Why Are Mobile Games So Cheap - The Statistics

This article will discuss why are mobile games so cheap, why aren’t people willing to pay full price and discuss the reasoning behind $0 price tags.

I’ll cover some of the statistics and practices that have been implemented to keep prices as low as possible.

Lack of competition

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The average consumer is having trouble competing with a massive user base of casual players. Here is an excerpt from a Nintendo shareholder’s report:

“Our annual sales estimate has decreased due to an unprecedented number of casual game players,” said Hitoshi Yamagami, the president of Nintendo’s entertainment and software business division.

The number of people playing iPhone games has reached 2.5 billion (the total number of phones in the world is around 1.3 billion) and people are spending about 75 billion hours per week on mobile games.

Those numbers don’t include the rise of games on Facebook and other social networks and people spend at least an hour a day on mobile games, so the casual gamers are consuming an average of 500+ minutes per day.

The average time spent per day is 80-100 minutes.

What this means is that nearly the whole world is playing mobile games. It’s a war of attrition that has made the games so cheap to make and distribute.

Now, add in the fact that even if you make a really good game, mobile devices are wildly different.

As we have talked about, the world is split into 2 segments: gamers and casual players. Casual players are an audience that will choose a low quality game because it’s convenient.

These casual players will often tell you that they don’t like playing games on their phones. They’d rather spend their time doing other things.

The pros and cons to making mobile games

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The reason mobile games are so cheap to make and distribute has a lot to do with two things:

Synergistic development power. As we’ve already talked about, mobile game development is moving so fast that it’s hard for the studio to focus on making great games in a smaller window.

If a developer wants to make a $3 game, they don’t have the capital or enough expertise to make a $1 game that has the same quality. It’s an interesting problem that big studios are having, but it’s hard to know what to do about it.

As we’ve already talked about, mobile game development is moving so fast that it’s hard for the studio to focus on making great games in a smaller window.

If a developer wants to make a $3 game, they don’t have the capital or enough expertise to make a $1 game that has the same quality. It’s an interesting problem that big studios are having, but it’s hard to know what to do about it.

Low cost development power – While a small studio needs a budget, a large company can work on fewer games and focus on quality. The budgets are also larger and the time is more manageable. The downside is that the budgets are bigger and the time is less manageable.

The studios are making fewer games, but the prices are being kept low in the same way that fans are pushing games to as cheap as possible: through word of mouth. Since players aren’t spending $8, $10, or $15 on each game, they are spreading the word to friends, family, and other consumers.

Reason #1 – Synergistic development power

With a large development team, it takes a while to build a large enough audience to cover a game’s development cost. The average AAA console game, for example, takes 2-3 years to make.

The audience size of a given game team is an average of 50 to 100.

So, we need a huge player base for an average game to cover its costs. As you may guess, development time for AAA mobile games is much shorter (average is just 6-8 months).

However, the price point of mobile games is lower (average price $4-15), so in effect, the development team needs a smaller consumer base.

This is the relationship between the development teams and their audience. A much smaller development team will have a much more capable audience.

This tends to make the game cheaper to make, but the games will be more niche and may take a bit longer to make, a problem that large companies can also overcome.

Reason #2 – Low cost development power

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If you compare the cost to make AAA games to that of mobile games, you see a pretty big difference. You can see why a larger team is better to have:

A large AAA team can work on a larger game (and the budget would be much bigger).

The budget for AAA games is generally higher, so the development time is also higher. The issue with time is that it’s time that could be spent on things like making a great game or refining their game.

A AAA game usually has a much more complex design.

A AAA game tends to have much better production values (motion capture, music, voice overs, etc).

A AAA game is expensive to develop, which can restrict the game to a much smaller audience.

An average AAA game also has lots of places where they can add value (paid DLC, expansion packs, paid console version, etc).

A typical mobile game can have much less value added to it (you don’t need motion capture, music, voice overs, etc to make a mobile game).

Also, mobile game development tends to be much cheaper (cost of R&D, CPU costs, etc).

A smaller team can also have a smaller budget for that small development team. For the average game, that means you’ll be able to do less, but do it more well (on the surface, you may not have the budget, but you can get by on $5 games rather than a $30 game).

If you make $3 games on iOS, $5 games on Android, or $8 games on iOS, you’ll have a different budget than if you make $20 games on all three platforms (all you need is a new 3D engine and you’re ready to make a $3 game).

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