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Long-Term Mobile Game Success: Beyond Awareness and Adoption

3 minute read | October 2016

It’s always exciting when a new mobile game makes a big impact with gamers and earns a spot among the staples of the mobile category that unrelentingly dominate the weekly download charts. Unfortunately, this success is often fleeting. That’s because “big bang” titles will typically concede coveted spots back to more established pillars of the mobile category after little more than a few weeks. As commendable as it is to break into the top download charts, maintaining a top spot is a far greater achievement that few ever achieve.

The typical dynamic of a big bang title involves high awareness before launch and fast adoption in the first few weeks after launch, or when awareness reaches critical mass. A period of declining satisfaction among the early adopters follows, and these players usually move on to the next big title or back to previous titles. Leaving with them is the buzz and excitement that started the momentum behind the title to begin with. If developers can re-engage early adopters before they lose interest and switch to a different title, it can prolong the momentum behind mobile games and lead to more sustained user acquisition.

In order to understand this trend better, Nielsen analyzed several  titles released in the last year that fit the big bang adoption curve (titles like Clash Royal, Fallout Shelter and Pokémon Go to name a few) and found the probable cause of this departure: unmet demand for new content.

In the majority of cases, new content demand among gamers reached a peak three to five weeks after a new title launched. This plateau usually occurs when early adopters run out of content to enjoy or grow fatigued with the gameplay still available. This trend held true for most of the titles Nielsen analyzed regardless of game genre or target audience. For newer titles, especially those riding a wave of momentum, developers should plan to release new content to re-engage their early adopters during this three-to-five week window. Releasing new content while you still have your early adopters engaged not only retains their attention, avoiding the cost associated with bring back an old consumer, but it puts your new content in the hands of consumers who have already shown a propensity to spread the news about your content, which leads to more free buzz.

There is no one-size-fits all solution for which aspect of a game should be released as players begin desiring new content. In looking at the results from our recent analysis, emphasis on which features developers should put more resources behind to improve retention depends on game genre and target audience. In the matching puzzle genre, for instance, gameplay and value are critical, while graphics have little bearing on gamers’ satisfaction. Comparatively, high-quality graphics are essential in the sports genre. For role-playing games (RPGs), a strong storyline is understandably important, but social features are equally important. Developers of RPGs should spend more time crafting engaging stories and enhancing player interactions than on polishing game graphics.

Outside of genre, developers should consider the gender of their target audience. Graphics are much more important for driving male satisfaction than female satisfaction. Comparatively, social features drive slightly more satisfaction for females than males.

Whether your title is the next big game to break the top download charts or has been a mainstay of the mobile category for some time, maintaining your user base means acting quickly to respond to demand for new content while making sure to focus on the aspects of the game that drive the most satisfaction for your users.

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