Are PnC adventure games on iOS and mobile platforms the future?

Inspired by the discussion in The "Death of Adventure Games" (and the upcoming iOS/Android release of Thimbleweed Park), I thought to open a new topic:

I have an iPad and an iPhone and it occurs to me that the user interface and interaction mechanics of a mobile platform are perfectly suitable for Point-and-Click adventures – especially on an iPad, where you have a large screen on which to play and move around.

In my opinion, going from “Point-and-Click” to “Tap-and-Drag” seems a very natural progression to the traditional interface of adventure games. Plus, the story/puzzle-driven nature of such games (as opposed to immediate response required by action games), lends itself well to the casual attitude of modern gamers: you could play for a bit, solve a puzzle or two, shutdown the game (with auto-saving, of course!), and come back later.

I guess the static verb interface of Lucasfilms games could be evolved in various ways to make it fresh and modern without actually losing their intrinsic style and charm.

I could see three possible futures along these lines:

  1. First, the completely “modernized” adventure with high-res graphics, animations, and hi-def sound; with the same high production values as in the past, and the same style of witty, humorous, and clever puzzle and story writing as ever, but with a modern look.

  2. Second, the “retro” adventure with pixel art, 8-bit chip-tunes, classic “verb” interface, and the rest of the trimmings from good ol’ Lucasfilm games of yore.

  3. Third, some mixture of the first two, like Thimbleweed Park aims to be, modernizing where makes sense, while leaving the timeless, tried-and-true features intrinsic to the genre.

I know that such a game would most likely remain in a niche, but published for iOS, that niche could prove to be significant, perhaps large enough to sustain a small development company like Terrible Toybox. However, it would have to be marketed as a modern game, not as a “remember back when…?” artefact, lest it be ignored by the mainstream as just another “nostalgia-fueled” product for die-hard fans.

To me, a game like Thimbleweed Park fits my somewhat-casual iPad use perfectly. I can’t wait for the iOS version of Thimbleweed Park, and I would definitely purchase any Terrible Toybox game for iOS as my preferred platform. Not being a hard-core gamer or die-hard adventurer myself (and leaning more towards the casual gaming side), I suppose there are many others like me.

What do you think? Is the future of PnC adventure games on tablet and other mobile platforms? Should Terrible Toybox focus on such a market in the future? And to that end, I wonder what Messrs Gilbert & Winnick think of such an idea?


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Not the future - the present! :slight_smile: I can’t present any numbers but adventure games are selling very well on mobile platforms.

They should make cross platform games (as they do right now).

Yes, but are they the same style of Lucasfilm games, or modern incarnations (possibility #1 above)?

Sure, that would give them the greatest reach, but I imagine cross-platform development being a very expensive endeavor. So I guess I’m asking, if mobile is the most natural evolution of a platform for PnC games (and I think it is), and if cross-platform development is too expensive to be sustainable for such a small niche market (which I suspect, but don’t know for sure); should they then focus exclusively on mobile (or specifically on iOS) for future games?


They are “modern” PnC adventures with a simplified interface.

No, it’s not - if you do it right. :slight_smile:

If you start developing with cross platform in mind, it’s relatively easy to port the game to the other platforms. Simple example: If you chose Unity you are able to generate the game for Windows, Mac, Linux and mobile platforms with one mouse click. (Unity supports even Tizen, WebGL and Samsung TVs.) And even if you develop the engine by your own it’s not that difficult to develop the games for multiple plattforms (if you develop with cross platform in mind).

I would say: The mobile platforms are perfect for PnC adventures. :slight_smile: (But I still prefer the mouse on a real PC.)

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Hmm… I thought I read Mr. Gilbert and others say it was. I could be wrong, but I think that even if you use common code, you still need to port the hardware-specific parts of the engine. Then there’s also the platform-specific capabilities that need to be designed and coded for each target platform.

It may not be a huge expense, though, but I don’t expect it comes “for free.”

Hehe, yeah, as I’m sure many other adventurers do. However, I am more concerned about expanding the market beyond that and into casual gamers as well. :slight_smile:

Yes, but these are issues primary with the UI. They had a build of TWP running on Android (or was it iOS?) before they published the PC versions. Maybe @Nor_Treblig could give the link(s) to the corresponding blog entries … :slight_smile:

Yes, but …

… today you have cross platform libraries and similar help.

But don’t get me wrong: Of course you have additional work. But even small developer teams could handle that and it’s totally worth the effort. Because you get into more markets and earn more money.

OK, thanks for clarifying. I guess I wasn’t considering cross-platform frameworks and libraries, so the cost of cross-platform development may not be a big issue.

How about marketing and publishing across the diverse channels? Or the conversion cost of each sale on the different platforms? Is that a significant cost? I guess what I’m asking is, is there an advantage to focusing on one (large) platform instead of a “shot-gun” approach?


That’s a good question. I’m not a marketing expert. Maybe Ron could say something about this.

Depends on the platform. For example if you would like to develop for Nintendo you have to buy an expensive developer kit, etc. Some platforms have some peculiarities that could drive you crazy (from a developer and marketing view). And at least it depends on your own code. For example if your game has a complex AI code you could get problems on a mobile phone with less processor powers.

