Lets start from the beginning, I started out trying to learn the android SDK in order to make simplistic games. I took a course on it at my local community college while trying to finish up a few left over requirements for my degree in computer science. The course was rather easy covering vanilla android sdk, covering XML & the java needed in order to make a game. It was a really simplistic course while getting a lot out of it. After the course was done I was already signed up with publishing apps for google play, chrome, and working on signing up for amazon.
I found out while taking the course that there was a simpler way of doing things with this fancy engine called construct 2. I also found out that microsoft was hosting a event in which I could earn up to 2k if I made 10 apps/games for their phones, and windows 8. Not having a windows 8 phone I took the ladder of the rought with windows 8. I was planning on porting re-releasing the finsihed games to android after words.
After I spent a entire month pumping out game after game for the event. I realized the lack of quality in some of the titles. So I figured I would just port over what ever did best to android.
On windows 8 they have you develop for both desktops, and their tablets. Only one of my apps did any good really, the rest barely made 20 downloads if they were lucky. So I ported over the games I liked instead. This probably due to the fact that the audience I was trying to target wasn't there with these games. I made atari style simplistic games, beating highscores and that is all to them. Sure I added windows 8 sharing features in some of them but it really didn't matter too much. I made the games for the event, and I made games I wanted to play on paper.
After porting to android using cocoonjs I realized they added amazon support, so I tried it and it worked. I tried selling each game at $0.99 cents each... and that is where it went all wrong for me.
The Amazon AbuseAs soon as I began selling on amazon appstore things went wrong. Amazon then closed my payments accounts after those two sales were made on grounds that they could not verify my information with their payments account, even though I used the same information for my Developer account regarding tax information. They closed my account, gave me no response why and told me that they were not going to help me, I tried to contact amazon's support, all the way up the ladder to the CEO himself all of them gave me the same answer. Basically stealing those sales from me. They wouldn't even let me pull my games down from their service so they kept charging people without wanting to pay me, making all of that money and me making nothing off of it because amazon wanted to steal sales from someone they saw as small.
After that I had to make them free because amazon was going to screw me over and the consumers because amazon was working to steal the money between me and them, all of it not a cut we agreed on, all of it. I had to change descriptions of my apps to inform people what amazon was doing which apparently was the only thing they allowed me to do after closing down my payments account, they locked all of my accounts down in their services from doing basically anything. After enough someone saw it at amazon they pulled down all my apps and sent me a nasty email for informing the people of their abusive measures tors developers.
This was the first sign to me that the mobile gaming industry really isn't good.
The problem is the largest target audience for mobile gamers only really play the top 10 games on most lists. It is rare to find someone in that audience playing something obscure unless it is very very similar or a free alternative to those popular titles. Like survival craft. This audience really doesn't play the game very long either, usually only for a few weeks at most. Most of the time the people in this audience want something very very simplistic like cut the rope, or angry birds. They hardly ever go out side of the most popular games and really they treat the games like they are fads by themselves but will come back to it when ever their other hipster friends are talking about it. They really are hard to make games for so don't even bother trying.
These people are not buying games, they are downloading them from pirating websites, or playing free alternatives usually. There really is only a small amount of them playing the orignal titles, if you make clones then you might be in some luck as long as it is free with ads. Ads are the only way people are making money on this platform really. It is why companies like EA only have a few games out most of them doing terrible. This is equal to the flash games you saw last decade basically. The only games you see people buying is the very popular titles sold at $0.99 to $2.99 but that $2.99 better be like angry birds or else you will never see the end of the complaints.
This is the audience I tried to target with most of my games, only one of them actually has anything above 100 downloads on google play and that was after I made them for free.
The Paid reviewersSince day 1 of me publishing those apps on google play & amazon I have recieved email after email of reviewers claiming to get me a larger audience. Claiming if I pay them X amount of money I will get X amount of downloads and a "Good review" other wise they will give me a "bad review". In other words blackmail, and this isn't something that is just a small bunch of people. This is a accepted practice by many, in order to get your apps remotely noticed in the systems you have to either 1. have paid advertising for them, 2. be lucky, or 3. have a product that makes everyone talk about which usually involves 1 or 2. SEO also matters in the title but not as much as the number of downloads.
If you want to make a game don't target the fads, target the audiences that stay, look for the people who are willing to pay and look at their needs to get them to pay instead of trying to target the mass market or average joe. Don't blantly copy old ideas they don't work usually and a lot of these phone gaming companies are sue crazy like the makers of candy crush. Which I might get a legal notice about name dropping something they attempted to trade mark every word of every game so they can sue everyone who uses the word candy, or crush on their own even.
So in other words to sum it all up, making mobile games only the richest, and most marketed games really can survive it along with that it is not a good idea to make a game for a audience with the attention span of a fly.