How the mobile games industry currently looks like
Mobile games have a huge potential and a huge market in both revenue and user base. As more and more people are using smartphones nowadays, the mobile games industry is a thriving one to be in.
In 2020 alone, there are 2.4 billion mobile gamers worldwide. And it is projected to hit 2.7 billion in 2021. This market is worth $165 billion in 2020, and is projected to hit $180 billion in 2021.
Mobile games currently account for 51% of the total gaming industry revenue worldwide. This market share for mobile games is projected to hit 59% in 2021.
The most popular genres are puzzle, strategy and chance – with more than half of the mobile games revenue coming from these 3 genres.
So you want to become a mobile game developer?
To become a mobile game developer poses its own challenges – it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when you assume this role.
In terms of skill sets needed, you would preferably need to come equipped with a Bachelors in Computer Sciences or Information Systems.
Relevant courses in Mobile App Development or Software Development will also be beneficial to you in this line of work.
Other essential skill sets that you should possess include software design, software development processes, understanding development methodology (Agile and Scrum), and also expertise in at least 2 programming languages (SQL, Python, Java, etc.).
To excel, you should constantly hone your skills in programming, coding and high-level mathematics to stay on top of the competition. Because, let’s face it – this industry is highly competitive.
While on the job, employee burnout is the top most complaint as a mobile game developer. This is especially with the constant flow of tight deadlines to meet when launching games.
To survive as a mobile game developer, you should also generally be passionate about gaming.
And it definitely helps to be a gamer yourself!
Being a mobile game developer in San Francisco
Throw a stone in any direction in Silicon Valley, and it may just land in the vicinity of a video game company.
That’s how many there are.
You will find many big names in the gaming industry residing in Silicon Valley, San Francisco – from Ubisoft to Sony and Capcom. These are few of the many gaming companies with a strong presence in San Francisco.
With so many big boys in the region, coupled with the thriving industry, is it really all glitz and glamour for game studios there?
We dig deeper to uncover more.
San Francisco is a watering hole for the top tech professionals in the world, and for newly incorporated game studios, there is no better place to attract talent than the bay area.
This spells good news for indispensable individuals who are seeking a high paying mobile game development job. Companies sitting there are generally willing to pay huge amounts to attract and retain talent.
For newly minted game studios who are on a bootstrap budget, they can’t afford to pay the insanely high prices that the deep pocketed tech companies are willing to.
For them, they would then hire individuals based on those who believe in the mission. These employees also will have to hope that the company does well, with their stock options paying off eventually.
The people in the creative field – artists – are the ones to command a much lower salary than the ones in deep tech roles.
While half the team (the engineers and software developers) are living the best times of their lives, the other half (the artists) feels like they are living at poverty level.
To stay or to go?
The cut-throat way of life living in the most expensive city in the world does take its toll on most individuals.
This comes in the form of expecting astronomical wages just because the cost of living is similarly astronomical.
But San Francisco manages to retain its Metropolis charm over the years, making it a hugely popular place that most people want to work in.
Up and coming gaming hubs from other parts of the world
On top of the list, alongside San Francisco, there are other countries that are slowly but surely becoming like a melting pot of talent, just like San Francisco.
These are Canada (Montreal), Finland, Germany (Berlin & Munich) and the UK. It will be an exciting few years ahead to watch how gaming studios in these countries grow and dominate the industry.
Our Top 5 Mobile Game Development Companies in San Francisco
Glu: The Leader in 3D Freemum Mobile Gaming
Glu Mobile is a listed company in the NASDAQ (GLUU), headquartered in San Francisco with additional offices in Foster City, Toronto and Hyderabad.
They were founded in 2001, and they pride themselves in taking smart risks and fostering creativity to deliver world-class interactive experiences for their players.
To date, they have over 600 employees, and are always hiring the brightest and hungriest developers who are excited about the mobile game development industry.
Glu’s top 3 notable game titles are:
Disney Sorcerer’s Arena
A turn-based RPG game with real-time PvP elements. You get to assemble your team of Disney and Pixar characters, and pit them against the enemy team in the PvP arena. Collect and level up your own character collection, and become the ultimate Disney legend.
Positioned as an authentic WWE game on your phone, WWE Universe offers impressive visuals that goes beyond your typical button-smashing action game. It comes complete with real moves, voices and chants from WWE. Collect, upgrade and dominate the ring with your favorite WWE legends.
