PLAY FOR KEEPS

Asia’s mo­bile game in­dus­try is boom­ing, but the busi­ness is fiercely com­pet­i­tive and suc­cess is un­pre­dictable

China Daily (USA) - - ANALYSIS -

by gen­er­at­ing so­cial buzz through word-of-mouth rec­om­men­da­tions, by re­tain­ing own­ers through higher lev­els of en­gage­ment, to name only a few strate­gies.”

Nielsen ex­am­ined 180 games over a one-year pe­riod and found that the suc­cess of a ti­tle is not nec­es­sar­ily driven by “one spe­cific prelaunch strat­egy”.

“Look­ing to the fu­ture is never more im­por­tant than be­fore a pub­lisher launches a new mo­bile game,” Nielsen said.

While an­a­lyz­ing how mo­bile gamers re­sponded to the pre-mar­ket strat­egy for Clash Royale, a spinoff of the hit mo­bile game, Clash of Clans, Nielsen noted ex­cep­tional lev­els of aware­ness and a strong down­load in­ter­est.

As a re­sult of the pre-mar­ket strat­egy by the Fin­land-based de­vel­oper Su­per­cell, the game “showed enor­mous po­ten­tial one month be­fore launch”, the analysis firm said.

“In-mar­ket data even­tu­ally re­flected the pre-mar­ket hype, and Clash Royale ranked among the top down­loads for both iOS and An­droid (plat­forms) im­me­di­ately upon re­lease.”

Clash Royale was re­leased glob­ally in March and com­bines el­e­ments from col­lectible card games, tower de­fense and mul­ti­player on­line bat­tle arena games. Al­though the game is free, the player is given the op­tion to pur­chase in-game cur­rency (gems) for real money.

In June, a Ten­cent-led con­sor­tium ac­quired a ma­jor­ity stake in Su­per­cell for $8.6 bil­lion, in a move which gives the Chi­nese in­ter­net gi­ant a strong foothold in the global mo­bile game mar­ket.

Nielsen said pre-mar­ket analysis for an­other mo­bile game, Blos­som Blast Saga, showed how aware­ness, in­ter­est and ur­gency of down­load fac­tored into the ti­tle’s po­ten­tial and ul­ti­mate suc­cess upon re­lease.

“In the month be­fore Blos­som Blast Saga launched, only a rel­a­tively small group of mo­bile gamers were aware of it,” the Nielsen re­port said.

“While this would cer­tainly de­lay adop­tion, the game’s strong ap­peal … and ur­gency of down­load po­si­tioned it well for suc­cess.”

Look­ing back at the in-mar­ket data, Nielsen noted that while it took Blos­som Blast Saga al­most a full week to top the charts, it even­tu­ally be­came one of the top-five most down­loaded mo­bile games on both iOS and An­droid plat­forms.

Marc Ein­stein, re­search direc­tor with global re­search and con­sult­ing firm Frost & Sul­li­van in Ja­pan, said it is hard to quan­tify ex­actly how many games are be­ing pro­duced.

“At one end you have in­di­vid­ual game devel­op­ers through to the ma­jor global com­pa­nies that spend lots of money de­vel­op­ing games,” he said.

There are an es­ti­mated 1.2 bil­lion mo­bile gamers in Asia, ac­cord­ing to Su­perData, one of the world’s big­gest providers of mar­ket in­tel­li­gence on the games mar­ket.

China, Ja­pan and South Korea are by far the big­gest mo­bile gam­ing mar­kets in the re­gion, ac­count­ing for 90 per­cent of re­gional rev­enues.

Ac­cord­ing to Su­perData’s Asia Mo­bile Games Re­port 2016, China has 785 mil­lion mo­bile gamers, around 62 per­cent of all these in Asia.

To get some idea about just how fast this sec­tor has taken off in China, a re­cent re­port by Forbes said in 2012 the mo­bile sec­tor ac­counted for just 5.4 per­cent of all gam­ing in China. In 2015, it ac­counted for 36.6 per­cent.

“The mo­bile games mar­ket has been grow­ing rapidly over the last two decades, in line with the mo­bile phone,” Ein­stein at Frost & Sul­li­van said.

“If you go back 10 to 15 years, you could buy a mo­bile phone with pre­in­stalled games like Snake,” he said, re­fer­ring to Nokia hand­sets.

A few years af­ter that, users could down­load games. That was fol­lowed by the app stores on smart­phones where “you got some­thing for free or paid a few dol­lars for a game”.

“Now we have the pre­mium model. You get the game for free but the big boost to rev­enues is the app pur­chas­ing when you want to move to the next level of the game,” Ein­stein said.

The in­dus­try has in­creased enor­mously with this model. “This (model) is where you get the real rev­enues from.” Mil­lions of peo­ple around the world are ac­tive gamers and are pre­pared to pay for their games.

“This has be­come a prof­itable model,” Ein­stein said. “You get peo­ple hooked and once they reach a cer­tain level and want to go fur­ther, they pay for it.”

Ein­stein, who used to work for a mo­bile gam­ing com­pany, said 80 per­cent of rev­enues come from just the top 20 per­cent of users.

In this sce­nario, game devel­op­ers or com­pa­nies make their money through in-app pur­chases.

“Once con­sid­ered an un­re­fined nag, the in-app pitch has been honed so well it coaxes tens of bil­lions of dol­lars a year from peo­ple who have grav­i­tated to free mo­bile games,” The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported re­cently.

In-app pur­chases are chang­ing the mo­bile en­ter­tain­ment land­scape as these ac­tions hold peo­ple for a much longer pe­riod of time rather than sim­ply buy­ing a game.

“A hand­ful of devel­op­ers have mas­tered this, in­clud­ing Fin­land’s Su­per­cell, which last year pulled in rev­enue of $2 bil­lion from its warstrat­egy game Clash of Clans, and two other mo­bile games,” the pa­per said.

In Poke­mon Go, users can play for weeks cap­tur­ing dozens of “pocket mon­sters” with­out the need to spend money. Af­ter in­vest­ing so much time, play­ers might then be more in­clined to dole out cash to up­grade their gear so that they can carry more items and crea­tures.

AFP

Peo­ple play Poke­monGo out­side the Syd­ney Opera House. The game created a global frenzy as play­ers roam the streets look­ing for vir­tual mon­sters.

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