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Thoughts on tablet gaming

By on May 27, 2013
FlickrCC image by Claudia Regina
FlickrCC image by Claudia Regina
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This is a guest post by Matthew Hannus, Sleepy Giant CEO and Co-Founder.


At the Mobile Gaming USA conference in San Francisco, I spoke on a panel with executives from GREE, Scopely, Virtual Piggy and TS2 about the state of the tablet gaming industry, specifically marketing and maximizing ROI for this emerging platform. The vast differences from iPad and iPad Mini to Microsoft’s Surface and “lighter” gaming platforms like the Kindle Fire make the tablet industry a unique challenge, compared to smartphones, consoles and PC. Whether or not you’re making tablet games, it’s important to understand the space because tablets are disrupting – and will continue to disrupt – other gaming platforms (whether or not Blackberry’s CEO agrees).

If gaming is taking a backseat to TV and sports for console giants like Microsoft (as evidenced by the Xbox One reveal this week), it makes platforms like tablets even more relevant for video games and their consumers (gamers). And now that movie studios, TV networks, companies and brands from every industry are making their own games (or working with companies to make games for them), we’re seeing an increasing divide between AAA and indie.

There are a couple important implications here.

First, as entertainment companies and consumer brands enter the gaming arena, they bring with them existing fans, many of which are far less likely to own high-end PCs or next-gen consoles. This makes “multiscreen” more important than ever. And you can’t do multiscreen on just TVs.

Second, with so many quality free-to-play game experiences at their fingertips, even hardcore gamers aren’t as willing to shell out $60 for a new console game as they used to be. Theoretically this will lead to bigger budget, better looking, better operating video games coming from the AAA title realm. But more importantly, it means bigger audiences, bigger expectations, and greater opportunities for mobile and tablet games.

At Sleepy Giant, our partners come to us with established IP and franchises, looking to reach their fans where they’re at. And when you’re talking about mainstream consumers, especially families with younger children, that most definitely includes tablets. But, we don’t say “Hey, you should make a tablet game!” We think about the brand and its audience first, and we make platform and monetization decisions based on the best approach to achieve our partner’s goals.

If you’re starting from square one and setting out to make an original game with no pre-existing audience, it may seem backwards to think about community up front. But, building community on tablets is far more difficult than on other platforms (like console or PC), and if community matters, going tablet-first may not be the right decision for you. Tablets are a super exciting, shiny, fancy new platform, but you shouldn’t get caught up in the hype and forget to make objective, smart decisions.

However, if you want to tell a story, making a tablet game may be the right choice. Tablets are a great way to reach an existing community in a new way, especially on devices like Kindle Fire, where the audience isn’t large enough for independent developers to get the biggest bang for their (development) buck. With more entertainment brands and well-known franchises entering the game space, there are new dollars to be spent on platforms that might remain unexplored by “traditional” game developers.

The point is, tablet gaming is an emerging market. The potential is here, and with it comes risk. Know your objectives, know your target audience, and most importantly, proceed with caution.

About Matt Hannus

Matthew J. Hannus is co-founder and CEO of Sleepy Giant Entertainment, Inc., a premier game studio that offers a unique mix of live operations and production management services. The company partners with leading brands, publishers, and developers to launch, operate, and grow games and communities across all digital platforms. For more information visit www.sleepygiant.com.
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  • Sik

    “If you’re starting from square one and setting out to make an original game with no pre-existing audience, it may seem backwards to think about community up front.”

    I’d say it’s quite the opposite, if you don’t have a community you should be busy making sure to build one. This often means not just good marketing or providing spaces for them to talk but also making the game from the ground up to support the community (and I don’t mean things like support for social networks or leaderboards, but rather letting players mess with the game directly, e.g. by supporting modding).

    Yes, I’m nitpicking =P