Restaurant Dash with Gordon Ramsay
Build your own restaurant empire with this game fit for all budding restaurantiers. You take control and build up your successful restaurants one at a time, until you take over the world. Unlock and serve up new dish recipes, with Gordon Ramsay as your chef mentor. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Glu’s recent financial results
Highlights of their latest Q3 2020 key financial results are:
- Record revenue of $158.5 million, with a 48% year on year growth. This nets them a profit of $13.4 million.
- 22% bookings growth, year on year, to $147.3 million.
- Newly launched Table & Taste game, a food and decor game title by Crowdstar studio.
- Very positive outlook for 2021 with titles by Crowdstar and Glu Sports driving core business revenue.
What it’s like working at Glu
Employees who worked at Glu gave a collective Glassdoor review score of 3.5/5. Most appreciated the work/life balance, and the great working environment that is deemed as supportive and encouraging.
However, some felt that communication between departments and studios is lacking. And that the upper management is disconnected from the individual teams.
That being said, Glu has a solid HR team in place, and promptly addressed all negative reviews on Glassdoor. If you’re interested to apply for a job there, check out their current role openings here.
Kabam: The Best in Mobile Gaming
Kabam aims to entertain the world by bringing amazing games to the palm of everyone’s hands. And the company seeks to enjoy the process while doing so.
They have worked with big entertainment brands, and created games with their intellectual property. These include Marvel, Disney and Universal. The iconic franchises from these big brands are used to create interesting mobile games.
Founded in 2006, Kabam has offices in San Francisco, Austin, Montreal, Charlottetown and Vancouver. Their total company head account is around 500.
It is also worth noting that South Korea’s Netmarble Games acquired Kabam’s Vancouver studio. The team there comprises 180 developers now operating under a new entity, Kabam Games, a wholly owned subsidiary of Netmarble.
To date, the games from Kabam have collectively generated hundreds of millions of downloads, and have won multiple awards.
These awards include Apple’s Editor’s Choice and Google Play’s Best Game of the Year.
Kabam’s top 3 notable game titles are:
An RPG game that combines combat and fighting gameplay where you get to control a team of powerful Disney and Pixar characters. You will be defending the Mirrorverse against a gang of dark forces that are threatening to take over this realm.
Marvel Contest of Champions
Released in Dec 2014, this fighting game is set in the Marvel Universe where players can build a team of Marvel heroes and villains, and have a face off combat between them.
Transformers Forged to Fight
This action packed fighting RPG game features characters from Transformers – both the Autobots and Decepticons. First released in April 2017 for iOS and Android, this game has bagged a “Best Mobile Game” award at Mobile World Congress 2018.
Kabam’s recent financial results
Backed by the increase in mobile gaming due to COVID-19 lockdowns globally, Kabam recorded an estimated $1.2B in revenue for 2020.
What it’s like working at Kabam
Employees who worked at Kabam gave a collective Glassdoor review score of 3.9/5. Most employees raved about the free lunch that tasted very nice. They were also happy about the work-life balance, most having only worked overtime only a few times.
However, the minority few lamented about having to work overtime due to deadlines that change very quickly. Some also felt that the upper management and the teams are disconnected and do not align in terms of visions and expectations.
To join the Kabam team, check out their open positions here.
Niantic: Building Technologies and Ideas that Move Us
Based in San Francisco, Niantic is famous for developing mobile games with the power of augmented reality (AR). Niantic first started off as an offshoot startup from within Google, which was named Niantic Labs back in 2010.
This entity finally became independent in October 2015, and was rebranded into the Niantic company you see today.
They have also expanded, and now own offices in Bellevue, Los Angeles, Sunnyvale, Hong Kong, Tokyo and London.
Besides creating and publishing award-winning games like Pokemon Go and Harry Potter Wizards Unite, Niantic has also been busy with developing their own AR platform.
Termed the Niantic Real World Platform, the aim of this AR driven platform is to allow third party developers to build on their technology, creating new AR experiences for all.
Niantic is also committed to supporting these third party developers by providing them workshops and funding for their AR projects under their initiative called the Niantic Creator Program. They also run an annual contest called the Niantic Beyond Reality Developer Contest. Check out all the latest happenings with their AR programs here.
Niantic’s top 3 notable game titles are:
Pokemon Go is an AR mobile game developed as part of the Pokemon franchise. It was born out of a collaboration between Nintendo, The Pokemon Company, and Niantic.
