What can big studios learn from indie devs?

Disney and EA find look for creative freedom

The session 'What do the big studios have planned for mobile?' at the Mobile Games Forum 2013 brought more than the self promotion of the upcoming Real Racing 3 and how awesome Where's my Water? is. Ever wondered why EA is measuring its releases on iOS lately? This is where the top players see the market going.

The relation between devs and publishers has changed. As mobile gaming grows, so are the companies helping small teams to polish and market their titles: a new breed of publishers.

Ed Bainbrigde from Disney Interactive believes in the current state of mobile development everyone can be a partner, not necessarily a threat. The company is using the digital medium to explore cross-business opportunities that would otherwise be more complicated. Wreck-It Ralph iOS games anyone? Smaller players have the flexibility to move quickly, usually testing the waters before anyone else. Disney tries to adapt to the market moves involving people from different generations hoping to understand the tastes of younger audiences.

The challenge is keeping up the pace adapting to the market moves. According to EA's Peter Parmenter, noticing trends and learning from their experiences is of great value, even if big studios have been traditionally slower than indies. He mentions Chillingo's work partnering with small developer teams as a great example of seeking innovation. Australian studio Firemonkeys, in his words, is testament of a smaller team who joined EA and didn't lose creative freedom to push the limits with Real Racing 3.

A large company such as EA benefits from using the experience in different titles and platforms. Proving that mobile isn't a niche market anymore, producers at EA are in charge of the different versions of a game to ensure the same vision prevails — and hit the shelves together.

What makes the difference

Representatives from app metrics and promotion services know there's a space for indies on mobile. For Olivier Bernard from AppAnnie (previously at GLU), the key is being everywhere, in every platform and any territory. And if you have to choose where to start, go where the money is. Simon Dawlat from AppGratis believes in making the most of untapped markets such as Brazil or Russia, as in he has seen the value of cross-promotion between apps in different markets.

EA's Parmenter stressed the need to use metrics to understand what's happening with a game. Analytics are used to measure your own success and the competition — a basic tool to learn how indie games are performing. He doesn't refer to monetisation but understanding what players need in every market and category, trying to have a dialogue with consumers.

The Mobile Games Forum in London is the leading event in Europe that brings together gaming industry players, anticipating the trends that will shape the market and making partnerships happen.