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According to Statista, over 600,000 game apps were launched on the iTunes store in 2016, representing the growing interest from developers and users alike in the ever-expanding mobile game space. However, most of these games would have gone unnoticed, hardly mastering a ripple in the mobile games landscape. Nevertheless, the lure of uncovering the next runaway success motivates game developers, publishers and rights holders to persevere. As we begin 2017, we take a quick look back at some of the significant lessons from 2016.

Strategy Rules the Roost

These games have refined and strengthened the potent recipe of content, gameplay, complexity and engagement to have sustained success in 2016. Although games from this genre might not have topped the leaderboard over the course of the year but most of the games in the Top 10 Highest Grossing games list would include games from this genre. While the content of these games differed in background and landscape, the objective-driven missions’ taps on an important demographic of loyal and committed users. This consistency highlights the importance of content and engagement as key drivers in the success of the game. This enabled games of this genre to consistently generate strong revenues. Clash of Clans and Game of War, for example, recorded over $500 million in revenue in the 1st quarter before tapering off to $350 million by the 3rd quarter. Strong engagement was reflected in user investment into the game which enabled it to remain relevant in the face of competition from newer games in the genre as well as breakout successes’ such as Niantic’s Augmented Reality hit Pokemon Go launched in the summer of 2016.

Intelligent Content Gives the Edge

Although branded content continues to be a significant source of content for developers and publisher, 2016 saw the strategic and customized integration of branded content. Instead of celebrities being the headline integration or on promotional material, Mobile Strike, went a step further to include Arnold Schwarzenegger as a central character. This enabled a comprehensive strategy to be built around ‘Arnie’ in the role of a General in the game as well as integrating the game into footage of real-life scenes starring Schwarzenegger. The approach allowed the integration to engage with current users as more than a celebrity integration but an integration that was in the spirit of the game, both in content and gameplay. Clever integration of gameplay into real life scenes on marketing material further added to the authenticity of the game. This crucial engagement factor known as Daily Active User’s (DAU) increased nearly tenfold immediately after the integration with revenues increasing by 40%. It was especially effective in acquiring new users who identified with the former ‘Governator’ and his unique appeal, with a sustained 3 million new installations monthly. This integration was further enhanced by a coordinated, consistent and incremental marketing strategy which included tools such as TV Advertising and Digital banners. This consistency kept the game in the minds of current and would-be gamers, significantly increasing the profile of the game as well as to cut through the noise generated from other games in the same genre. This success was observed in the strong Life Time Value of over $11 which highlights the potential investment from each gamer over the lifetime of the game as well as an expected 23.5 playing days per user.

AR and the future

Pokemon Go was undoubtedly one of the most talked-about games of the year. The game successfully integrated Augmented Reality (AR) into the gameplay of a mobile game. AR added a novelty factor that left users curious and thirsty to hunt for Pokemon. Unsurprisingly it launched with a bang with over 87 million new installs worldwide in the first month of release. The buzz generated from the game was not only restricted to gaming circles but the euphoria was reported on mainstream news outlets worldwide. It also gave birth to the familiar sight of people standing together on street corners with eyes glued to their phones. Nevertheless, the game suffered a 60% dip in installs in each of the next 2 months following the launch. Pokemon Go served a lesson to highlight the necessity of user retention strategies to convert the initial success from user acquisition. The excitement over augmented reality will surely continue with more games of a similar nature coming to market in 2017. Pokemon Go had proved that technology and curiosity were essential in feeding the excitement of users. This recipe will be repeated and improved as games progress towards augmented reality formats.

As technology continues to stretch the imagination and application of mobile games it is important to remember that content, user retention and engagement still remain key ingredients of a successful game. Novelty will wear off faster than good engaging content can. The challenge then is to replicate successes that are based on the intelligent and creative growth of content, knowledge of the consumer, and exciting gameplay that would simultaneously tap into user acquisition, engagement and retention at the same time.

Here’s to an exciting 2017….


(*Data for this article was provided by Thinkgaming)

About the author

Haikel Latiff
Haikel Latiff
Data Analytics Manager

Haikel is a current affairs buff and avid reader. As Manager Data Analytics he is responsible for the data driven matchmaking that Iconicfuture offers its customers.

His budding career has taken him from Singapore to New York City. At Iconicfuture he has overseen the development of a new matchmaking methodology and application. In addition he coordinates the Think Tank Initiative where he works closely with various academics and thought leaders to improve IF’s processes. Haikel received his Master’s in Sociology and Quantitative Data Analysis from New York University.

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