Yes, definitely. For example you could make a build for Windows Phone devices. But then you have to get into the MS store, you have to maintain (=patch) your game for Windows Phones and you have to give support for the Windows Phone port. How many users has Windows Phone? AFAIK Windows Phone devices are used in business. Would they buy your game? So you have to ask yourself if it’s worth the whole work.

In a first step I would concentrate on the platforms with a big user base and less costs. So like Terrible Toybox I would fist try to release the game for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android. I count Linux in because in most cases it’s easy to generate a build (even if the market isn’t that big, but it’s growing). After releasing for these “primary” platforms I would search other markets that fit to my game and that are worth to be supported.

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I have heard the same, but no one I ask can give me any numbers, and various narrative/adventure devs have said just the opposite. One issue is price. Mobile can’t support $19, so games usually sell for $8 or even $4. Mobile might be doing good units, but the money isn’t very good. Mobile is very much a free-to-play space. Android is far far far worse for paid apps than iOS, to the point where the only reason to do paid Android is PR (just to say you do).

Piracy on Android is also a big issue. Mobile users have been so conditioned that apps are free or cost $1, and that sends them to pirate. PC gamer don’t have those same expectation and generally will pay for something that has good value. Not so with mobile users.

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Thanks for that insight, @RonGilbert. It seems that even if focusing on iOS can potentially expand your reach, it may not be worth it for PnC adventure games due to the overwhelming dominance of – and apparent user preference to – free-to-play games.

I really can’t see something like Thimbleweed Park as a free-to-play game, full of ads or compulsive-behaviour triggers to get me to click or buy coins. That would be a completely different game and not really what I, nor I suspect you, are looking for.

*sigh* :disappointed:


It’s worth doing a port. Our engine is very cross platform, so it’s not a ton of work/money. I wouldn’t make a PnC adventure just for (or as a main SKU) mobile.

Gotcha. That’s what I meant before, that it may not worth it to do exclusively on mobile; but yes, as long as your code is cross-platform, then the more platforms you can target, the wider your potential reach. :+1:

Thanks for sharing your views. :slight_smile:


Yes, that’s true for the price of the application, but I think that it’s important to specify that the app price is not the main way game apps earn money on mobile devices. Freemium + in-app purchases is.

Now, I understand that the in-app purchase model would be difficult to apply to PnC adventure games, but just to explore a bit more what this kind of games can achieve, let’s have a look at actual data.

Today, June 4th 2017, Clash of Clans made 2,019,896 USD in revenues, in US only and on iPhone only. I’ll write it again: Today. April 2017 daily average was 1,975,223 USD.

If you read the list of the most-grossing iPhone game apps, you’ll notice that the freemium + in-app purchase is pretty much the only model that lets the developers to get a good and recurrent income.

Of the top 194 top-grossing games, 192 are free, that is, you do not pay to play, you pay only if you want or need to add/do more stuff to the gameplay.

So, it’s true that if you exclude in-app purchases the price of the app is the only source of income and that you have to fight the free-to-play mobile user culture, but maybe, just maybe, it is possible to create a PnC adventure game with in-app purchases and embrace the freemium model instead of fighting it. :slight_smile:

You don’t even need to transform your users in addicted zombies like most games do: the quantity of things to purchase within a PnC adventure game could be limited.

I would have liked more specks of dusts to be spread around, for example.

Just food for thought…

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No. Just no. I wouldn’t even consider a “freemium” PnC game. That would just ruin it.


Well, not all adventures are selling good. But that’s valid for all platforms. I can’t give numbers but “examples”: Broken Sword 1 sold on mobile platforms so good that Revolution was able to start the work on Broken Sword 5.

Have you thought about in-app purchases for TWP? Give the Android users the first part for free and sell the second part (as an in-app purchase). And/or give the easy mode for free and let the people pay for the hard mode. Let them pay for each flashback. Include ads and let the player buy an ad free version. And so on. In TWP you have a lot of options to use the in-app purchase model. (If you need more ideas, ask me ;))

Why not? If Android users like in-app purchases or advertises - give it to them. They can buy the whole ad free game if they want. If not, they have to live with the free version.

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Because, to me, that would just ruin the experience. It will definitely be a completely different game than what it is today.

If all you want is to make money, then yeah, go for it. However, to me that would just cheapen the brand.


How can we tell? Nobody even tried to design a PnC freemium adventure game in a way that it wouldn’t ruin the game. Maybe the kind of result you are thinking of would actually ruin the game, but maybe there is another way to design the game beside what you have in mind.

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Even if you can buy the whole game and these in-app purchases are limited to Android? See it as a demo or trial or shareware version. These were common on PC too… :slight_smile:

You must be careful with this. There are a lot of games with this approach and the results are (on most of them) bad ratings: people write 1 star ratings with the argue that the game is published as free and then they must to pay to continue playing… rage ratings, of course. You advised it on description and the product claims that it has in-app purchases, but a lot of users give these ratings. And yes, the rating stars are important on mobile stores.

Several games are launched for desktop and consoles at first moment and some months later (when the prices drop for those platforms) they are launched on mobile stores with a lower price (more fitted on mobile market standards).

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Yes, that’s a problem respectively you have to be careful. But it works in a lot of cases. An example (but not a good one I have to admit) is Broken Sword 5: Revolution sells it in two parts (called episodes in the play store). The first part costs 5,50 Euros and the second part 5 Euros. Both parts have very good reviews and 4,5 respectively 4,7 stars.

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