Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Mobile Games Are Not a Hits Business

The solidity of JAMDAT’s performance is clear throughout the S-1 document. But there is one place where JAMDAT’s management shows signs of having a vain hope:

Our applications undergo a rigorous "greenlight" process. Executives from our sales, marketing, studio, distribution and finance departments all participate in this process. As part of this process, we evaluate every application in development at major milestones from concept to application release.

The workaday aspects of this process are fine. Plans must be clear, and budgets reasonable. Projects that are failing need to be fixed or halted. But the word “greenlight” implies more than just stopping bad projects. JAMDAT, like traditional console publishers, and like the entertainment industry in general, tries to pick hits. Management gathers in committee and tries to read the signs of success in a proposal, a design, a title.

Picking hits is futile, especially at this stage in the development of the mobile game business. This is demonstrated in JAMDAT’s own numbers, in which Bowling continues to dominate revenue despise JAMDAT pushing the boundaries of mobile play into console action titles with the titles they licensed from Activision.

The mobile game business has yet to have its first real hit. Bowling succeeds because it is has been available longest, is available everywhere, and has been used as an example in promotions by network operators to develop awareness of mobile games.

Another way to illustrate that mobile games don’t have true hits is to consider that some of the best mobile games are arcade classics – games that have risen to the top among hundreds of forgotten arcade games. But can you imagine playing a “mobile classic?” Will JAMDAT Bowling, or any other original mobile game currently in the market be remembered as a great game? Mobile game players are still waiting for a uniquely mobile game that strikes a chord in the market.

And, not least, JAMDAT’s own performance, based on consistently strong execution, debunks the notion that mobile games are a hit-picker’s business.


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