本文原作者：James Brightman 譯者ciel chen
現在想要在手遊市場中脫穎而出是越發地艱難了，真的，很多平臺上的數字生態系統都早已人滿爲患了。近來蘋果、谷歌和任天堂先後都爲獨具創意的遊戲做了類型策劃推薦欄。最神奇的不是App Store中爲獨立遊戲做的永久界面，而是一個2人遊戲開發團隊居然可以像Supercell、King和EA這樣的遊戲巨頭一樣，通過一個按鈕，就讓超過10億的活躍IOS設備看到他們做的遊戲。我們在手機遊戲的包容性道路上又邁出了新的一步。跟我聊天的獨立遊戲人都爲這個關於APP Store的新聞感到由衷的欣喜。
22Cans（作品：《Godus》、《The trail》）的負責人Peter Molyneux插了一嘴說：“爲獨立遊戲開發者提供專欄——這無論對開發者還是消費者都絕對是個超讚的消息。消費者對獨特的遊戲內容有着迫切需求，而獨立遊戲開發者不止一次地在證明着：他們願意不顧一切地去做內容獨特大膽的遊戲。有了這樣一個發行獨立遊戲APP的專欄，不用再受到發行商和一般APP發行流程的挑挑揀揀，這對於獨立遊戲人實在是個超大福利。”
後來創建了自己的工作室Mountains的《紀念碑谷》主設計師Ken Wong對此評論道：“‘獨立遊戲’這個標籤在過去幾年裏變得越發模糊了。但是，作爲最大娛樂平臺之一的App store,要把那些規模較小、營銷開支不足、試驗期較長的遊戲團隊拖出來拉到聚光燈下，這個點子絕對會受到歡迎。”
Untame（作品：《Mushroom 11》）的總裁兼創始人Itay Keren補充說：“這個爲獨立遊戲開創的窗口提供了接觸到新興藝術家和藝術其本身的途徑。手機遊戲跟藝術並不是真的可以拿來相提並論的，但是真正的創新和創造力確實是獨立遊戲賦予的。所以，給廣大羣體繼續提供這種接觸遊戲的機會，意味着你同時也在冶煉玩家的品味，甚至能改變人們對手機遊戲的定義…… 蘋果對獨立遊戲的支持不僅僅是一個營銷活動，他們看到的是遊戲這個行業最需要的東西。”
蘋果公司，像很多其他平臺運營者一樣，他們瞭解獨立遊戲開發者能夠給遊戲生態平衡系統帶來怎樣的價值。事實上，雖然今天我們通過在APP store的專欄感受到了蘋果公司對獨立遊戲扶持力度的加大，但有開發者告訴我，早在9年前App store首次發行的時候蘋果就已經爲獨立遊戲做了很大貢獻了。
Spry Fox（代表作《Road Not Taken》和《Bushido Bear》）的CEO，David Edery談到：“我和蘋果的合作經歷非常愉快；我們的中間聯繫人會讓我們實時掌握有關IOS的發展動態，他們也會聽取我們的反饋並/或幫助我們，確保我們的遊戲能被媒體編輯們看到。對此我們總能感到他們恰如其分的支持。可能我們的遊戲賺的錢永遠沒法達到《皇室戰爭》那麼多（甚至連接近都做不到），而蘋果似乎知道：像我們這樣努力保持遊戲的高質量和原創性是多麼難能可貴，他們覺得這纔是他們要的……因爲我們能從大方向上優化遊戲生態系統。”
Zach Gage（代表作《Typeshift》、《Ridiculous Fishing》）做了一些說明：“我真的很喜歡IOS的生態系統和用戶基礎。它當然也會像其他電子商店一樣起起落落，但是我認爲，如果你好好比較比較它當初發行時的樣子跟現在這樣大的規模，想想它一步步走到今天經歷了多少的成長，你會感到非常訝異——訝異他們直到現在還保留着對堅持特色所持有的包容態度”。現在有非常多的編輯偏愛對獨立遊戲進行報道，並且似乎每過幾個月就會有一部獨立遊戲鉅作受到矚目。”
NimbleBit（代表作《Tiny Towers》、《Bit City》）的David Marsh補充道：“APP Store真的讓我們這些小公司發行了很多遊戲；我們從2008年就開始爲當時剛出道的App Store做遊戲。能夠擁有這樣一個平臺，今天你在這個平臺上上傳遊戲，幾天後你就可以通過這個平臺得到十億多的潛在用戶，而且他們只要按下下載鍵就能開始遊戲之旅，這在那時候看來就已經很令人驚歎了，即使是現在也仍是如此。”
“編輯推薦版塊和類型策劃推薦欄在APP Store上重磅迴歸。蘋果會根據哪幾種不同類型和領域的遊戲是玩家喜愛的而重點推薦，但是大部分APP Store的用戶可能不會意識到這點，同樣地他們也會在社交媒體上展示了很多又酷又有趣的的遊戲。當然這些努力也並非萬能藥，是無法讓每個開發者跟每款遊戲都能走到聚光燈下的，不過這至少讓我們看到了蘋果對遊戲和遊戲開發者多樣性的重視，App Store對他們來講就像家一樣溫暖。”
Armor Games（代表作《Sonny》、《Gem Hunters》）的老闆Daniel McNeeley爲蘋果支持獨立遊戲的舉動深受感動，不過他仍舊擔心着小遊戲工作室在移動平臺上面臨的巨大挑戰，他說：“是有人可以做出真的了不起的遊戲的，但是可能這些遊戲永遠都火不起來，因爲他們通常無法跟那些大公司比營銷，畢竟連規模都沒人家大。我覺得沒有人會去質疑獨立遊戲開發者做出的努力，但很多時候總感覺成功取決於——有沒有剛好在媒體界的人脈或者剛好很有名的朋友幫你宣傳，然後你才能從衆多遊戲中走出來到聚光燈下。也不是說這是全憑運氣、徒勞無功的事！只是說大多數情況下，獨立遊戲開發者甚至得比大公司盡更多的努力來獲得成功或突破。”
根據獨立遊戲開發者給我們的反饋，以前開發者在APP Store或者Google Play兩個平臺之間選擇時往往要小心翼翼，但是現在兩個平臺都分別對獨立遊戲羣體開發的產品表示了濃厚的興趣，所以若能你將產品目標平臺向IOS和Adroid齊頭並進就再好不過了。
David Marsh還補充說：“如果你想讓人們玩你的遊戲，我認爲Google Play和App Store都會是合適你們新穎作品的好平臺——因爲我認識的每個人都有一把Adroid或者IOS系統手機，甚至連我祖母都會安裝我們的新遊戲來玩，這放在10年前我根本不敢相信。現在似乎兩個平臺都在致力於新的管理和整理方法，以便讓海量的遊戲能在他們的平臺上順利運行。認可獨立遊戲開發者是讓巨型遊戲庫發揮其多樣性的絕佳方式，我們希望這種趨勢能繼續延續下去！”
Apple ramps up its support for indies
App Store receives permanent section where indies will be spotlighted; indies tell us they’re happy with “renewed focus on editorial and curation”
Editor in Chief
Thursday 16th March 2017
If you’ve peeked at the App Store on iOS in the last week you may have noticed Apple spotlighting “Newly discovered indies” and promoting “Indie greats” for 99 cents. This support has culminated today in a new dedicated page for games from the independent developer community.
