GDC 2017 Day 2: AR games, third-party publishers, game design tips and the Chinese mobile market opportunity





We’re continuing our coverage of GDC 2017. If you missed our day one highlights, you can read it here. Now, with the second day of GDC 2017 behind us, here are some of the top insights and stories from the event:

  • Niantic explained the unique design challenges that must be overcome to make a hit AR game. Cognitive dissonance is mental stress or discomfort that comes with experiencing contradicting ideas. In mobile AR games, this is often tied to the contrast of graphical aesthetics against the real world, which can result in reduced player immersion. In order to solve this issue in Pokemon Go, Niantic had to adjust the game’s visual style while also staying true to the source material. One way was by lighting the Pokemon so that regardless of whether it was day or night they’d look like natural beings in the real world. Niantic also stressed the importantance of projecting your audience size, especially for games based on popular IPs. Pokemon Go’s actual traffic was 10 times higher than their largest estimates.
  • GDC2017-Vungle4The pros and cons of distributing a mobile game through third-party publishers. Runaway detailed its experience partnering with DeNA to release its first game, Flutter. External publishers are great for developers that don’t have a strong business team. They’ll provide customer support, marketing, app stores spotlights, social community building, QA, live ops, analytics, technology for managing player accounts, funding and monetization advice. But at the same time, developers will also be tied to the publisher’s release schedule. So deciding to use a third-party publisher depends on whether a developer has the business resources to successfully launch a mobile game on their own.
  • Google is letting mobile publishers put Android apps on sale in the Play Store. The company announced that starting today developers can add strikethrough pricing for their apps. This makes it more obvious when a title is being sold at a cheaper price as consumers will be able to see the old cost next to the sale price while perusing the Play Store.
  • Crowdstar and Glu revealed the design principles they relied on to build a mobile game for non-gamers. The hit app Design Home lets player decorate rooms with real-world furniture. While the concept seems simple, the game has attracted more than 10 million downloads, most of whom are people who don’t normally play games. The secret to the game’s success was that Crowdstar and Glu identified early on the audience they wanted to target. From there, it was a matter of incorporating high graphical production values, daily challenges, competitive leaderboards and performance-based in-game rewards to spark retention and build a sense of community.
  • GDC2017-Vungle5Mobile devices are becoming the primary gaming device for the next generation of gamers and 5G networks will accelerate this trend. Today, there are up to 4 billion mobile game players according Super Evil Megacorp. By contrast, PC gaming at its peak in the 90s had about 800 million players. This spike in mobile gaming has led to consumers craving more long-form content for the platform, particularly competitive games, like Vainglory. This trend will only continue to grow once 5G mobile networks go live. The faster data speeds (1 GBPS, which is 100 times higher than 4G and LTE connections), reduced latency and less data packet loss will mean that players will be able to play high quality, deep and synchronous competitive games on mobile. This was once a field of gaming reserved for consoles and PCs, but soon will no longer be the case.
  • China is a huge opportunity for international mobile publishers, but success hinges on addressing its unique obstacles. According to ZPLAY, China remains the largest mobile gaming market in the world at $24 billion in revenue, and it’s expected to grow. However, to do well there as a foreign developer, it’s essential to partner with a reputable local publisher to help navigate the market. Mobile games must also be localized in terms of language, aesthetic, gameplay and in-app purchases in order to resonate with Chinese players. To launch in the country, companies will need to establish residency and have its content pass the government’s approval process. Finally, unlike Apple’s App Store, Google Play isn’t the primary distribution channel for Android apps. In China, there are over 300 Android app stores, so success on Android means publishing in at least 10 of the country’s biggest app channels in order to reach at least half of the Chinese Android market.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more GDC 2017 coverage.

And if want to improve your mobile ad revenue, be sure to sign up for early access to the new Vungle SDK v5. You’ll get the chance to try out our new placements feature, along with more than 10 new Dynamic Templates and more.


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Vungle's marketing team members have experience in gaming monetization, performance marketing, brand advertising, mobile analytics, app development and SaaS. We're former attorneys, journalists, research analysts, financial advisors and product managers. We are committed to producing content that helps brands and publishers across all verticals and industries grow their mobile businesses.

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