Browsing the app store can’t really feel like there’s no hope left for hardcore mobile gamers. Every single day you check the app stores and there’s no denying it – there are just no more quality games being published. Why aren’t there more high quality mobile games?
Your Answer Upfront:
The reality is that there are quite a few high quality mobile games available for Android and iOS but the stores are plagued by discoverability issues and filled to brim with low quality games that appear first in search before the high quality ones – due to the fact that they steal their name and icon, while offering low quality mechanics and graphics.
In this article we’re going to go over why it’s so hard to find new quality mobile games. We’re going to look at why this is happening, what can be done and then we’re going to recommend you some of our favorite quality mobile games.
Discoverability is an issue
You probably noticed that both the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store don’t give you the ability to check for new releases. The option for “New Games” was removed and replaced by entries like “New Games We Love” (in Apple’s case) and “Top New Games” in Google’s case. Notice the words “Top” or “We Love”.
This means those lists are not raw feeds where games are added as they are launched on the stores. Instead, Apple and Google offer a list of “New-ish” games that pass a certain metric and that metric isn’t exactly quality.
In most cases the metrics are based on revenue generated or downloads (both organic or due to marketing campaigns). Why is this the case? Well here are a couple of reasons:
- Google and Apple make money from those listing. Any dollar generated by a game appearing on the store can generate between 10 and 30 cents for Google or Apple.
- 1 million dollars in game sales? 300 thousand dollars in Google or Apple’s pocket. If you start seeing the App Stores as ad billboards you’ll understand why Apple and Google use this approach. Do I show this game that makes me no money or do I show this game that makes me a ton of money? Get it now?
- In a lot of cases there are a ton of new games that are extremely similar. Incredibly similar. And sometimes they are the exact same game with a different icon and name.
- These are clone games or low effort games being pushed by developers who want to make a quick buck. I actually wrote an article titled “Why Are All Mobile Games The Same” that covers this exact topic so check it out if you want to find out more.
App store searching is useless
Searching for games on both Google and Apple’s store is like searching for a needle in a haystack, only worse. In some cases, even if you type the EXACT NAME of the game you might not find it listed in the first 10-20 entries.
A lot of developers try to copy and use names of other successful games. And a lot more developers name their games generic names like genres that people are searching for. Even a game I actually like is guilty of this. Are you ready for it?
The game is called Infinite Hero: IDLE RPG and it was an actual recommendation of mine in another article I wrote about the popularity of idle games.
If you think that name is generic, what about this gem from the play store:
If you search for an Idle RPG with an anime theme and archery you’ll find it. There’s no FATE in the name, no fantasy and no magic left to the imagination. it’s a straight to the point search engine optimization in the title’s name.
And I guess that’s fine but I would have loved the name to be like “Daylen’s Trial: Fate – Rise of the Magic Crossbow” or “Adventurers Guild – for Bolts and Glory”.
There was just something beautiful about those kind of names.
Still, what if you search the stores for something like this? Actually, let’s search for Archer – Idle Anime RPG and see what we find?
Alright so it appears in the first 4 entries, that’s pretty good. But I’m more interested in the first entry on that list. Sword Fantasy Online? Trying to cash in Sword Art Online as an IP much?
Mobile casual players or newcomers don’t know how to identify a quality game
Speaking of which, let’s say you are a fan of that anime – Sword Art Online. And you want to play a Sword Art Online game from the play store. What do you do?
Well, you go on the store and type Sword Art Online and download the game right?
Which one of those entries is the original, properly, licensed SAO game and which one is a clone? The one by Asuna Dev? The one from Miyuki Dev? Ely Anime Games?
Yes, some of you might know that Bandai Namco has the IP to the license and they are the big publishers handling this game but a newcomer? A person who never played a game in his life and just got his or hers first smartphone? They’ll think ASUNA Dev makes more sense since that is the name of one of the main characters.
Now, let’s say your little brother or sister saw you playing Forza Horizon lately. And they want to play something similar on their tablet or phone. They go to the store and type Forza Racing.
To a newbie’s eye they all look high quality. Some of them might go for the first entry due to the Microsoft brand but I bet a lot of people end up downloading Forza Racing Horizons or Forza Race 5.
Here’s our comparison between Forza Racing Horizon (the name of one of the apps in Google Play) and the actual Forza game.
They’re basically the same game, right? Well, it’s good enough for your little bro or sis to think so. And when you take a look on their phone and compare it to what’s on your screen, it’s pretty easy to ask yourself: Why are mobile games so crap and horrible? Which takes us back to our original question.
Why aren’t there more high quality mobile games?
The reality is that there are quite a few high quality mobile games available for Android and iOS but the stores are plagued by discoverability issues and filled to brim with low quality games that appear first in search before the high quality ones – due to the fact that they steal their name.
The stores (both Play and App Store) usually offer curated lists of games that perform financially well but, most often then not, those are free2play games that earn a lot of money from pushing ads and in-app purchases.
Games like Figure Fantasy (we reviewed this game a few weeks ago) have more chances of being handpicked in a curated list due to the revenue they generate while high quality, premium, mobile games (or ports) like Alien Isolation do not because of the lower install base associated with it having a price.
And let’s not talk about the amount of downloads a High Quality paid game receives when compared to a free2play game. It’s ludicrous to even compare them. Look at how many reviews Alien Isolation has compared to Figure Fantasy:
Figure Fantasy is sitting at 500.000 to 1 Million Downloads while Alien Isolation has sold between 5.000 to 10.000 copies. Yes, one is free and the other one costs $9.99 but – knowing how pushy Figure Fantasy is with it’s In-App Purchases and Figure Unboxing mechanic is, I want to bet that they have at least 10.000 players who spent more than $10 on it.
Just to put it into perspective, 10.000 players equal to exactly 1% of the install base from Figure Fantasy.
So when you ask, why aren’t there more high quality games out there, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe if more quality games are purchased and supported – the number of quality games might increase. It’s only a theory, but I think low effort games are popular on mobile platforms because they work when it comes to generating profit and revenue.
Here are some quality mobile games we recommend
Alright, let’s wipe the tears from our face and get ready for some High Quality games I can personally recommend. Some of them, we’ve already reviewed on this blog. Others are yet to be reviewed but I’m working on getting Rev to review them.
- Thumper, a high quality PREMIUM abstract racing game for iOS and Android, with a kick ass soundtrack and gorgeous graphics. – PAID, $4.99
- Merchant, a free2play game where you play as a Merchant, do Quests and Craft items to sell. We gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars! – FREE with Unlock All IAP
- Alien: Isolation – an amazing port by Feral games for iOS and Android . Looks incredible, a definitely next-gen graphics title for mobile – PAID, $9.99
- Divinity – Original Sin 2 is a great game to experience, though I found the framerate to tank from time to time on my iPad Air 4. Out on iOS – PAID $24,49
- Genshin Impact – a great open world RPG, a little heavy on Gacha but completely tame compared Figure Fantasy (mentioned earlier in the post). It’s available for both Android and iOS. – FREE
Where To Next?
I write extensively about the mobile gaming industry, their tactics and how greed influences a game’s design, subjects which were brought up in this post.
I believe that you might be interested in more articles on game monetisation. So if you want to stick around, you can check out “How Do Free Mobile Games Make money“, “Why Do Mobile Games Have Fake Ads” and “Why Do Mobile Games Have In-App Purchases“.
There’s also a monster post (about 4000 words) that answers the question: “How Hard Is It To Make A Mobile Game“. It goes in depth with actual examples on how Experience, Resources and Financials affect the difficulty of developing and releasing new mobile games!
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