Oliver Jones discussed reasons why an app may not succeed during Casual Connect Asia 2014. “This is not a list about common sense, or the obvious,” he said. “It is a collection of bits and bobs that myself and the team at Moonfrog Labs have learned throughout our gameography in developing our portfolio.”
Oliver Jones is Designer and Co-Founder of Moonfrog Labs, a company that emphasizes its commitment to radicalizing mobile gaming and bringing engaging entertainment to everyone. Jones believes starting Moonfrog in India was the best decision he ever made, although he had never intended to found a startup. But he says, “After a series of stochastic career choices, social connections and favorable market conditions, the stars aligned!”
Moonfrog is made up of a team of game industry veterans who recognized the potential of a fast-moving mobile company. Jones’ contribution to the company comes through his experience working in startups, where, he points out, he learned, “to craft quality titles and identify murky gray gaps in the market.” His years in the Free-to-Play market taught him to scale games to enormous proportions.
Always Ask Questions
Jones maintains that the ability to critique yourself and your work is the most important attribute a developer can have. “Once you learn to evaluate yourself and your work, you can catch yourself in the act of digging holes,” he says. He emphasizes the value of asking questions such as, “Am I too personally attached to this idea?”, “Am I catering to my target audience?”, or “Is my bias affecting how I am interpreting my data?”
Before starting Moonfrong, Jones was involved in a wide array of hobbies, including flying microlight aircrafts, sailing dinghies, and painting landscapes. One month he would be creating a simulation of the solar system and the next, learning to paraglide. He has discovered that finding a balance of physical and mental activities in his free time opens up his frame of reference when approaching problems.
Gaming is one of the things he does for mental exercise. He particularly enjoys the Wii, pointing out that it was the first console to prove the potential of casual gaming. Because developers during its lifecycle did interesting experiments that were largely unnoticed, he considers it a treasure trove of unrecognized innovation. Part of the fun for Jones is speculating about how the experiences could be made to fit the mobile platform. Currently on the Wii, he is playing Endless Ocean, a game about scuba diving, exploration, and discovery. He tells us he has fallen in love with the way it presents the ocean as a vast endangered world packed with chests and secrets. And he is asking questions such as “How could you chop an exploration game down to ten-minute sessions?” or “How could you intuitively use a touch screen?”.
F2P and Other Trends
Jones’ years of work in the Free-to-Play business saw him very successfully selling items costing $100 each. As a player, he is enticed mainly by virtual cars. In CSR Racing, he collected all the vehicles, the most expensive of which was the Venom GT, about $10 – $15. He also acquired a Coupe in Yoville, although he admits, “It served no practical purpose in the game, other than being fabulous.”
According to Jones, several trends are coming that will affect the games industry. These include $50 smartphones, internet chat networks, and connected accessories/wearable technology. At Moonfrog, they plan to respond to these trends by monitoring the viability of emerging markets. These include countries such as India and Indonesia, which are now in the Top Ten for app installs, but at the bottom for monetization. Jones feels that as problems with payments and device storage are addressed, these markets will become more attractive to developers.
He sees the biggest impact on the games industry coming from the Internet explosion in Asia fueled by cheap phones using post-paid plans. As a result, the economic center of the industry will shift to the southeast. Jones states, “It feels like someone is about to hit the reset button on genres developed in the last 25 years of game design. In new markets, users will have few preconceptions about how games should look and behave. A lot of us will have to start from scratch.”
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