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Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – has Bigpoint just made a big mistake?
UPDATE: Heiko Hubertz asked me to clarify that Bigpoint still believes in mobile. “We still believe in mobile and will continue working on mobile projects. We are still working with external studios and continuing publishing 3rd party mobile games. We just don’t develop mobile games internally anymore.” Clarified.
Bigpoint today took a a broom to its management and its business. Out are Bigpoint veterans Nils Holger-Henning and brothers Philip and Tobias Reiseberger. Out too is the entire mobile business with the loss of 29 jobs.
Everyone is at pains to state the the departures of the senior management is amicable. CEO Heiko Hubertz is even going to invest in Nils’ new startup. But I can’t help thinking that the move away from mobile is very risky for Bigpoint.
It’s not because Bigpoint doesn’t believe in mobile. Heiko said:
“I’m a big believer in mobile, it’s going to change many things in the games industry.”
He then continued:
“But I also think it’s not the right time at the moment to be in this market because to generate revenues in this market is very tough.”
That means that Bigpoint is going to double down on its browser-based strategy. I am nervous that this the wrong decision. Mobile, and particularly tablets, are going to be the dominant platform for consuming online entertainment over the next decade. Bigpoint got a head start by being ahead of the curve in browser-based gaming. It now risks being permanently behind the curve as smartphones and tablets disrupt the desktop Internet.
This seems to me to be the consequences of Bigpoint maturing and encountering the same (dangerous) pressures that make it difficult for established businesses to adapt to new threats. It seems likely, based on these actions, that the company is facing shareholder pressure to focus its resources and start driving profitability.
So it has decided to stick to the platform of the noughties, not the platform of the tens. It can say “all of our games are available on a tablet in the browser”, but that is not the same as a “tablet-first” design. The use case is different. The input device is different. The design requirements are different.
Bigpoint has effectively said “we are betting on the browser”. My instinct is that this is the wrong bet. I hope, for Heiko’s sake, and all the people he works with, that my instinct is wrong.