Chillingo’s general manager, Ed Rumley, has commented on the ever rising budgets of games, and how that trend does not stop with the mobile gaming sector. He speaks of how the most expensive games at one point were maxing out at around 1 million dollars, remarking that the dramatic increase in the average budget, while staggering, also has lead to genuine advancements in the experiences that can be provided on any platform. Though Rumley admits there are exceptions, he believes that even within the mobile sector, where free to play and cheap, quickly produced games seem to thrive in the most significant way, there is no denying the increasing need for a persistent, high level budget.
“Those great games? They take a serious investment and you get the odd game, you mentioned Flappy Bird, you get the odd runaway hit like that but to manufacture a game now it requires a lot of work. The Californian gold rush of ‘hey, we’ve launched a 99-cent pay-per-download game,’ the market has moved on from that. That’s why the business has had to evolve around it.”
He makes a point to mention Flappy Bird, the free to download mobile title that made massive amounts of money off of advertising alone, that definitely didn’t cost a ton of money to make. But for a major mobile publisher like Chillingo, they are looking less for lightning-in-a-bottle exceptions to the market trends, and are looking at increasingly high budget games with more care and caution than ever before, and basing much of their decision to publish games or not based off of how they can make steady profits from such games for as long a period of time as possible.
“…we see a lot of very good quality games but we have to turn them down. And we turn them down because we don’t feel we can monetize them and that’s what’s difficult now in the market. You see great quality games but you’ve got to work out how to monetize them and what we’re not going to do is force a square peg into a round hole and say ‘look, I know it’s paid but we’ve got to go free’ and sometimes actually we’ve signed games that have been where the developer thinks that it’s a free-to-play game but it feels like a paid game. Sometimes we go the other way. So we always do what’s right for the player.”
“What’s right for the player” seems to be free to play games in the minds of those at Chillingo, at least in most cases, as Rumley also claims that around 95% of Chillingo games will be free to play in the coming year. Those this, on the surface, tends to go against the desires of the more hardcore gaming community, it is important to note that that community for the most part has continuously written off mobile, free to play or not, as a sub par form of gaming. While there are certainly games that are exceptions, it makes sense that Chillingo would embrace a model that works so well with those that haven’t already made negative assumptions about the platform. Rumley certainly doesn’t see free to play as a bad thing. On the contrary, he wraps up his thoughts on his industry claiming a more altruistic goal for his company.
“…I’m incredibly proud of Chillingo and what Chillingo stands for. And I think Chillingo is respected in the indie community and look, ultimately, that’s what it comes down to, we’re there to help service the indie community. I think for us the Chillingo name in my opinion is more valuable than the EA Mobile badge. It’s what we do, and I think Chillingo is known for that now.”
Whether this claim is true or more like marketing rhetoric, Rumley does genuinely seem to feel that big budgets are here to stay in the mobile gaming realm, and that even within the free to play sector, expectations of what a mobile game should be are certainly going to continue to increase.