To Aksel Junkilla

Polygon published a piece today by Aksel Junkilla, developer of the Battlestation: Harbinger. In his open letter, he complains about the state of the mobile game's market, under the supposition that gamer's themselves are to blame for the mobile game's market being shit.

I poured our hearts and souls into is receiving rave reviews from users. The game, Battlestation: Harbinger, was featured by both Apple and Google as one of the best new games in their respective marketplaces.

You may think that congratulations are in order. You might think that my team and I popped some Champagne and headed out on a well-deserved vacation. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Even with these successes, my company and I are in the red, desperate to bring in more money before we have to lay off our workers and close our doors for good.

Even though I agree that the mobile games market is inhospitable, I don't really agree with the premise of his argument. Instead, I'm trying to consider context. Lots of us play games on our phones and tablets, I even pay for the (usually irrationally cheap) titles. Couldn't it be the case that a title was developed for a platform that the team diluted itself into believing would be a good product-market fit? The reality of the situation is right in front of our eyes.

The App Store's Top Grossing Games as of 10/20/15

The fact is, that unless you're a huge brand, like Blizzard, Marvel, Madden, or Minecraft, you have to be a micro-transaction gouging "free" game. This list looks even dirtier than it's ever been, now getting filled up by app's look like they're designed specifically to take advantage of gambling addiction, though morally, they're not on much lower ground than that likes of Clash of Clans, Game of War, and Candy Crush.

While I'm sure there are plenty of PC and console gamer's who play game's on their phone, I don't see much here that would appeal to them. So perhaps before Aksel points fingers at gamers, we should first establish what a "gamer" even is. That's something I could write an entire article about, but generally I think of a gamer as someone who's preferred hobby is to play video games. They consider them a part of their lives and they invest in hardware and software in order to play those games.

If you asked me at first glance who I think is pouring money into that top grossing games list on The App Store, I'd guess it's bored adults, parents that gave their kids the password to the app store account, grandparents, and kids who don't know any better. Not the people who match the criteria I just pitched as "gamers". That's who didn't buy your game Aksel. It wasn't NOOBS, it was Nanas.

I'm going to buy and play Battlestation: Harbinger both to show my support for people creating legitimate games with honest business models. It's only $3.99, and Junkilla's assessment of it's value may be slightly inflated, but it's certainly worth more than $3.99. Wether it's worth the $40 to $60 Nintendo charges for a title may be a unreasonable comparison. Nintendo gets $50 for their games because that what people think they're worth.

Many serious gamers complain about all the casual games coming out for mobile, but don’t support the serious game developers that build the games that they want! Remember when you would fork over $40 for Zelda or Pokémon games on Game Boy? Imagine the amazing games we could play on our phones if we paid developers enough to create them! One such game that you can support is Battlestation.

What I suspect is that Battlestation: Harbinger is a game made for a platform that has no audience for it, or at least an audience without the care or motivation to seek it out. I couldn't help but think about how a game like this would fair on Steam, or on consoles, 3DS, or Vita. I do hope that Junkilla and his team do find the resources to keep making games, if they make good ones and the market is good enough to recognize it. So I'm not worried about gamer's spending their money on latte's, that's their choice. I'm worried about the entire games market in 5-10 years when the children who grew up with junky "free" games with toxic monetization strategies are the one's shaping the mainstream console and PC software market.