Mobile Gaming: How to better tackle this market as a small developer?

17.05.2016 admin

We stated the huge business interest of mobile gaming industry. Nevertheless, to get a piece of this tempting cake, numerous challenges await new developers. Indeed, Big developers like King Digital Entertainment or Zynga themselves face business issues, like managing costs of user acquisition. A small developer is in a trickier situation: small developers still have to build and learn how to monetize a community.

How to attract players and transform them into payers?


According to Newzoo presentation, time spend clearly correlates with share of spenders: 60% of people playing more than 10 hours per week are spenders . There is still the issue of Free Riders that play a lot but never spend, and there are also Big Spenders that spend a lot of money but not a lot of time. Big Spenders, less than 5% of players, account for 1/3 of all mobile gaming revenues (aka at least $1.7bn in 2014).

Who are those Big Spenders?

In the US, the dominant Big Spender is a family man between 21 and 35, with a full-time job and used to spend on all screens. One might say that the Big Spender is not that far away from the hardcore gamer’s cliché.

But here are some interesting figures: more than 52% of US women are players . More than 20% of Big spenders are women between 21 to 35, and almost 15% of Big Spenders are women between 36 and 50. Yes, women are now playing and spending .

How can one explain this cultural change?

First, according to Bridget Brennan, “gaming industry is changing with the « mobile » aspect of playing everywhere, and not just in a dedicated room of your house”. Mobile game companies, contrary to traditional gaming companies, do not require their players to allocate a certain place in their home or in their schedule to enjoy the games.

Anyone can henceforth play in “snackable play sessions”: 5 minutes during a break at the coffee machine, 10 minutes in the bus… With half the adult population owning a smartphone, mobile gaming is a simple, convenient and accessible way of playing for people and a very juicy business opportunity for companies.

And “For time-compressed women, many of whom are balancing two jobs – one outside the home and one inside the home as primary caregiver – mobile gaming allows participation on an individual’s own schedule, independent of cords, consoles and long-term time commitments”. Mobile gaming act as a stress reliever for women, a short break in their busy days.


According to Superdata research, players spend for six main reasons:




As a developer, you may choose between offering in-app purchases with real money or with virtual currency. Each system has its own advantages. Which is the more profitable monetization strategy? Let’s compare 2 game hits of King : Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga.


Candy Crush Saga: real money system

In 2012, the main goal of Candy Crush Saga was to attract as many players as possible, by being a simple, convenient and accessible casual game:

1. Simple and well-known concept: with the traditional ‘match 3’ game, new smartphone players are enticed to play Candy Crush. Everyone knows how to play
2. Simple in-game store: no virtual currency, no XP to earn and only three items for sales.
3. Simple In-app purchases with real money: not everyone wants to pay for expensive boosters for $7.99, so the average player values the possibility to buy one or two moves for 69 cents.

Candy Crush Soda Saga

Two years later, in May 2014, the Candy Crush Soda Saga was launched. With the previous worldwide successful Candy Crush Saga app, everyone knows about its rules and its design. Introducing some complexity has been King’s strategy to retain players and attract players that weren’t seduced by really casual games.

1. New gameplay dynamics, such as a soda bottle piece that can shift gravity, allow players to explore a new dimension of the well-known “match 3” mechanic, have more fun, and get bored slower.
2. Complexity also extended to in-game store: King Digital Entertainment introduced a virtual currency. Players have first to buy virtual currency before accessing items

What are the advantages of virtual currency over real currency?

Someone asked the question in Quora, and Adam Helps managed to answer it really well:


All these reasons are applicable to apps having a one currency system. However, numerous games adopted a multiple currency system, that bring other advantages over real money and one currency systems.

Farmville: the first casual mobile game to use multiple virtual currencies


There are two currencies in FarmVille: bucks that are quite easy to earn while playing, and gas that requires the player to either get help from a friend or to pay real money. And at a certain level, gas was mandatory to level up. Having this two currency system help to retain players in this F2P game and to foster in-app purchase. An article on the App Maker Blog explains that easily earned bucks keeps players willing to play more in order to earn more by:

“1. Giving them a tangible goal to work toward.
2. Giving them a quantifiable sense of progression.
3. Making them feel talented at the game by earning money.
4. Keeping them interested in the game by unlocking new experiences.”

Once the player is addicted to the game and has a lot of bucks, he is more willing to pay with real money for gas in order to level up. And of course, the player has to buy the gas in chunks, and he is more willing to spend time and money in this game.

To put it in a nutshell, the two currency system enables the player to get the good feeling to be rewarded by easy to win money, and help developer being profitable by introducing a difficult to earn yet mandatory to level up money.

I would just like to remind our readers that casual gamers are no fools. Unlike Candy Crush Saga, if your game is impossible to finish without paying with real money, you will annoy your players. And annoyed players won’t play long, and less pay to play. Plants vs. Zombies 2, for instance, was a failure because it went from a free-to-play to a pay-to-win.

In the next and final article, I’ll try to address the issue of acquiring new user and how to monetize your community once you’ve built it. Otherwise, game over.



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