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Feb 9 2023
The mobile game industry has changed dramatically in the last few years. What makes a good mobile game?
This article aims to remind you of the 3 key elements needed to develop a successful mobile game, and we provide a source of genuine content based on people in the mobile games industry. We'll dive into every step of the way with the right methods, strategies, and techniques needed to succeed.
As with most aspects of our ASO business, employing the right approach and technology will allow you to significantly increase the likelihood of your game reaching scale.
Let's dig deeper.
Throughout the COVID era (remember those lockdown days?) we saw a huge increase in demand for mobile games, which drove people to consume more entertainment, as well as the nearly crippling effect of Apple's decision to deprecate access to user-level data for advertising and measurement purposes.
However, the increase in demand created a difficult comparison when calculating year on year success, giving the impression of slower growth in the games market (though it is still significantly higher than the pre-COVID era).
In a nutshell, scaling a game and finding a massive audience that likes and engages with it became significantly more difficult over time. An engaged audience is the lifeblood of any game, and without it, commercial success is nearly impossible to achieve.
It was always difficult to create great mobile games and a product that could achieve global success. But, even if you got that incredibly difficult part right, scaling a mobile game has become just as difficult in the last two years.
Here are the main challenges I see every mobile game company facing in order to succeed in the coming years.
It takes more than a great mobile game idea to create a successful game. Let's think about this mathematically, keeping in mind that these numbers are just for fun.
Assume the likelihood of creating a fun, successful mobile game that people want to play is 10%, and the likelihood of profitably scaling that game (acquiring a massive audience for a CAC that is lower than the actual LTV) is 30%. It means that the "strike rate" (the percentage of times a developer was able to create a mobile game hit that generated significant revenue) was 10% X 30%, or 3%.
One of the 33 projects produced a successful game.
However, the likelihood of scaling the game profitably is much lower these days. 30%? A fantastic number. If we assume that acquiring quality users is twice as difficult (which I believe is quite optimistic), and the probability of scaling is now 15%, the strike win is currently 1.5%.
This means that only one project out of 66 would result in a successful game.
The numbers are irrelevant here, and each studio and developer has their own expertise, experience, and know-how that governs their own strike rate. However, the dynamic is undeniably real.
Let me quote Strauss Zelenick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive, from a recent interview when asked about recent trends:
"…well the trend that has the most potential unfortunately is an ancient one, is creating new hits that are unexpected that are spectacular that excite people and engage people and brighten their day. That's what the entertainment industry has always done well; companies that do that well succeed, and companies that don't do that well fail."
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When attempting mobile game development, a combination of concept and design, as well as solid data, is required. This will not only give you a well-rounded perspective on your potential new product, but it will also give you confidence in your mobile game idea before you invest more time and resources.
You can reduce significant development risk by utilizing a great greenlight process early in the concept phase.
There are numerous ways to accomplish this in the mobile game space today, including concept testing to gauge early interest in a concept from real-world users and in a real-world environment. Then comes extensive marketability testing, as well as access to data-driven intelligence on current market trends.
That means understanding the game's concept business potential, user acquisition economics, and the possibility of turning a high enough LTV while having a low enough CPI to sustain profitable growth of the game early on.
Even if you need to rely on past data and competitive intelligence to estimate the potential LTV of a game (that does not yet exist), concept testing allows you to thoroughly test the appetite potential players have for such a game.
Concept testing will enable you to determine whether the potential CPIs for your concept are even in the ballpark for profitable player acquisition.
Congratulations on having a great, fun, and engaging game in your hands. You must now scale it and put it in the hands of millions of engaged players. Correctly marketing a mobile game can lead to customer retention and brand awareness later on, so consider an effective strategy that is relevant to your game business.
To do that, you need to
Implement a practical framework for combining paid and organic user acquisition efforts to maximize growth.
Use the right publishing technology to contextually target the right audience, optimize your funnel creatives (both on the ad creative and the App Store product page creative sides), and have the right tools to measure the effectiveness of different paid UA channels and campaigns, as well as different organic efforts, so you can effectively allocate your budget. This includes post-privacy attribution, media-mix modeling, and other techniques.
Implement the right tools and technology to engage users, maximize retention, and run an excellent LiveOps and VIP operation for your live game.
Have an in-game experimentation framework that is always active in order to optimize and increase players' LTV through smart, well-managed, and measured a/b tests and experiments ranging from the FTUE to different game mechanics.
If you're monetizing your game with in-app ads, use cutting-edge technologies like mediation to increase the eCPMs you can earn on your ad inventory.
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Appropriate mobile game marketing is essential for a successful game launch and increasing the longevity of your product with players. So many great and fun games have sadly fallen to the bottom of the charts, never to be seen again, because the studio behind them did not invest in the right people, expertise, and technology on the publishing side.
You can significantly increase the likelihood of your game hitting scale if you have the right methodologies and technology in place.
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