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Most players abandon mobile games after 24 hours? Ouch

Thinking of leaving your current job to make mobile games? Perhaps you’re a marketing man at Shattosoft games, called Chet Manly, and you think that all the money has fallen out of traditional AAA development, and that all your customers are now free-wheeling, Flappy Bird-playing mobile gamers? Well, you might want to think again, bucky. Some toe-curling new data from a number of mobile gaming studies show that only the very, very, very lucky make it big on the small screen.

 

First off, let’s look at the latest report by App-testing firm, Swrve--as reported by CVG. According to data from 10 million players (taken over a 90 day period), a staggering 66% never play their new mobile game after the first day. So, the majority of games on mobile are played over a period of less than 24 hours. That’s frankly staggering, even if you’re one of the most cynical mobile game critics.

However, if you’re one of the smart cookies who charge up-front for a game, then you’ve already made your money. Well done, you. Good luck following that up with a new game or sequel. Given the total lack of brand loyalty that this stat demonstrates, the chances of you getting repeat business for a sequel--or a game ‘Made by the creators of…’--is slimmer than a stick-man drawing of Victoria Beckham. No, you need to brave the over-saturated App market as a newbie again, and the chances of you getting lucky twice are… yeah, Beckham. Stick-version.

 

Perhaps that’s why many companies have charged towards free-to-play, with arms wide open, expecting a big, rich hug. Well, there’s bad news for these games too. The same research suggests that only 2.2% of all mobile users spend money in games, and that 53% of this spending is done in the first week. So, if you do manage to succeed in parting your players from their cash (and you’re not discarded after 24 hours like so many others) then it’s probably not going to be a sustained thing.

Better keep your spending customers loyal, too. According to data from the same research company, 50% of all in-App purchases are made by… wait for it… 0.15% of all players. Much is made of how places like the App Store are level playing fields, and how they give anyone access to millions of potential customers, but--in reality--it seems like mobile developers really need to laser-target a very specific, very niche bunch of players in order to become profitable.

 

Now, here comes the opinion-y bit. Traditional games publishers like EA and Ubisoft have so far struggled to really dominate the mobile charts in the same way they do the ‘traditional’ gaming space. Why? The data seems to suggest that mobile gamers are far less discerning than traditional console players, and far less loyal to brands. Simply aping the mobile development models isn’t enough--you need to completely realign your strategy to be in with a chance of success. And even then, the whole mobile market is built on a mountain of users who will drop games readily when the next shiny, multi-coloured bird arrives on the scene. Basically, the App Store is in no way a solid foundation on which to build a business.

I’m hoping that one of the consequences of all this rather alarming data is that traditional publishers (and anyone else who thinks the grass is greener on mobile development) will pause for thought before shifting their resources from traditional development to mobile. One thing you CAN say for hardcore players is that they’re a reliable source of money. We buy games upfront, for £40/$60, and if we love the series we’ll buy it year after year and spend cash on DLC. And we certainly don’t drop games after 24 hours.

 

Sure, spending millions of dollars on a traditional AAA game is seen as risky--and it’s true, the margin between success and failure has widened, swallowing up many smaller studios--but surely that’s better than chancing your future in the unpredictable mobile market. The solution is to be smarter with how AAA games are made, to blur the lines between the blockbusters and the indie games we see on Steam and PSN/XBL. Episodic gaming, crowd-funding, side-projects within AAA studios--this is how you make games, because you’re preaching to an engaged audience who want to buy what you’re selling. I certainly think there’s more of a future here than on the choppy mobile seas, where failure is less than 24 hours away.

11 comments

  • brickman409 - April 15, 2014 9:17 p.m.

    I remember not that long ago people were saying that the 3DS was going to get killed by smartphones and that Nintendo should make mobile games. Hilarious!
  • cheryl-nemback - April 11, 2014 2:03 a.m.

    his made my day I have a Xbox Live code and it got accepted! Got it at http://freexboxliveforever.com
  • GOD - April 10, 2014 8:44 p.m.