While it’s gotten increasingly hard to stand out on mobile – and indeed, on many platforms as more digital ecosystems get too crowded – Apple, Google and Nintendohave all been pushing for more curation of innovative games lately. Giving indies a permanent home on the App Store is not a magic bullet, but when a two-man garage development team can reach over a billion active iOS devices with the click of a button in the same way that giants like Supercell, King and EA can, we’re another step closer at least to democratizing mobile games publishing. Indies I spoke to are rightfully very happy about this latest App Store news.
“I think Apple have done a great job promoting indie style games in the past and it’s great to see them move further in this direction. One look through the featuring week by week shows that a disproportionate amount of exposure is given to smaller teams and now with the new indie section that looks to be continuing,” said Dan Gray, head of studio at ustwo (Monument Valley, Land’s End).
Peter Molyneux, 22Cans (Godus, The Trail), chimed in: “It’s absolutely fantastic news for both developers and consumers that there will be a special place for indie developers. Consumers desperately need unique content and indie developers have proved time and time again that they are willing to throw caution to the wind and develop content that is unique and brave. It’s going to be a huge benefit for indies to have a specific place to launch their apps, and not be diluted with publisher and general app releases.”
Ken Wong, the lead designer of Monument Valley who went on to found Mountains, commented: “The label ‘indie’ has become increasingly vague over the past few years. But if the general idea is for one of largest entertainment platforms to highlight smaller teams, teams without a lot of marketing spend, and more experimental works, then that’s certainly welcome.”
Itay Keren, president and founder of Untame (Mushroom 11), added, “This window to independent work provides exposure to new artists, as well as to the art itself. Mobile gaming has not really been synonymous with art, but the true innovation and creativity has come from the indies. So by providing this ongoing exposure of these games to such a large audience, you’re going to broaden the taste of gamers and possibly even transform the very definition of what mobile games are… Championing indie works is clearly not just a marketing campaign, but an actual view of what’s best for this industry.”
Apple, like more and more platform holders, seems to recognize the value that indie developers can bring to an ecosystem. In fact, while the company is punctuating its support for indies today with a dedicated home on the App Store, developers told me that the company has done a lot to support indies in the nine years since the App Store first launched.
David Edery, CEO of Spry Fox (Road Not Taken, Bushido Bear) remarked, “My experience working with Apple has been great; we have several contacts who help us keep abreast of important iOS-related developments, listen to our feedback and/or help make sure that our games get seen by the editorial group. We’ve always felt reasonably well supported. Our games are probably never going to make the kind of money that Clash of Clans makes (or get even close) and Apple seems to understand that there is nevertheless value in making sure that high quality, original games like ours get their day in the sun… because it makes the ecosystem healthier overall.”
