Regardless of how you may feel about the iPhone as a productivity or enterprise tool, it has done wonders for encouraging mobile software consumption and educating users about what is available to them.
Analysts are saying that the mobile games industry grew in North America by nearly 19 per cent in 2008, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers projects the market will grow from $858 million in 2008 to $1.3 billion in 2013.
Developers are having great success with mobile gaming in the App Store, but BlackBerry App World isn’t seeing the numbers just yet. Companies like Top Hat Monocle, are seeing excellent download rates in the App Store on their casual games such as Hopple, which has been downloaded more than 80,000 times.
So why doesn’t BlackBerry App World see similar success? Two factors stand out: hardware and marketing.
Hardware – A touchscreen has proven itself to be the best interface for mobile gaming. It lends itself to creative casual games that are easy to play and have a short learning curve. For a new market such as mobile gaming, this simplicity is really key to a fun user experience. For BlackBerry, we only have the BlackBerry Storm, and very few developers are making Storm exclusive games that take advantage of the touch interface and accelerometer. BlackBerry needs more developers such as Nickel Buddy, who are ready to go out and make a good Storm game. Side note – this game is available for trackball devices, but it was originally developed for the Storm and then ported to trackball. Most developers will work the other way because the revenue potential is much greater for trackball devices.
Another element of the hardware that needs to be improved for the gaming market is the amount of available on-board memory. Some iPhone games are exceeding 100MB and delivering stunning graphics and console-like play. Until the BlackBerry gets more on-board memory, we probably won’t see a game of this caliber.
Marketing – The most memorable BlackBerry Storm ad, involves showcasing all of the consumer features available with the Storm. The ad goes on to describe the social networking features, camera, video etc. and it doesn’t even mention gaming. This is compared to a popular iPod advertisement that prominently displays the gaming capabilities of the device and how fun the device can be. While the ad is for an iPod, everybody knows that the functionality is also embedded in the iPhone. RIM could have really helped the gaming industry by showcasing that a BlackBerry isn’t just a productivity device, but that it can be fun too.
Another element of marketing that can be improved is directly related to App World itself. On an individual title basis, it’s very difficult for a company to differentiate their title and gain exposure. There’s so much in there (and for free) that any one game isn’t going to sell exceptionally well. Moreover, the performance is greatly affected by what RIM decides to put in the featured titles list. It isn’t clear how one goes about getting in the coveted carousel, but it can make or break an app’s success. On top of this, while it may not be directly a marketing issue, having only the one payment option, PayPal, immediately limits your consumer base. As soon as they incorporate credit card and direct billing we should see a huge increase in sales.
While gaming is often ignored in the BlackBerry space, it’s a growing market that deserves more attention. BlackBerry games don’t have to be simple card games or Tetris-style puzzles, they can be engrossing, full featured, console-style games. The device is powerful enough to do it.
Have you bought a BlackBerry game that you like? Comment and share!