You don’t Know for sure what will be a successful mobile game.
Wai… shhh… no, you really don’t.
But it’s okay. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. That guy doesn’t Know either. Neither does she. Or them over there. Or anyone in that entire company.
A lot of people will tell you that They Know. “Check out our business intelligence,” they will say, “you should totally make an infinite runner, they are more popular than platform games”. Or “what are you thinking? Nobody likes the Wild West, give the game a medieval setting”.
(This isn’t restricted to games, of course. Apparently a post Bat-Nipples Hollywood was quite adamant that super-hero movies were A Bad Idea, and that you can’t expect to make money off a sci-fi film that requires people to pay attention.)
It’s not just genre or setting, business models get it too. Free-to-play experts telling you they know exactly how to make your game make lots of money, premium game developers telling you that most free-to-play games sink without trace and it’d be folly to go that route. People who have had one hit title speaking at conference after conference proclaiming their way is The Right Way, and people with significantly less success telling you the same.
You Absolutely Must have feature X. Implementing Feature Y is a total waste of resource.
(Hindsight is 20:20, of course, and it’s an easy task to look at a success or failure and say what the causes were. How different the results would have been if the developers had just implemented Four Simple Recommendations To Make Game X Monetise Better, or followed The Five Reasons Game Y Is A Huge Success. Always safe in the knowledge you’ll not be proved wrong.)
No Business Intelligence predicted the popularity of Flappy Bird, or Make it Rain, or Plague Inc, or Threes, or Temple Run, or Monument Valley. The list goes on.
So if what I’m saying it true, if nobody has a sure-fire works-every-time 100%-reliable-or-your-money-back road to success (which they don’t, and if they did they sure as hell wouldn’t be telling it to you in a blog post or conference talk), what should you do?
Rather than wasting a lot of time and money trying to second guess your audience’s tastes, and only finding out if you were right when you’re heavily committed, throw away your assumptions and find out from the source. Speed, agility and being fast to market, are all traits of successful mobile developers.
If your assumptions were wrong then find you out quickly with the smallest amount of wasted resource, and move on to something else. Rinse, repeat.
That’s the only 100% Sure Fire Works Every Time Truth about making a successful mobile game.