience, getting featured is simply inevitable if you can execute at a certain level of polish. That bar is fairly high (and getting higher all the time) but its an achievable goal. There's no way a game as slick and polished as, say, Cut the Rope wasn't going to get the midas touch from Apple. Whether you're making a steampunk-tactical-rpg-dating-sim, or launching birds through the air, execution is the name of the game.
Well that's certainly encouraging! Unfortunately, judging from the majority of entries, I don't know how realistic that is for many indie developers.

If a dev doesn't have the resources or experience to pull off that level of quality, I believe their best bet is to go very Niche to start. They've got a much better chance at making at least some money that way. Otherwise their generic Match 3 or Flying/Swimming/Jumping/Running "insert animal here" game is probably going to come and go without anybody noticing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by helioxfilm View Post
...find a theme which belongs to a special niche (poorly represented in the AppStore) and create such a game which is suitable for that niche and at the same time it is appealing to the avarage casual players, since its representation delivers a higly polished casual experience.

So I will promote the game first and precisely among the people in that niche (forums, banners, specialised giveaways), and I hope it will create enough starting base. (Promoting of course at gaming sites at the same time as usual.) What I have found out, that the other games in that particulary niche are not promoted at all in those communities they should normally belong. But I will do.
This is exactly the strategy we are following with RoboArena. Glad to see others have come to the same conclusion. I'd say a really good example of this kind of approach would be the game Outwitters that One Man Left is doing right now. They are boiling Turn Based Strategy games down to the core fun principles, and leaving out any of the complications that would alienate non-fans of the genre. Also their style and polish are very inviting and accessible. It's a niche game with mass market appeal! We are following them closely to see how they market it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlueSpiral View Post
In the long run, I would have thought that niche would ultimately be the way to go. ...My thinking is, create a niche for yourself with a solid base and the where possible evolve into the other markets while making sure you don't alienate your core fans.
Exactly. Going niche turns game development into an investment instead of a gamble. It makes it much more predictable, and thus much more stable for building a business from. It's a much better approach in my eyes than throwing yet another casual game out there and hoping you hit the lottery.

Last edited by BravadoWaffle; 06-02-2011 at 01:01 PM.
06-02-2011, 03:50 PM
#7
Joined: Dec 2009
Location: Berlin, Germany
Posts: 1,674
well, how do you know this niche exists on this platform and how big this niche actualy is..

aiming for something you don't know about is pretty hard imho..

also niche does not mean you can be more successfull with a lesser quality product.. i think its actualy the opposite.. the casual market (which is attracted to general good looking games) do not really care about perfection of execution.. there can be flaws in alot aspects and still be successfull if it appeals to them..

whereas the niche guy.. like the round based strategy gamer is more likely to be alot more critic about your product because he is very deeply involved with this genre/style of games.. so delivering a mediocre product won't help anywhere..

i would rather question myself for the scope of my own products i'm planing.. if i can't pull off a certain quality why even bother with this special goal...

even highly polished products like great little war , who would probably fit perfectly your description of niche product and casual friendly polish did not quite succeded on the appstore like it should.. not sure if the devs recouped their investment yet

going niche does not turn a project into an investment, the "gamble" is the same.. thinking otherwise can fire back pretty hard , when the sales numbers come in.. and reality turns into a wall.

there is no gurantee whatever you do.. and if going "niche" means to compete with projects like outwitters or any other round based strategie game then i think your definiton of "niche" is wrong..

having a plan is always good.. having a target too.. but please don't rely to much on one thing..

there are always enough devs out there who try to ride their dead project for years to come without any movement.. its dead..

so prepare for plan b, and c.. and probably also plan d..

i think every developer out there should ask the realistic question "what happens if my dream project does not fly but crash, what happens then ?"

Hope for the best, expect the worst. Be prepared for both!
06-02-2011, 04:21 PM
#8
Joined: Nov 2009
Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Posts: 197
Quote:
Originally Posted by BravadoWaffle View Post
Well that's certainly encouraging! Unfortunately, judging from the majority of entries, I don't know how realistic that is for many indie developers.
MikaMobile has demonstrated that achieving a high level of polish - the kind that sells lots of copies - is not a function of "bigness," massive budgets, or any of the other resources a larger-than-indie dev may have at their disposal: rather, it is a function of the developer's willingness to work, to niggle, to take pains, to take the time and the effort to produce the very best they are capable of.

Jerry Della Femina was a small agency owner in the big-time ad world of 1960's and 70s Manahattan, going head to head with Doyle Dane Bernbach, Ogilvy & Mather, Y&R and FCB. He had this to say about his relative size (I'm paraphrasing from memory, here): "The big guys can't buy a better 4-color page in Time magazine than we can. They can't buy better photography or brighter ink. And when our ad is up against theirs, nobody has ever said, 'Well, I'm not going to buy a Corum watch because Della Femina isn't billing what Foote Cone & Belding are.'"

What he meant was, great ideas and high quality are available to anybody, large or small, willing to put in the work. So, you could just as easily say that if a dev doesn't have the resources to pull off that kind of quality, then maybe they should think about putting their talents to use elsewhere. The App Store isn't a tinkerer's clubhouse: it's a global software marketplace serving the owners of some of the most sophisticated digital hardware available. Go big or go home.

Gravity Music
Music and sound for Zombieville USA (I & II), OMG! Pirates!, Battleheart and more
"Gravity Doesn't Suck. It Attracts."
www.gravitymusic.com
06-02-2011, 10:51 PM
#9
Joined: Mar 2009
Location: Oslo, Norway
Posts: 731
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gravity Jim View Post
What he meant was, great ideas and high quality are available to anybody, large or small, willing to put in the work. So, you could just as easily say that if a dev doesn't have the resources to pull off that kind of quality, then maybe they should think about putting their talents to use elsewhere. The App Store isn't a tinkerer's clubhouse: it's a global software marketplace serving the owners of some of the most sophisticated digital hardware available. Go big or go home.
Sorry but this doesn't make much sense at all. A triple-A title might have several years worth of man hours put into it. Smaller teams/Single devs cannot possibly achieve the same.

Your ad example doesn't compare as it's referring to a business we're the money is apparently available and it's the guiding idea that's the big differentiator. Yes, one single person can obviously have an idea as great as anyone else...
06-02-2011, 11:28 PM
#10
Quote:
Originally Posted by mr.Ugly View Post
so prepare for plan b, and c.. and probably also plan d..

i think every developer out there should ask the realistic question "what happens if my dream project does not fly but crash, what happens then ?"

Hope for the best, expect the worst. Be prepared for both!
A million times this. Try to make the best game you can, don't cater it to a specific group that may or may not even exist!