When I started working for a leading mobile games company 10 years ago, we were making mobile games for feature phones exclusively. The maximum size we were allowed for those games was 1Mb, for two reasons:
- The phone's memory would be max-ed out quickly if we went above it
- The network operators would set a limit at 1.2Mb for games to be downloadable OTA (Over the Air) using 2G or 3G connections. The idea was that you should be able to download the game in under a minute and start playing right after this.
A great deal of time was spent optimizing the games as much as possible with regards to size and memory, so that the footprint on the device was as small as possible while still looking and playing good.
At that time, our company was building games for Western Countries mostly, but nothing in Japan.
Soon in 2008/2009 did we realize we needed to expand to a country that had a significant revenue potential. What we did is what most companies' first reflex is: we took a few of our successful games, translated them into Japanese, led a couple of playtest groups and launched.
Little did we know that our games were looking like games from 10 years ago.
This was not explained by the technology we were using or the quality of our design, but mostly by the fact that our games lacked the visual polish and depth that most of our local Japanese competitors had. There was a simple reason to this: while we were building our games for a maximum limit of 1Mb, the Japanese market was already using a limit of up to 20Mb for their games, and making our "western" games very outdated and shallow.
The fact that we could have been using 20 times more data to build our games was something that had not even crossed our minds at first, because we would assume that since the US and Europe had this limitation, the rest of the world would be pretty much the same.
A big eye opener for me, and a welcome reminder that you need to make sure that the product you are pushing to a market takes full advantage of that market's specificity. This may have looked like a big oversight on our end, but no-one questioned it during the production phase. We were in control of our tech, and assuming it was the best available because it was for our original market.
You are not building a product for the technology you are using, you are building a product for the technology your customers can use.
In a similar fashion, Gamesindustry.biz was writing about the future of European Games Industry and how it relied on telecommunication. Players will have different expectations and behaviors based on what their local technology offers them. Upload and download speed will be one of those main factors and will affect the way you deliver products to those markets.
Just look at the Top3 countries for Fixed Broadband and I bet you will not believe who's sitting on the podium.
Game developers tend to take network infrastructure for granted and it is easy to forget that both the quality and data prices vary significantly between countries. While countries like South Korea are already introducing 1Gb Internet connections, European countries are struggling to reach 100Mb level. Thus differences in network infrastructure and business models are becoming an increasingly important factor determining the possibilities and limitations of different market areas.