    "a staggering 66% never play their new mobile game after the first day" I feel that this stat could be likely attributed to people downloading many free games, playing them all, and then deciding which ones they actually want to keep and deleting all of the others. So even if they find one game that they really like and will invest many hours into over a long period, this percent of of games never played after the first day will become bloated. All the other stats I don't see a problem with though. The way I see it the "technology advancing faster and faster" argument for mobile gaming becoming more popular is actually wrong, because video games are usually pretty far forward on the technology curve and so as mobile gaming gets exponentially better so will dedicated gaming handhelds. However strong mobile gaming gets, a dedicated handheld will be out there that's even more powerful and more suited to games (because buttons).
  • Cinaclov - April 10, 2014 9:29 a.m.

    I'll just leave this here, as an interesting counter point: http://www.polygon.com/2014/4/9/5597062/snobbery-and-fear-drive-ethical-criticisms-of-free-to-play-games
  • GOD - April 10, 2014 8:39 p.m.

    The article you linked to supports this one... Quote from what you linked too "DURING JANUARY OF 2014, 98.5 PERCENT OF MOBILE GAME PLAYERS HAD NOT SPENT A SINGLE PENNY" This article is about how mobile games cannot be considered a stable platform for business, and you article says the same thing by pointing out that the vast majority of people don't pay anything on free mobile games.
  • Shigeruken - April 10, 2014 8:51 a.m.

    Wow, those are some dismal estimates. I would have thought the percentage of players spending would be at least a little higher than 2.2% Although I do abandon most of the games I play within the first few minutes of trying them. Podcasts make for better mobile entertainment imo.
  • scottk - April 10, 2014 8:18 a.m.

    In the mobile space, I think I'm more "anti-loyal" to brands. If I see something like Gamevil branding on a game I assume it's going to be a freemium grindfest so I'm very inclined to skip it. I guess in these cases branding is doing its job- you know what you're going to get- and here I know that I don't want it.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - April 10, 2014 8:03 a.m.

    Mobile games are just fads that people get into for a certain time and then abandon them for another fad. Actually Capcom had a financial problem as of recent regarding forecast being cut by %51 all due to their Mobile Focus. Its clearly a plague, and what are investors doing? Bothering Nintendo to go mobile because they only listen to stupid shit people get into despite the fact that unlike mobile fads, 3DS games are still selling.
  • SnakeinmyBoot - April 10, 2014 2:46 p.m.

    I was just about to say Capcom just tried to get into the mobile scene to help their dismal bottom line and profits dropped even more. Capcom was relying on the brand awareness to make a killing there. What they found out was no one every heard of or remembered the name Capcom or it's IPs, so they were just another of far too many companies trying to sell games in the mobile market. Nintendo is doing great compared to many AAA turned mobile developers by ignoring the vocal yet shortsighted shareholders. If Ninty even did get into mobile, they would be wise to only allot a small budget to any project to test and prove what will return from that investment. Nintendo is a more recognizable name for the world, but even with that extra recognition, it might not be enough to get people to spend money on their mobile games. Iwata and Co. know this risk and hasn't budged from the pressure put on them by investors. The only thing they need to do is invest in the Wii U's game library and marketing more. It's getting better and could do almost as good as the 3DS once they put effort into the thing. Maybe other publisher's execs and shareholders will learn from Capcom's mistake. But that would mean they need to pay attention to more than just their own finances, instead of trusting the foolish rumors that mobile is the next big break.
  • SpadesSlick - April 10, 2014 5:01 a.m.

    And yet King is somehow valued in the billions. Goes to show you how up their ass ridiculous that valuation was.
  • Redeater - April 10, 2014 4:32 a.m.

    The fact that an awful game like Flappy Bird made it onto the number 1 spot...........that should tell you all you need to know about "mobile" gamers.

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