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Game Maker: A solution to growing fragmentation of the mobile games sector?

Game Maker on Apple, Android, Windows and PSP

It appears that YoYo Games are trying to encourage mobile application developers to switch to using Game Maker by promising cross-platform support.

Android applications are written in Java, whilst Apps for the iPhone and iPad must be written using C, C++ or Objective-C.  With the recent release of Windows 7 Mobile increasing amounts of development will need to be undertaken to make an app available across smart phones.

By developing runners for each of these platform YoYo Games take out the legwork of reproducing a game in different languages.   YoYo have written and continue to write code to convert a single universal language (GML and Game Maker’s built in drag and drop system) into programs which can be run on multiple operating systems.

Easy app creation projects such as Google App Inventor and Nokia’s Ovi App Wizard have been started in an attempt to make app creation accessible to a greater section of users – however these are created by the owners of particular operating systems and designed to create apps for a single store. (Cross-platform support is on the way from Unity).

The cost to developers of writing their game just once using Game Maker is currently 50% of revenue, after distribution store sales commission (typically 30%) has been taken out of the equation, which goes to YoYo Games who act as publisher for your game.

There is however a potential for greater sales through cross-platform distribution and as support for new platforms is introduced, Android support is expected early 2011, games can be made available in new stores. Pocket Gamer report that YoYo Games are also “looking into the viability of Windows Phone 7, MeeGo and Nintendo 3DS in future, to offer a one-stop mobile publishing shop” [sic].  However inclusion in a particular store is at the discretion of YoYo Games who presumably will need to balance the initial inclusion fee they will have to pay and conversion effort required with envisaged sales figure.

Currently all Game Maker titles on mobile devices feature a YoYo Games splash screen and appear in YoYo Games’ account in each app marketplace.  I can’t see this appealing to any but the smallest independent developers as it limits the control they have over their own work.  I can’t imagine that “more serious” developers will be happy to give up full control of their title through YoYo’s polishing program either.

In remains unclear as to whether YoYo Games will in future release a white label solution enabling Game Maker users to publish their creations under their own name.  Such a solution could enable developers to make use of the porting technology YoYo have developed but release titles under their own name and branding – obviously at  a cost.  Whether any white label solution comprises of a large upfront fee (former GameSalad model), a smaller license fee for every copy distributed or a combination of the two it would have to be priced a suitably high level in order to prevent stores being bombard with a plague of poorly written Game Maker apps.  However a potential risk to any such model is that a licensee could then compete directly with YoYo Games by buying up Game Maker creations made by others or otherwise striking up publishing deals with game creators.

With news that mobile phone manufacturers such as HTC and Samsung are working on creating their own app stores that will work across the different mobile operating systems their devices support it looks like there will be some interesting developments in the app industry over the next couple of years!

YoYo’s current offer is unlikely to suit serious developers and will appeal more to existing Game Maker users and small developers of non-branded games and utilities.  Whether or not this changes next year we will just have to wait and see.

What others say: Lynn who works on behalf of a company specialising in call center process outsource services says that the large number of phone manufacturers and operating systems confuses some older consumers. “Customers are confused by all of the competing and conflicting services on offer. Believe it or not some people are still perfectly happy with a phone that can just call and text”.

What do you think?

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  1. Good post. It does convince me more that YoYo Games are heading in the right direction, but people want a game design tool which they use to publish games themselves, or they may as well not even make games for fun.

    I don’t think people will simply adapt to a YoYo publishing scheme where they get a tiny cut. Apple take enough and the rest should go to developers, but once you start adding the layers like YoYo, the cost is too high – and it’s only viable to make a GOOD iOS game with that 70% cut. Otherwise, the game just won’t sell.

    There’s 1000s of apps.

  2. It might also be of interest that Unity is launching a similar publishing style dev partnership program called Union which should bring the (large) barriers down for closed platform deployment. It’s still a ways off so it’s unsure if it fills the same role as Yoyo’s program though. Despite the fact that Unity CAN do this cross platform work, targeting multiple platforms quickly becomes super costly for individuals. I tend to agree that Game Maker would be wise to push the easy development angle.

  3. Good article. It’s great to see these kinds of features on GMB. I just want to make a few points on the subject of fragmentation.

    Firstly, you mentioned unity cross platform support is ‘on the way’. It’s not. Unity currently has support for PC (with an online player), Mac, iOS, Xbox 360 and Wii, with Android support coming. They currently have over 1,000 iPhone Apps in the Appstore, so quite a head start. If YoYo wishes to enter these markets then Unity would be their key competitors, who have a much larger team, a large app head start and consistent innovation (they recently launched a resource store for buying scripts, assets and 3D Models). Which brings me onto the flaw of Unity. As easy as its cross platform nature is, the development of games is nowhere near as easy as Game Maker. This is because Unity is primarily a 3D Editor and you need to learn Javascript or C#. Perhaps YoYo should push their easy game development advantage, and focus their supported platforms in that direction. For example, PSP, DS and PC, where game maker users would be more likely to own these platforms, due to their younger age.

    Unity also lets you emulate and compile code for other platforms without them. Instead they charge for licenses to other platforms (which can run into the thousands).

    You raise an interesting point by claiming that Yoyo’s current strategy will be appealing “to any but the smallest independent developers”. Surely, that’s a defining characteristic of Game Maker, at least at the moment. I’ve never seen team projects beyond the simple artist/programmer split, work. Maybe it’s down to Game Maker users or the lack of support for team projects in Game Maker, but they don’t. This is shown by the recent ‘reworking’ of the GMCG.

    In any case, YoYo find themselves in an interesting position. Personally, I’m not massively interested in cutting down my games to fit a touch screen with no buttons, but I am interested to see their PC/Mac selling strategies.


    • With regards to Unity that was my bad phrasing! I am aware that Unity cross-platform support is available I meaGnt to refer to support for multiple mobile devices/portable operating systems based on their WIP Android runner.

      Glad you like the article – there should be kind of part two in the next week or so.

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