- The mobile market is far from dead. The misperception that the opportunity has passed is driven by the selective memory of a better past than existed and the current focus on copying existing successful products.
- The opportunity on mobile is still great, with projections of 5 billion smartphone users by 2019 and over 1 billion people on Facebook.
- Rather than complain or try to create yet another slot or mid-core game, challenge yourself to think outside the box. Focus on creating uncontested market space and making the competition irrelevant.
Don’t give up, there are still great opportunities in mobile (aka make mobile great again)
I doubt a day goes by without someone whining and winging about how tough the games and mobile market is today and although it is difficult, there are still great opportunities.
Why many think the mobile market sucks
There are a few reasons people feel the market is so challenging. First, there is always a selective memory of how great things used to be. I was there when the mobile market was perceived as a gold rush. And for the first few iOS games, they did great. It was, however, always challenging. I remember at Playdom all of our failed efforts (and various heads of mobile) to penetrate this market. Playdom was not alone, as many companies (EA/Playfish, Zynga, Kabam, CrowdStar and innumerable others) lost tons of money (and users) in the mobile space. I call this the “Make Mobile Great Again” phenomenon, similar to the Americans who have a very nostalgic view of the country 20 or 30 years ago.
The second reason for the perception of the difficulty of mobile is the red ocean mentality of most of the complainers. I have written before about blue ocean versus red ocean strategy, with the latter a strategy to beat established competitors in a known market rather than expanding the market to appeal to non-users. Mobile now is incredibly difficult if you are pursuing a red ocean strategy. Players have invested months or years in existing products (Clash of Clans, Game of War, Slotomania, etc.) and getting them to switch does not mean putting out a product a little bit better but creating a game that is 9 times better ( see my blog post from 2014 on why a new product needs to be 9X better to get users to switch ).
Then add to the challenge of creating something 9X better that the competition is really good these days. Even the game companies out of favor have experienced and deep teams of game designers, product managers and engineers. They also have millions of dollars they are investing in their new games (in some cases sitting on billions in the bank) to make them better, get new users and reactivate lapsed players. They are not waiting for you to launch a new game and take away their chart position (and revenue).
The bottom line is the market is very challenging if you are just trying to compete with games already on the market (but it always sucked to compete in a red ocean). That does not mean, however, that the mobile market itself is no longer a great opportunity.
The next great platform is still mobile
A recent blog post from Greylock Partners by Josh Elman, a leading Silicon Valley VC, makes the point that The Next Great Platform is the One That We Already Have. In the world of venture capital, they also hear all the time that there are no longer opportunities in mobile (in their case, it is often that Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, etc. have consumed the entire market) and that they need to look at the next big thing (VR, AR, drones, IOT, insert hot new trend here).
Elman, like me, is not ready to give up on mobile. He pointed out that in 2002-2004, everyone was complaining that all of the opportunities on the Internet were over: Yahoo and AOL were the dominant portals, Google controlled search and Amazon owned eCommerce. Post 2004, however, we saw Friendster then LinkedIn, MySpace, YouTube and a small company named Facebook. So maybe the Internet was not exactly devoid of opportunity.
What is particularly interesting is that these companies (many of whom enjoy huge valuations), did not even need a technological inflection point to enter the market. Instead, they grasped the opportunity from user-generated content followed by a social and psychological shift. Even the new technologies were largely improvements on existing tech.
The opportunity now is tremendous. Billions and billions of people use Smartphones (5 billion by 2019). More than one billion people are active on Facebook and over 100 million use Instagram monthly, according to Facebook. And for those still not convinced there is still an opportunity, the chart below shows all the new apps (albeit not gaming) that rose to the top of the charts just this year.
Where the mobile opportunities are
If you are expecting me now to list some great opportunities, you have not read the rest of this post very carefully. The opportunities in mobile are not doing what everyone else is doing but understanding where you can create apps and games to reach people in a new way.
As Elman writes, “What happened in the Web 2.0 era was that some companies succeeded in creating totally new experiences, engaging consumers, and enabling them to connect with other people in a way that had never happened before online. Now that we’re in a fully mobile world, I think there is a lot of room to create new experiences and connect people. “
Rather than complain or try to create yet another slot or mid-core game, challenge yourself to think outside the box. Focus on creating uncontested market space and making the competition irrelevant. Then you can leverage the still great mobile platform.