Zach Gage (Typeshift, Ridiculous Fishing) noted, “I really like the iOS ecosystem and user base. It has its ups and downs like every other storefront, but I think if you consider just how large it is and how much it has grown since its inception it’s pretty amazing that they have maintained their democratized stance for what to feature. A large amount of the editor’s picks are indie games and it seems like every few months there’s another huge indie hit getting attention.
“Apple has shown a really strong commitment to indie games over the years, and you can see that through things like the current indie promotion and their proclivity to feature odd indie titles, and even give them Game of the Year and Apple Design Awards. Apple seems to know and respect that a lot of true innovation comes out of the people in their bedrooms, and has set themselves up, and continues to set themselves up structurally to highlight that.”
David Marsh of NimbleBit (Tiny Towers, Bit City) added: “The App Store pretty much launched our little company; we started in 2008 making games for the then newly opened App Store. It was amazing back then and it’s still pretty amazing today that there is a platform where you can upload a game one day and a few days later have a potential audience of a billion people just one tap away from playing.
“There has been a renewed focus on editorial and curation on the App Store. Highlighting different genres and niches that Apple knows many players love – but that the broader App Store audience might not be aware of, as well showcasing lots of cool and interesting games on social media. Those kinds of efforts won’t be a panacea to expose every developer and every game, but it shows that Apple cares about the diversity of games and game developers that make their home on the App Store.”
Being featured on the new indies section of the App Store could certainly give a developer a boost, but it isn’t going to radically alter market dynamics. The big companies that often dominate the mobile charts have huge resources and marketing budget. They focus on user acquisition and retention and even advertise on TV during the Super Bowl. Indies can’t do that, but then again, they don’t necessarily need to.
“In my opinion we aren’t competing in the same industry at all,” said Dan Gray. “Our primary focus is having an impact on players and leaving them with a feeling or emotion, and we believe that if we’re successful in moving people in this way then financial success will follow. One thing we’ll never do is make a creative decision based upon revenue generated per user.
“What I feel is essential for a developer to look at if they’re set on creating premium games is picking an idea that simply isn’t possible using a free-to-play model. You need to give the player no viable free alternative to your experience. It’s incredibly difficult for a developer to create a two-hour game with a different architectural style in each chapter effective from a F2P monetisation perspective – therefore, we’re left in our own niche.”
Molyneux commented, “It’s extremely difficult to compete with the giants, when they have such a massive market share. In my opinion, if you try to compete by making a ‘better’ version of their game you are destined to fail. If, however, you try and make something which is innovative and delightful, you at least have the chance of picking up the consumers which are growing tired of the same game mechanics.”
Marsh was in complete agreement, adding, “Going up against giants like Supercell, King and EA is tough, but I don’t see them as direct competitors. We don’t have the same mission to fulfill with our games that they need to with their games. We have a studio of three people… so we don’t need the huge hits they do in order to keep the lights on. We see that as an advantage, and it frees us to make the games that we think are interesting even if they don’t bring in a million dollars a day.”
Daniel McNeeley, owner of Armor Games (Sonny, Gem Hunters), is heartened by Apple’s growing support of indies, but he still worries about the huge challenge that small studios face on mobile. “Someone can make a game that’s genuinely great, and it may ultimately never end up catching on because they can’t compete with the sheer marketing power of these larger companies, or just the enormous volume in general,” he said. “I don’t think anyone would ever accuse indies of being anything less than incredibly hard working, but it can often feel like it depends on whether the right person in the press or the right viral personality happens to spot you in the sea of content. Which is not to say that it’s all up to chance, or that it’s some impossible Sisyphean task! Just that indies often have to do more to succeed or break even than a big company does.”
Based on the feedback I got from indies, in the past it may have been wise to carefully choose between the App Store or Google Play, but now with each of the platforms showing plenty of interest in what the indie community produces, it’s a good idea to target both iOS and Android if you can.
“As insanely competitive as the mobile landscape is, I think we as indies are relatively lucky that the two major platforms are both so willing to embrace indies. It definitely doesn’t have to be that way; it takes a certain commitment,” noted David Edery.
Dan Gray remarked, “Maybe in the past Google could be criticised for their support of indie and especially premium games but from my perspective there’s been a very clear and welcome shift in their approach. They ran a well curated event in London only last month to celebrate indie games with great rewards for developers, so it’s looking to be a more viable option again for paid games.”
David Marsh added, “I think both Google Play and the App Store are a great place to put your creations if you want people to play them. I don’t know a single person without an iOS or Android device. Even my grandmother can install and play our new games, which I probably wouldn’t have believed 10 years ago. It seems like both platforms are taking approaches to manage and organize the staggering amount of games available on their platforms. Recognizing indie developers is a great way to highlight the diversity in that giant pool of games, and we hope it continues!”