Players create and customize an avatar which they use to transverse the virtual map based on where the player is geographically located at. It mashes real world landmarks and places of interest with virtual features like Pokestops and Gyms.
As the players explore their surroundings, their in-game avatars move accordingly. Along the way, they may encounter a wild Pokemon. The player may choose to capture it by throwing a Poke Ball by flicking their fingers at the screen. A successfully caught Pokemon now belongs to the player, which he/she can evolve or level up.
With their levelled up Pokemon, players can put them to battle by visiting a Pokemon Gym. Working together with other players as a group, they can battle an over-levelled Pokemon located in the Gym.
This mobile game was the fastest game ever to top the App & Google Play stores back in 2016. It was also the most downloaded mobile app on the App store of any app in their first week, being downloaded 10 million times within the 1st week of release.
In-game purchases generated a whooping $10 million every day in July, the first month it was launched. The massive popularity of this AR game sparked off a fury in the games developing world, where several developers decided to focus on similar AR mobile games.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Drawing inspiration from their successful Pokemon Go game launch, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is another AR mobile game developed jointly by Niantic and WB Games San Francisco.
Having a similar concept as Pokemon Go, as players travel around their real world, their in-game avatars similarly move around the in-game world that is geographically aligned to their real world location.
As they explore the virtual Harry Potter world, they will find confoundables. These are items and creatures (foundables) that were negatively affected by chaotic magic and need the players’ magical spells to undo.
The more confoundables the player helps, the higher the xp he/she gains. There is also a collection log known as the Registry which logs the player’s progress with these items and creatures they returned.
As players explore, they can stop by fortresses to fight the evil dark wizards and beasts. They can stop at inns to replenish their spell energy, and at greenhouses to pick up potion ingredients and grow new ones.
Besides exploring the world to collect foundables, the game comes with daily tasks that reward the players with extra items, xp and gold.
This game brought in an estimated $22 million 5 months after its launch, and got around 15 million installs during its first month of launch.
Ingress Prime is a relaunch of Niantic’s legacy game title, Ingress, which was first launched in 2012. Niantic chose to revamp Ingress and relaunch it in 2018 using lessons learnt from Pokemon Go.
Also equipped with a refreshed back story, Ingress Prime is a game about 2 factions fighting to control Exotic Matter, a powerful resource whose origin is unknown.
This power struggle between the 2 factions of mankind, the Enlightened and the Resistance, will ultimately affect the fate of the Earth.
Players must pick a side, and battle to control the most territory by linking portals and creating control fields to tide the faction to victory.
Utilising the same AR technology in Ninantic’s other mobile games, Ingress Prime allows players to locate and interact with portals around the player’s real world geographical distance.
These portals are usually located at landmarks and places of interest nearby. And players are incentivized to visit these locations physically to collect Exotic Matter (XM) and Action Points (XP).
In the years when the game first launched, CNN has reported that some players went to the extreme by leasing airplanes, helicopters and boats to reach portals in the remote areas of Siberia and Alaska.
Niantic’s recent financial results
Niantic’s Pokemon Go broke the $1 billion revenue mark in the first 10 months of 2020.
What it’s like working at Niantic
Employees who worked at Niantic gave a score of 4 out of 5 stars on Glassdoor.
They appreciated the fan base of the games that Niantic owns. And also praised the inclusivity and friendly work culture. There are also sufficient growth and development opportunities, both professionally and individually.
Niantic also takes ‘having fun at work’ to a whole new level, where the teams frequently go on Pokemon Go raids together.
Some drawback comments include having a lot of dead weight in the company, where early employees would continue on in unclear job roles, and are not accountable for anything.
The future of the company is also filled with question marks, as many have lamented that the only successful product launched is Pokemon Go. And the success factor of their new games (currently in the pipeline) and their proprietary AR platform remains a mystery.
If you’d like to give a shot at any of the open roles at Niantic, do check out their current openings here.
Gameloft: Our greatest reward is seeing that millions of Gameloft games are downloaded every day
From Gameloft’s mission statement, you can probably tell that they are a numbers-first company. This means that revenue and install numbers possibly chart the direction of the Gameloft’s game development roadmap.
That being said, Gameloft is a giant company in this industry, founded in December 1999. They currently own 19 game development studios across the globe, focused only on mobile games.
