Episode 4: Justin Siegel on Mobile Gaming

December 3, 2012 // News, Podcast

In this episode, New Robot Overlords host Myk Willis talks with Justin Siegel, CEO of the popular mobile social network MocoSpace and a longtime mobile gaming veteran. Justin shares his insight into the world of mobile gaming and how it has evolved over the years along with the mobile devices themselves.

The conversation ranges from the economics of mobile games, to the impact they have on social relationships, and to the way mobile games compare with traditional forms of entertainment like film and TV.

On the economics of mobile games, Justin describes how the process of developing mobile games has changed over the past 10 or so years. It used to be that the games themselves were relatively cheap to make, perhaps a few thousand to low tens of thousands, but they were difficult to bring to market because the operators (carriers) controlled the distribution channels. Today, the capabilities of modern devices have raised consumer expectations to the point where development budgets of hundreds of thousands to even millions of dollars are required for a blockbuster mobile app, and just as much can be spent on marketing. This is the domain of companies like Zynga, Electronic Arts, Popcap, and Rovio. It is increasingly difficult for a small studio to expect much return on investment, with a typical title grossing perhaps $5k.

He points out an interesting trend whereby virtual currency/virtual goods (such as “power-ups” and other perks in games) are making up an increasingly important part of the revenue stream for game developers.

Myk and Justin discuss some of the potential negatives of having the instant gratification and diversion of mobile games always in one’s pocket. The concept of ‘downtime’ almost seems to not exist when you have a phone in your p0cket, and it appears that people tend to reach for – and become absorbed by – their mobile phone in social situations where they may have once struck up casual conversation with the people around them. Justin makes the funny observation that reaching for your phone is arguably better than reaching for a cigarette – one of the old-fashioned ways to fill downtime!

A really interesting conversation for anyone interested in the fascinating world of mobile apps.

Some Links to Related / Mentioned Content

  • MocoSpace is Justin’s extremely popular mobile social network used by millions.
  • Ingress is a worldwide, mobile alternate reality game created by an internal Google game studio. It’s a pretty ambitious endeavor, but as Justin points out in the interview, there have yet to be any real commercially successful augmented reality games.
  • The Diamond Age, a novel by Neal Stephenson. OK, not just a novel, this is my favorite novel that I mention all the time. It features (in part) a technomagical book that ‘grows up’ with the children that it teaches, serving in at least one case as a surrogate parent for the child. Is this what’s happening when we let the iPad teach our kids how to read?
  • In the interview, I was trying to remember who made the ‘football’ games that I remembered playing as a young kid. Mattel’s Football (and the later Football II) was released in 1978 and I spent many nights playing that game under the covers after “lights out” for bedtime. (a nice recreation is now available for Android as well).

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