PLAY FOR KEEPS
Asia’s mobile game industry is booming, but the business is fiercely competitive and success is unpredictable
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.
People play PokemonGo outside the Sydney Opera House. The game created a global frenzy as players roam the streets looking for virtual monsters.