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Vlambeer’s Co-Founder Explains How Mobile Games Market Is Broken

Creating single purchase video games for mobile phones simply doesn’t make sense anymore, according to Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail — whose early games includes major hits for the iPhone.

The problem, he told Variety in a recent interview, is that games created for smartphones often bring with them an unspoken promise that the game makers will continue to update and fix the game no matter how long it has been out or how many times the original purchaser upgraded their phone.

“I think that’s why a lot of mobile is now just free to play,” Ismail said. “It’s just not a good model otherwise.”

The question came up during an interview about Vlambeer’s latest game, “Ultrabugs,” which is coming to Windows, Linux, Mac, and Nintendo Switch, but hasn’t been announced for mobile platforms.

“We did that with ‘Super Crate Box’ and I think it controlled well on mobile,” he said. “ So there’s always that possibility, but I’m just a little wary of the smartphone market right now. I don’t currently feel at ease developing for those platforms because the SDKs change, their hardware specs change and when you don’t update the game just breaks.

“You earn $3 and then you update it for the next 10 years. If you’re making free-to-play games, if you keep earning money with a game, yeah, that’s a great model because you can make more money by updating.”

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Ismail pointed to Vlambeer’s “Ridiculous Fishing,” which won a number of awards from gaming publications and Apple.

“‘Ridiculous Fishing’ is never going to make more money,” he said. “Yeah, some new people might buy it, but we made our money with ‘Ridiculous Fishing’ in 2013 and that money is spent, It’s spent on ‘Luftrausers.’ It’s spent on ‘Nuclear Throne.’ If somebody upgrades their phones to the new iPhone. Yeah. You have ‘Ridiculous Fishing’ in your account, Yeah you paid $3 for it. Yeah, it’s broken.”

That’s what caused the last major update Vlambeer did for the game. A major change by Apple in 2017 that switched from 32-bit to 64-bit apps, breaking a slew of content on their phones … including “Ridiculous Fishing.”

“All games broke,” he said, “Every game that wasn’t programmed for it broke. We updated ‘Ridiculous Fishing’ then but it feels like a mistake almost. It feels like, OK it’s 2018 and this game that we made money with that somebody bought in 2013 is now broken outside of our fault. We didn’t change anything. We didn’t break the game. We didn’t introduce a bug, but this continuous ecosystem that Apple has created, that comes with you with every new phone, broke it. “

Ismail said that either Apple has to start designing for backward compatibility support on their end or that people are going to have to get used to the idea of games dying and disappearing.

“Some of the best ios games from 2010 are gone,” he said. “Those developers, they don’t exist anymore. They went out of business. They split up. They started a new thing and they just don’t have the money or time to do it.”

That frustration, Ismail said, is why he isn’t particularly enamored with creating more mobile games right now.

“I’m here to make video games,” he said. “I’m not here to fix somebody else’s problems. Our users? Absolutely. If they have a bug and it’s our fault, we’ll fix it. But having made a game in 2013 and then the platform going, ‘It’s broken now,’ That would be like if somebody went and updated like the internet and now all text is right to left. That’s how it feels to me. It’s like we made a game, so now we’re getting punished for it.

“ I don’t want that. I want to make video games. I think a lot of developers want to make video games and I think that’s why a lot of mobile games are now just free to play.”

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