Experimenting with game apps at Apple’s appstore, I’m even more convinced that indie developers are left with an “interesting” conundrum: with the low price point of the appstore you need a pretty big market to recoup your costs; at the same time, the casual game market is so saturated that you are forced to differentiate your product by addressing a genre audience.
So the question for indie developers is: Do I go after casual players (like Rovio) or do I focus on hardcore players?
In the appstore, Rovio is equivalent to the sound of the jackpot being hit that is heard all over the casino. It reinforces a compulsive behavior that benefits the casino. Apple are getting tons of apps for no development cost at all. If you make a Flash game for Kongregate or Miniclip in the good old days you could expect at least $5,000 plus a profit-sharing agreement. With Apple, you pay to get access to the appstore (was $99, now at $29) and you only get a few pennies from each purchase.
So the answer for indies could be found in the video below (or in the title above). Go hardcore and stay out of the appstore (unless you have a free app with a marketing angle). Finding a hardcore audience on a platform that you can support long term – be it the web or mobile – is the only answer for building a game company that survives it’s first release.
With Riftforge, we have targeted hardcore fans of fantasy RPG tactics. It’s developed with HTML5, so it’s compatible with all Apple devices (you should check it out on the new, retina-quality iPad!) but you don’t need to go through the appstore. Just fire up Safari.