Despite what you may read elsewhere, putting a game on a mobile app store isn’t an instant win. Especially if the game is a port from another platform.
Retro RPG specialists Zeboyd games have enjoyed pretty decent success on the PC for their old-school feel and thanks to their tie-in with Penny Arcade for the third Rain Slick Precipice game. However, they are halting future efforts to carry their games into the mobile app world, citing a lack of interest in their mobile games.
The easy conclusion is, “Eh, maybe there’s just no interest in humorous 16-bit RPGs on the mobile platform…” Could there be any other forces at work?
As Android Police points out, their game ports have been reviewed fairly terribly on the Google Play Store. In the case of Cthulu Saves the World (ported by Tinkerhouse Games, like all of the Zeboyd Games on mobile), there are currently as many 1 star reviews as 5 star reviews. Users cite constant crashing as well as troublesome controls. The Penny Arcade port is being reviewed better so far, but it has a small install base, yet. And many times, recently-released games that were notable elsewhere get a free pass on their heritage alone.
Chrono Trigger’s Android release has a similar review disparity (high 1:5 star ratio) as Cthulu. But it’s been around for much longer and it costs far more: heritage doesn’t stand a chance for $10 mobile games, especially games that use DRM. And if your game costs $10, your controls should be flawless and certainly not worse than an emulator’s.
I tend to focus on how the digital world differentiates itself from traditional markets, here. But most of the time, the digital market provides the most extreme example of what is really just traditional market forces at work. And bad ports of good games certainly will kick that into gear. Good luck, Zeboyd.