I have written several times about the increasing options in the tablet market and the great opportunities they represent for social game companies. A recent piece on Techcrunch further illuminates this point and makes a great case on why developers should create first for tablets, then turn their attention to smartphones. The author, Tadhg Kelly, points out that Apple has sold over 100 million iPads and in 2–3 years there may be as many as 400 million tablets in the market. Moreover, price points for paid apps on tablets are higher, and Kelly expects greater monetization for free-to-play games due to longer engagement.
I am equally optimistic about prospects for tablets. Amazon’s new line of Kindle Fires will be a huge holiday seller. The devices are attractively priced, and the ability to focus holiday shoppers’ attention on the devices on the Amazon.com home page and through cross promotion ensures millions will see—and many likely buy—the new tablets. Barnes & Noble’s new Nook tablets share a similar advantage. Again, they are very attractive devices at even better price points. Barnes & Noble also has huge retail reach, with 689 stores and 667 college bookstores, all of which will be prominently showing the new Nook tablets during the holiday shopping season. In addition to these very attractively priced devices that will be in consumers’ faces this holiday season, Samsung (the second largest manufacturer of mobile devices) has a strong line of tablets (including the intriguing Galaxy Note Tab). Also, do not forget Google, that little California company, who has the resources to push its attractive Nexus tablet.
What is also exciting is how tablets are becoming the center of how people consume entertainment. One analyst predicted that people will consume more movies on tablets than at theaters within a year. Tablets are also credited with the 20 percent year-over-year drop in sales of LCD televisions less than 24 inches (the typical size of a family’s second tv). There are no hard numbers on how tablets have replaced PCs (and Facebook) in the social gaming space, but I believe the emergence of tablets is one of the key drivers of Zynga’s drop in users.
To capitalize fully on the explosion of tablets, social game developers should focus first on creating a great experience on tablets, then create the smartphone versions. The Kelly piece on Techcrunch suggests some key issues social game developers should address when creating for tablets. First, your game should be optimized for the large screen and high resolution of these tablets. The beautiful tablet screens offer the opportunity to create a much more immersive and beautiful experience than you can on a phone (or in Flash). Kelly also explains that tablets do not have the same issues of thumb obstruction as phones. As you have more real estate to develop for, it is easier to replicate a soft console controller so a player’s thumbs do not block the screen. Finally, as players usually use a tablet with both hands (rather than holding a phone in one hand), the fluidity of interaction is different than a phone (where you switch between activity and holding the phone).
The explosion of the tablet market is the most exciting development in the social game space. Despite some of the bad news coming out of the industry, there are great opportunities for gaming companies to grow by focusing on these devices.