Your Failed Mobile Game Could Be Worth $50,000

Insights & Best Practices

June 15, 2015


min read

"I've probably failed more often than anybody else in Silicon Valley. Those don't matter. I don't remember the failures. You remember the big successes." ? Vinod Khosla, co-founder, Sun MicrosystemsMobile game developers have something to learn from the famous failure fetish that pervades Silicon Valley's tech startups. While it's truly heartbreaking to launch a game that's the result of your team's blood, sweat and tears only to be met with the sound of crickets once it hits app stores, the fact is that the more often you dust yourself off and try again, the more likely you are to succeed.And, as any serial entrepreneur knows, it helps to develop thick skin: Just because your mobile game didn't reach the global (or even niche) audience you imagined, that doesn't mean it sucks. That's what Dutch mobile game publisher Spil Games wants to remind the mobile game dev community with Unsung Heroes: an effort to give mobile games that have already launched ? but didn't fulfill what their developers' felt was their full potential? a second chance. The winner will get $50,000 worth of marketing and support, as well as exposure in PocketGamer. Time's running out, though: they're accepting submissions through June 23. (So if you?re interested?and open to a publishing deal?get moving!).Since we're big fans of anyone trying to give indie mobile game devs a helping hand, we caught up with Spil Games CEO Tung Nguyen-Khac to find out why they're asking devs to make impassioned pitches for games that might otherwise disappear.Nate: Why is Spil Games putting this program together? What's the ultimate vision?Tung: About this time last year, we were analyzing the market as part of our increased focus on mobile gaming and we noticed something strange was going on. Some really terrific games were getting nowhere in the app stores and we felt that was a shame.So we put the Unsung Heroes Campaign together. It has a couple of different aims. One is to help developers who have great creativity understand their market better so that they can grow the audience for their games. This is a general goal: Whether developers publish their games through Spil Games or not, we think everyone benefits if they find common cause with game players.

Our second goal is to get gamers to play a wider range of mobile games. We think they're missing some awesome playing experiences if they stick with the top 10 all the time. So we wanted to highlight some of the games we think deserve a tryout. It gives players a richer, more rewarding experience and it helps improve gaming in general. Most of the really great games come out of developers working on user feedback from earlier generations.Nate: Why are you focusing on the games that have "failed" in app stores? Why not games that are still in development or new game ideas?Tung: So, first of all, Spil Games' main business is working with developers on ideas and building them into commercial successes. We've always done that and we'll continue to do so.Unsung Heroes is about something different. I don't think it's fair to say these games have failed. Many have been great successes creatively and critically. It is probably true to say their developers would like them to have been more successful commercially.That's the point of Unsung Heroes, really. To showcase game creativity that hasn't been recognized because of the way mobile game marketing is structured. We want to help the best developers tap into that market more effectively. And we want more people to have a chance to play these awesome games.Nate: What, if there is one, is the solution to get often-overlooked games the attention they deserve?Tung: Actually, different games need different solutions on different levels. On a design level, a first start is to challenge the developers about what their vision for the game is compared to what they actually delivered. You will find many examples where some decisions that have been made actually did not align to the vision they had. Often slight adjustments can already mean a huge difference in how a game performs.Other developers tend to forget that nowadays developing a game is actually only half the deal. They haven't quite got the hang of monetization strategies that work or they are not familiar with how to incorporate it into the game mechanics in a way that feels natural.Many developers will admit they put all their effort into creating a game, but then realize they don't have much of an understanding of marketing and how to get a global audience. For some, their game is great once it is explained, but they haven't made it sufficiently accessible for a mobile audience.Nate: What are your best tips for developers to make games that will stand out in a crowded marketplace?Tung:

  1. Give me an actual reason to play your game. Why is your game worth my attention? You don't have to reinvent the wheel, but try to find some creative and original mechanics or combinations that users will understand immediately.
  2. Have an understanding of your target audience and their needs as well the other games they play. Base your design decisions upon those facts and make sure your gameplay, mechanics and presentation fit to that group.
  3. Make sure your game is fit for scale and viral growth. Show me a reason to play the game for more than two times and invite friends over and over again.
  4. [You need] a high production value?and even more important, an excellent execution.

Check out a few of the first developers involved in Unsung Heroes on Spil Games' blog.