Mobile gaming in India has grown quite considerably over the past few years. However, mobile game development has been a part of the country for many years. Spiel Studios has been developing casual mobile games for over a decade. The studio primarily focuses on iOS games, but also makes its games available on other platforms.
We had a chat with Mohit Sureka, Founder and CEO of Spiel Studios Pvt. Ltd. We discuss the changes in the mobile gaming landscape, game development in India, the next step for Spiel Studios, and more.
Spiel Studios has been developing games for many years now. What are the key changes you have seen from mobile gamers back when you started and now?
Mobile gaming has transformed a lot over the years, and gamers have a lot of options and variety to choose from. When we started, it was mostly paid games, and the players stuck with one game for longer periods of time. In the current scenario, it's mostly freemium with a lot of in-app purchases and ads, which is not a terrible idea, but from a developer perspective, it has become difficult to keep the player engaged for a long period of time. The current generation of players want fast snacky games , which they can pick up and play in short bursts of time.
The games offered by Spiel tend to follow the freemium model? Have you considered the move to a paid or subscription model? Why/Why not?
When we started building for iOS, we had paid games as the freemium model did not exist. But once in-app purchases were introduced by Apple, we were the first few companies to launch freemium games. We believe this model works best for casual games as the players get to try before they spend money on it. A couple of our games also have a subscription model with a one-week free trial option. Paid games are best suited for AA or AAA titles which are targeted to a gamer audience.
Mobile gaming has come a long way in the past few years with the emergence of a more hardcore gamer market. How do you plan to cater to this market?
Our core forte has always been casual game development, and we feel mobile gaming will always be dominated by casual gamers who want to play on the go without investing too much time on a learning curve. With more powerful devices coming, the AAA mobile gaming market will pick up, but so will casual gaming proportionally. We'd rather focus and work on what we are good at, than trying to ape someone else.
Game development in India is still at a relatively nascent stage as compared to some major markets even though gaming is quite popular. Why is that?
Firstly, game development is not seen as a very lucrative career option yet in India, because of which you do not always get the best brains in game development in India. Software development is still seen as the preferred career option for most people. Once this perception changes and game development becomes more mainstream, we will see a surge. Also, in order to get game development mainstream, we need the industry to grow in revenue terms, which can only happen if players spend more money within the game. Currently, India's iOS Game Revenue contribution is amongst the lowest in the world.
Considering that you make games for both iOS and Android, are there any fundamental differences between the two from a developer’s perspective?
Our core focus is always developing for iOS first. In fact, all our games have a three-week iOS exclusive window, post which we release on Android. Also, not all of them are released on Android either. All our games follow the iOS design ethos which has been ingrained into our team. The ecosystem provided by Apple is unmatched, with assistance during the entire development cycle and help in marketing and release. The personal relation that Apple maintains with the developers in terms of giving feedback, technical and design advice, promotion, etc. is critical in making a game a success.
Considering the wide variety of hardware on offer, how do you determine the baseline for hardware for games to work on?
Since all our games are built for iOS first, this is not very difficult. We do not need to test on hundreds of devices that are there on Android but limit ourselves to 10-12 which includes most of the current iPhones & iPads. We make sure the game works on all devices that support iOS 11+.
We have seen iOS games like The Pathless available for iOS and the PS4, PS5. How do Spiel Studios see this opportunity? Will we see the developer delve into more platforms beyond mobile?
We have in the past developed games and modules for PSP and PS2. We were one of the licensed Playstation developers earlier, but for the past several years, our focus has mainly been mobile and tablets. Largely it's the game that you develop that chooses the platform, rather than we deciding the platform and then developing a game. So if the game concept works well on a mobile, we develop accordingly. Since we mostly do casual games, handheld platforms work best for us.
What word of advice would you give to up-and-coming developers?
One word of advice to all upcoming developers would be - Patience. Don't expect success with your first game, it takes several years to polish your skill. If you are there in the long run and give it your best, then success won't be far.
Can you give us a glimpse into the projects you are working on? What games can we expect in the future?
We are working on a couple of new casual titles - HeliBlaze & Man Vs. Meteors, both of which are in production and should release in Q3 & Q4 2021 respectively. We also have a real-money game available exclusively on the Appstore called IML - Play Maths & Win Cash which was released in May 2021. Apart from these, we continue to update our existing titles like Man Vs. Missiles, Tennis Stars, Polyswirl, etc. which are available on the Appstore.
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