How game devs can break out of the app store and reach untapped markets (VB On-Demand)


Presented by Xsolla

Mobile game developers can expand globally, increase profit margins, and build stronger player relationships when they learn how to sell their content directly to their audience. A panel of pros joined GamesBeat’s Dean Takahashi to share their insights about breaking free of the app store in this on-demand VB Live event!

Watch on demand right here.

When last we left the Apple vs. Epic lawsuit, a federal judge had ruled that Apple could not prohibit game developers from in-app advertising to point players to alternate ways to buy game goods at lower prices. The ruling is on hold during appeals, but the legal fight has sparked a global conversation around app store rules, commerce regulations, and whether these mobile giants should be giving mobile game developers the same freedom that web game developers have.

The VB Live webinar, “How mobile game developers can break free of the app store,” brought together industry experts to talk about the gray area between the appeals process and the legal ramifications shaking out across the world.

Right now, even before the final ruling comes down, developers and publishers should be asking themselves a couple of important questions, said Miikka Luotio, director of business development for Europe at Xsolla. First, how can they offer better value to their players, and second, how can they own the relationship with their players more directly. That means going multiplatform.

“If you have a web version or a PC version of your mobile game, you own the full commercial stack,” Luotio said. “The mobile platforms don’t want to touch that. That’s yours as a developer or publisher.”

Outside commerce options allow players to do a lot of things they can’t do on the mobile platforms, including allowing players to interact, and giving publishers a place to offer more personalized service to their MVP players. These commerce experiences can also span a number of a developer’s titles, rather than being locked into one IP. But the app store monopoly has other ramifications, said Michael Carter, co-founder and CEO at Playco.

“My view isn’t that ‘breaking free’ is in and of itself an interesting goal — there are always platforms, always payment mechanisms and gatekeepers,” Carter said. “I look at it more from a standpoint of, what experience can you enable? What would be really cool? We’re seeing the hints of pretty amazing experiences.”

He points to the cultural phenomenon of Wordle, which took over the web — and wouldn’t be possible on the app store. The question becomes, If more people were able to build higher fidelity experiences like Wordle, or business models around experiences like that, then what would the world look like?

“I do think that at its heart, Apple and Google, they both care about their customer experience,” he said. “I do have hope that when there are these compelling use cases and developers pushing for it, it is long-term aligned with what those companies would want. Interoperability might be seen as a threat, when in fact interoperability, where you just send a hyperlink and everybody can jump in, always has been and will continue to be one of the most important features of the web, and of computing in general.”

Tugay Alyildiz, co-founding CEO at Veloxia Technology, agreed, saying, “That’s personally one of the reasons why I find this topic super interesting, because we’re not only talking about competition between Apple and Fortnite, the two tech giants, but we’re actually talking about how this is going to impact the future of probably all of gaming in five years.”

For Taewon Yun, chief business officer at Super Evil Megacorp, getting out of the app store might mean getting a better margin by eliminating the cut that Google or Apple takes, but more importantly, it enables them to have access to a market that they were previously unable to access. The Google and Apple payment solutions are limited mainly to credit cards, which is fine in most first-tier countries, but in the bigger emerging and growing markets like southeast Asia or India the use of credit cards is still relatively limited.

“From a developer perspective, there’s a much bigger market out there, and because of their shortsightedness, that’s restricting developers from being able to take advantage of it,” Yun said.

The app store monopoly is also impacting instant games, which live inside social media apps, and have been growing in popularity. Carter notes that Playco has had more than 500 million players across its instant games portfolio — that’s more than almost any mobile game company out there. But Apple and Google have gotten in the way of the customer relationship there, too, by disallowing commercial transactions.

“These sorts of games are built with interoperability as the core premise,” he said. “If I have a social game, but half my friends or family or colleagues can’t play the game, then that’s a bug. By depriving instant games of the ability to transact with customers in any way, it just sucks all the oxygen out of it.”

Blockchain and cloud games still have many technical issues for mobile game developers, but subscription services are becoming more and more viable over time, with Apple even introducing Apple Arcade. For Yun, subscription services are great opportunity to build interesting games that might currently not be that popular in the ecosystem, and focus on engagement instead of monetization.

“Both as a business model and an expansion of the diversity of types of games we see, the subscription services can be a good thing for the ecosystem,” he said.

In the end, what customers want is easy ways to interact with their games, on whatever screen they want to play.

“If they feel they want to buy a game, buy a season pass, buy a bundle, you need to be able to offer that to your customer in all those screens that they use to play the game,” Luotio said.

In five years from now he predicts this whole conversation about platforms will feel strange, or even quaint. We’ll be living instead in a world where consumers can go to any outlet to play their games, and use any method of transaction, including blockchain and NFTs.

“That’s a world and a future I’d like to subscribe to, where consumers have an abundance of choice, and developers and publishers can choose where their consumers are,” he said.

For the entire, in-depth discussion of the app store monopoly, the opportunities that going cross-platform offers game developers of every size, and more, watch on demand now, for free.

Watch on demand here!

You’ll learn:

  • How to break free of the mobile app store
  • Best practices for commerce growth
  • How mobile developers can reach revenue goals
  • Real-world case studies from successful mobile game developers and publishers


  • Michael Carter, Co-Founder & CEO, Playco
  • Tugay Alyıldız, Co-founding CEO, Veloxia Technology
  • Taewon Yun, Chief Business Officer, Super Evil Megacorp
  • Miikka Luotio, Director of Business Development, Europe, Xsolla
  • Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer, GamesBeat (moderator)

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