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Behind the lifecycle of the mobile game

The average time to maturity for new games has dropped significantly over the last years. Now mobile games have less time to get to the top, but "the top time," however, is also limited.

The official launch of the Apple App Store in July 2008 has started a new era for game developers. Having an SDK in their hands, from that time they have been able to influence the overall gaming market. Even though the games account for only 31% of downloads in the App Store, they represent 75% of the total consumer spend. But even more significant the growth of mobile games over the other types of gaming. While PC and Console games have been growing year-on-year with a similar growth rate of 11%, mobile gaming has been reaching the mark of 26,8%.

And the previous year was marked as a significant milestone for mobile gaming: now mobile gaming generating more revenue than all other types of gaming – console, PC, etc. – combined. However, unlike traditional console games that have quite lengthy lifespans, mobile games not used to flourish for too long and, as was published by Adobe a few years ago, mobile games have the highest abandonment rate among all the app categories.

Talking about real examples, I can refer to a Pokémon Go phenomenon. It was told a lot about the success of this title, especially during the initial hype in the first weeks of July 2016. However, rapid growth has quickly turned into a rapid decline: the game has dropped from nearly 45 million players in the middle of July to about 30 million a month later.

So to me, Pokémon Go is a representative example of how virality can generate a bulk of downloads in no time, and how the excitement can fade in just a few months or even weeks.
But this case is not only about virality but also about the lifecycle of games in general. With the growing number of mobile titles, fierce competition and faster consumption of in-game content (especially, in the Asian market), mobile games have begun to mature much faster. The most profound analysis in this area was made by Appannie already back in 2015 when they found that the average time to maturity for new games has dropped significantly over a few years: from 180 weeks in 2012 to just over 17 weeks in 2015. Such stats were implying on the necessity of fast development cycles and continued innovation for the success in an ever higher paced mobile ecosystem. And the continual innovation along with updates are especially important, considering the last year’s statistic from Apptopia. As was discovered by them, 64% of games that enter the Top 50 stay there for five days or less. The period from the game launch until downloads start to run low is also has shortened over the last years: the average lifespan of a top 50 grossing game in the U.S. App Store is 27.75 days now. As was emphasized by Apptopia, only 6 games have remained within the top 50 spots during the study period from 2014 to 2017: “Game of War: Fire Age,” “DoubleDown Casino Slots & More,” “Big Fish Casino: Slots & Games,” “Slotomania Slots: Vegas Casino,” “Candy Crush Saga,” and “Clash of Clans.” Casino and Puzzle were the two subcategories with the longest streaks of consecutive days in the Top 50 during the study period. And at the time when casino games is a perfect trap for player’s money, puzzle titles showing the highest penetration rate among all game categories. However, the main takeaway from these stats is different.

Not to mention the constant innovation and updates, the creation of a game with keeping in mind a broad audience is a key since the top grossing games are usually focused on different age groups of both sexes. The proper identification of the target audience, however, sometimes turn to be quite challenging, so this is the topic for discussion later on.

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