Being around since 1999, they were one of first few gaming companies to ride the adoption wave of mobile gaming. Their first renditions of mobile games were compatible with over 100 mobile phones. This pushed the company towards profitability right from the get go because competitors were few back then.
Since then, they have continued their winning streak by doubling down on a mobile-only strategy, which have paid off handsomely.
First based in Paris, they have since expanded and became global by having a presence in 19 major cities of the world. These cities include Singapore, Russia, and San Francisco.
To date, they boast of 4600 employees, and are always hiring more to join their team. Chasing install numbers has always been their ambition until 2014. That was when the company decided to prioritize quality instead of quantity.
Some notable branded tie-ups include SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog, the Asphalt Series, Disney and LEGO.
Gameloft’s top 3 notable game titles are:
Disney Getaway Blast!
It’s a free-to-play mobile puzzle game that was released in January 2020. Players would need to match colored bubbles by tapping on them, clearing them all while creating combo chains in the process. Players explore the island to clear puzzle stages. While doing so, they get to unlock new Disney characters. Each Disney character comes with its own unique skill that grants the player advantages during the puzzle.
You become Paddington Bear and embark on a running adventure through the busy city of London. Along the way, revisit and run through locations from the movie! These include Paddington’s house at Windsor Gardens. Paddington Bear starts running faster as he covers more distance. Duck or jump as you run, and collect marmalade jars, coins and unique trinkets along the way. These then allow you to unlock and upgrade outfits that Paddington Bear can wear for bonuses.
Asphalt 9 Legends
Race off in your favorite prestigious car in the various types of race circuits and modes. Choose to race either in a solo single player mode, or as a multiplayer mode and pit yourself against other racers. Then, as you race, perform mind-blowing stuns like jumps, spins, barrel rolls. As you complete these stuns, you fill up your car’s nitro meter. Floor the accelerator, hit the nitro and race off to the finish.
Gameloft’s recent financial results
Gameloft reportedly earned €120 million for the first half of 2020, and garnered over 1.6 million downloads per day for their games across all platforms.
What it’s like working at Gameloft
Gameloft scored an overall 3.4 stars out of 5 on Glassdoor.
Most employees, ex and current, agreed that Gameloft is a nice place to work at. They agreed that it is a great place for freshies to learn and grow.
There are always new technologies introduced to the team, and there is a lot to learn from one another at Gameloft. The overall work culture also feels casual and family-like.
There are also many helpful teams and individuals around. And the benefits provided by Gameloft is great.
However, those who gave a negative review cited limited career advancements and low salary as their primary reason for leaving Gameloft.
Things may also move slow due to the many layers of approval required. Depending on the project assigned, the job may feel repetitive and boring.
If you’d like to apply to join the Gameloft team, do check out their current vacancies here.
Supercell: The Best Teams Make the Best Games
A Finnish game development company that grew into a global powerhouse, Supercell is the epitome of what a successful game development company looks like.
Today, after rapidly expanding, Supercell now has offices in San Francisco, Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai.
Supercell’s mission is unorthodox yet straightforward and simple, to create games that are played by as many people as possible, enjoyed for years and remembered forever.
With this in mind, Supercell dares to terminate games that have taken years to develop before it even meets the eyes of the public. Adopting a mobile gaming strategy, Supercell even axed games that were originally developed for desktop gameplay.
Supercell has been killing games at various stages of development, and this strategy has clearly paid off. It has led to Supercell launching massively popular games like Clash Royale and Brawl Stars.
When others zig, you zag. And this seems to be Supercell’s overall approach, from team structure and management to game launches. The CEO himself, Ilkka Paananan has referred to himself as the industry’s “least powerful CEO”. His goal is simply to help remove obstacles from the path of the teams at the company, and ideally ‘make zero decisions’.
When it comes to game launches, Supercell leaves it to the teams to decide when to launch. The team decides when they are ready to have the game launched, and not the management. This lets everyone work at a pace that they are comfortable with, and not having to end work late just to rush out a game.
Another core belief that Supercell adopts is keeping the company small and nimble. With lesser people, there is less management and fewer processes – and this makes the company all the more fun to work in.
To date, Supercell has only 280 employees across its 5 offices, with people from over 30 countries. Supercell’s goal is to create a company whose employees will think that it is the best place they have ever worked at.
