The Benefits of Reskinning a Mobile Game

Insights & Best Practices

December 8, 2016


min read

Reskinning is a polarizing force in the mobile gaming industry. Some argue it's a get-rich-quick scheme, while others insist that it's a viable business model to efficiently get mobile games into the app store. But the truth is, reskinning can be both, depending on a dev's approach. While some devs do abuse the practice?buying one source code and reproducing a large number of low-quality reskins?this isn't going to get them very far.?If you think you can simply change the graphics of a game or icon and upload it, you are doomed for failure 95 percent of the time," says Raj Arora, CEO of Reskin Games. "However, if you think of the code as your base and something that would save you time and money to build something better, then that's a good start."When devs are committed to creating a quality game and execute development with the audience in mind, reskinning is a perfectly legitimate and viable business model for small studios and devs looking to make a splash on a budget.

Shorter development time means faster monetization

Reskinning has the ability to cut game development time down from months or years to days or weeks. Take Pocket Gems's Tap Pet Shop, Tap Store, Tap Zoo or other Episode games. Instead of rebuilding each app from scratch, Pocket Gems keeps the core loops and then uses content writers and graphic designers to create different stories that guide players through the game.[caption id="attachment_21490" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]

Pocket Gems Episode mobile game

Image via Pocket Gems[/caption]"They have a clear path from a UX standpoint and from a monetization standpoint," says Carter Thomas, founder of digital marketing company Blue Cloud Solutions. "Instead of reinventing the wheel, they just reinvent the content inside that framework. That concept can be applied to the top grossing guys all the way down to the indie dev."Because devs build upon or "reskin" a pre-made code, they can reallocate time that would normally be reserved for brainstorming, design and development to thorough audience research, detailed graphic refinement and creation of a thoughtful mobile game marketing plan."We have seen plenty of game reskins with over one to five million downloads in part because devs are able to cut down costs during development and spend more money on marketing," Arora says.

Lower development costs means lower risk

Reskinning not only opens up both time and capital for devs, it also lowers the risks associated with developing a game from scratch. Using existing source code eliminates the possibility of bugs in the code, particularly since online source code marketplaces typically test each code before it's approved to be sold. Devs can also look at the company's insurance policy and make sure they offer buyer protection in the event that a source code is faulty.[caption id="attachment_21491" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]

Rovio Angry Birds mobile game

Image via Rovio[/caption]Source codes cost anywhere from $10 to $1,000, with a few exceptions. Compare that to the typical cost of developing a game, which according to the Enterprise Mobility Exchange?s Global State of Enterprise Mobility: 2016, is between $250,000 and $500,000. The same report, however, reported that a quarter of the 300 senior mobility practitioners surveyed reported spending over $1.5 million. And many spend much, much more: Rovio, for example, doled out $140 million for casual game Angry Birds.

Less risk and cost means more opportunity to explore

Absent the risk typically associated with game development and the typical costs devs face means freedom to explore new markets.?I think one of the biggest benefits is being able to go out and find niche markets that are underserved both in the app store and from websites that have huge audiences but not many apps and to have the time to strategize for those markets," Thomas says.[caption id="attachment_21492" align="aligncenter" width="1903"]

Game Gorillaz mobile game source code home page

Image via Game Gorillaz[/caption]In addition to being CEO of Reskin Games, Arora also runs Game Gorillaz?an online marketplace where devs can buy and sell mobile game source code which acts as the framework for reskin games. He recalls how a Turkish developer, who Arora declined to name to maintain client anonymity, bought a code from the site with the intention of developing it for a niche market. This particular developer now gets around 15,000 downloads from their game.By taking the time to understand and research their audience, the competition and effective marketing techniques, this dev was able to build a quality product and a polished game that resulted in an amazing user experience, Arora says.