IP-based mobile games: doing it right

Tying your mobile game to a major IP can have a huge impact on your installs and revenues. Or not.

Folks at GameRefinery lay down some ground rules for making IP games.

In the US, 30% of top 100 grossing games are based on major licenses. If we look at the top 200, IP games account for 25%.

IP

US top 200 grossing IP games. Image Credit: GameRefinery

Ok then. Clearly, basing your future mobile hit on a known IP is a legit strategy. Plus, you will save on marketing costs. Should you consider it? Absolutely. But if you want to get the most out of the “IP synergy,” also consider this:

1. Some genres are meant for IPs. Others – not so much

There are lots of match-3 titles based on known brands, but none of the top 10 games by revenue uses any third party IP. If you are working on a casual or hyper-casual game that barely features any story and character development, chances are you’ll be just fine without an IP.

If, on the other hand, if you are developing a midcore RPG, you can benefit from storylines and lore offered by existing IPs. In fact, there are many more successful RPGs that are tied to a third party license than those that are not.

Another genre where using an IP makes perfect sense is location-based games. In the US, the top three titles in this genre are all based on popular franchises.

2. IP should be consistent with your game’s mechanics

Ok, so you are ready to launch your RPG title to stardom with the help of some IP boost. You know the genre mixes really well with third party licenses. Will any IP get you there? Not necessarily. If you focus on character collection and development, you would be better off with a license offering an impressive roster of memorable heroes (think Star Wars!).

Or take Pokémon GO and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, for example. Lots of lore and characters behind both titles. How come Pokémon GO is doing so much better in terms of installs and revenue? It’s because the whole “catch ’em all” premise really justifies the gameplay that has players collect Pokémon, upgrade them and pit against each other. Looking for inanimate “Foundables,” on the other hand, is less organic in the context of the Harry Potter IP.

3. Make sure you align your mechanics to the demographic of the original IP

The IP you chose should match the demographic appeal of your game. If you are making a midcore title with a heavy meta elements and complex UI/UX, you’d better stay clear of “casual” IPs.

Disney Sorcerer’s Arena by GLU games, for example. Is it really such a good idea to use Mickey and Ariel in a midcore tactical battler? Tactical battlers should feature Iron Man or other Marvel characters, whose fans might enjoy a challenge. And the Mouse House audience will likely prefer a more casual gameplay.

The bottom line is that basing your game on a popular IP will definitely drive your sales if the game itself is high-quality. But to get the optimal results, there are considerations you need to be aware of. And it’s not just a list of items that you want to tick off. All these aspects are interconnected, so you need to approach the IP synergy as a whole.

More on that is available here.

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