The Room developer bemoans free-to-play and clone dominance on mobile

"Attend a mobile event and you'll think the most interesting reason to make games is monetisation"

The co-founder of the studio behind successful iOS game The Room and The Room Two has launched an attack on free-to-play gaming.

Fireproof Games co-founder Barry Meade has posted a column on Polygon detailing his thoughts on the current state of the mobile gaming industry, arguing that the free-to-play model is one of the main reasons it is "dying on its arse".

The Room 2

In his column Meade reveals that since releasing The Room in 2012 his company has made over $5 million, and has sold 5.5 million copies of the game and its sequel combined. However, he claims that other publishers are treating the game's success story as "an aberration at best" and sticking with the free-to-play model.

"Mobile is truly a landscape dominated by free and casual games," Meade explains. "Attend a mobile conference and you'll feel like clearly the most interesting reason to make or play games is monetisation.

"Pitch a title that isn't games-as-a-service to publishers or investors and they'll practically install new doors to slam in your face. The narrative has been agreed upon: casual and free is 'what mobile gamers want'."

He goes on to argue that free-to-play isn't actually what the majority of mobile gamers want, citing data that shows only a tiny percentage of players actively spend money on these games.

"Recent data shows 20 per cent of mobile games get opened once and never again," he states. "66 per cent have never played beyond the first 24 hours and indeed most purchases happen in the first week of play.

"Amazingly, only around two to three per cent of gamers pay anything at all for games, and even more hair-raising is the fact that 50 per cent of all revenue comes from just 0.2 per cent of players. This is a statistically insignificant amount of happy gamers and nothing that gives you a basis to make claims about 'what people want'."


Meade also questioned the benefits of claims that the mobile gaming industry made $10 billion in revenue in 2013. "$10 billion sounds a lot, it is a lot, but the makers of Candy Crush alone took almost $2 billion," he points out.

"Throw in the top ten and there's most of your games market gone: hoovered up by ten cute grinding games that are clones of each other. Any remaining change from that money is scraped off the table and scattered across a games industry trying to service a billion devices.

"It's fair to say one reason mobile gaming is dying on its arse for developers is because the idea that one billion gamers want to play variations of Candy-Clash-Saga a thousand times is f**king insane. We've got the stats. It's 3 per cent at best. So we've nailed that, time to try something else."

He concludes: "The irony is that the very people who tell you your game won't sell are exactly the kind who will copy the s**t out of it once it does. They don't deal in dreams, imagination is not their forte. Are we really surprised that they cling to numbers?"