Supercell’s top 3 notable game titles include:
A 3V3 battle royale mobile game that is the latest game by Supercell. Players choose their favorite character (called a brawler) and battle it out in a game mode of their choice.
New brawlers can be obtained through opening of Brawl Boxes, buying them off the shop, or by unlocking new levels on the Trophy Road or Brawl Pass. Each brawler has their own attack style and super attack that is unique.
Brawlers can be upgraded once they have collected enough Power Points from Brawl Boxes and shop offers. Upgrading the brawler grants it more damage and unlocks new abilities at levels 7 and 9.
Players can choose from 7 game modes to battle it out against one another, namely, Gem Grab, Showdown (Solo/Duo), Brawl Ball, Siege, Heist, Hot Zone and Bounty. Additionally, weekends open up 3 new co-op game modes: Robo Rumble, Big Game and Boss Fight.
Each game lasts around 3 to 4 minutes, and players need to achieve an objective that varies between each game mode. Winning the game grants the player trophies and tokens which unlocks new reward tiers in Trophy Road and Brawl Pass. To obtain new brawlers quicker, and to jazz up brawlers with new skins, players can purchase more gems, the game’s premium currency, with real money.
Brawl Stars was nominated for “Mobile Game” and “EE Mobile Game of the Year” at the 15th British Academy Games Awards in 2019. This event was hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, honouring the best video games of 2018.
A tower rush game launched in 2016 that combines collectible cards with a multiplayer online battle arena concept. The objective of the game is to destroy the opponent’s towers, as many as possible. Each round lasts for 3 minutes, with an extra 2 minutes of tiebreaker overtime.
Winning the round lets the player earn trophies, which ranks the players against all the players globally. Experience points (XP) are also earned after every round, which levels up the player’s home castle base. Lastly, 1 random chest is bestowed upon the winning player.
The troops that the player deploys in the arena are represented as cards. These cards come with different rarity levels – Common, Rare, Epic and Legendary. Cards can be unlocked through opening of chests.
Clash Royale received raving reviews from both players and critics. It holds an impressive score of 4.5/5 on Google Play Store, and a 4/5 on the Apple Store. It was also awarded the ‘Best Game’ by Google Plays in 2016. And more recently, bagged the ‘Best Mobile eSport’ Pocket Gamer Mobile Games Award in Jan 2020.
Clash Royale also has its own esports world championship league. Teams from 5 leagues, North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and China play off against one another. The finals are then held in a chosen country, with a prize pool of at least 6 figures.
Clash of Clans
Assuming the role of a village chief, players build their own village using resources (gold, elixir and dark elixir) gained by means of production, or by attacking other players. Build village defences, train a fearsome army and raid the way to the top of the charts.
Players compete to have the best base and the strongest army troop in this online multiplayer game. As they level up their buildings and base, players unlock stronger troops and defences.
This game took Supercell around 6 months to develop, and the game play and art style were influenced by games like Travian and Super Nintendo. It was then released in 2012 on iOS and 2013 for Android’s Google Play.
Clash of Clans was the top 5 downloaded game on the App Store between Dec 2012 and May 2013, generating the most revenue on Google Play in 2013. Its highest daily revenue was in Feb 2014, for a whopping amount of $654,000.
Fast forward to 2020, it remains in the top 50 grossing app in both the Google Play Store, and the Apple App Store.
Supercell’s reported financials for 2019
Supercell reported $1.56 billion in 2019, down from $1.6 billion in 2018, $2 billion in 2017 and $2.3 billion in 2016. Profits before taxes were at $577 million, down from $625 million in 2019 and $810 million in 2018.
What it’s like working at Supercell
Employees working at Supercell gave a resounding 4.8 stars out of 5 at Glassdoor. This is the highest score we have seen so far for a mobile game development company.
“Nothing comparable” seems to be the overall vibe that we are getting about working at Supercell. Others also described working at Supercell a ‘dream opportunity’. They described their colleagues there as genuine and ones who really care for their well being.
Failure is a way of life, and one added that if you are afraid to fail, you may find it challenging to adapt at Supercell. Both failures and learnings at the company are shared, along with champagne. Supercell also seems to provide perks that are unheard of, and one review even branded the whole experience as ‘too good to be true, but it is’.
The only major con about working at Supercell seems to be that Helsinki’s time zone is not compatible with San Francisco’s, complicating communication across teams and offices.
If you would like to apply to join the Supercell team, you can find their latest open positions here.