Mobile games have exploded in the last couple of years, with 120,000 active game currently on the Apple app store. This segment has always fascinated me, and as such I decided to do some research to get a overview of the iPhone games landscape.
To get a better understanding of the mobile gaming landscape, I collected data for 1621 iPhone games from qualityindex.com. In their words, what qualityindex.com does is:
Like all the best things in life, our approach is relatively simple.
Step 1. We comb the web and the newsstands for the most respected sources of critical opinion on games and apps.
Step 2. We feed these scores into our intelligent database, match them to the appropriate apps, and then apply a dash of our special secret sauce via a unique formula to create the definitive score.
Step 3. The resulting Qi score is then fed back into the site and run through our various feeds and filters to provide the ultimate aid to app selection.
They collect data from around 80 of the best game review sites. So I wrote a small script, a spider, to go to iphone.qualityindex.com and collect data on the 4209 iPhone game its database shows on a search, and save it into an excel file.
From these I only took games with Qi score > 7 (out of 10) and at least 5 reviews, to get down to the data set of 1621 high quality games.
Analyzing these 1621 games against download estimates given on xyologic.com, I found a fair amount of correlation between the Qi score and the number of downloads of a game, and thus in turn revenues. So I started working with the hypothesis that a high Qi score is a good reflection of the success of a mobile game.
There are other factors which determine the number of downloads too, like price, ease of gameplay, genre, marketing spends etc., which do not always get reflected well in the Qi score, so these factors should be kept in mind.
Looking at the genre of the games in the dataset, Action, Adventure, Arcade and Puzzle games dominate. Entertainment genre in the dataset is sort of a catch-all with most of the casual and snacky games belonging to this genre.
Many of the games belong to 2 or 3 different genres. These numbers are cumulative, in the sense that a game having both action and adventure genres is counted as 1 in action, and 1 in adventure.
Looking at the average scores for games in the different genres, we see that puzzle and role-playing games do much better than other games. One of the reasons might be the volume of games in action, arcade, adventure and entertainment categories.
Still puzzle games seem to garner consistent high score from game reviewers and may therefore be a good category to explore to make successful games.
730 publishers made these 1621 games, so on an average each publisher made 2.22 games. Indie publishers make 1-2 games, small publishers 3-9 games, large publishers more than 10 games.
2% of the publishers (large) made 27% of the games, while 83% of the publishers (indie) made 43% of the games.
Looking at the games (447) by large publishers (10 or more games)
Chillingo, Gameloft and EA lead the pack, with Chillingo (114 games) being mostly a games publisher, whereby they buy rights of the games from indie developers, most of the times even before the game is made, mostly at prototype stage.
Activision, in partnership with Flurry, has also started this initiative of publishing indie games. Sega has also started a similar initiative.
Average score of their games for large publishers (10 or more games)
So Kairosoft, [adult swim] and ngmoco are doing something right, while Activision and Digital Chocolate not so much. Looking at their respective titles might reveal more insights.
Kairosoft have a very interesting business model. Instead of inventing / developing a new game with every release, they re-use tested and successful game mechanics and just put a new theme on them. Their fan base knows what kind of game and quality to expect from a new release. This loyal group of players will form a long-term relationship and will also guarantee a steady stream of income.
Now, since they release a new game every year (with the same mechanics, and low developement costs) they satisfy the established player base, and they also have a chance to gain new followers if the game manages to rank high on the charts. Once they have reached a critical mass (I think Kairosoft did) they have a Top 10 game by just catering to the established players.
Genre + Big Publishers
· Chillingo does every genre of games almost in the same proportion as the market
· Gameloft has more than 50% Action games, with a little bit of everything else.
· EA is mostly Sports games
· Kairosoft only does Simulation and Strategy, somewhat like what Zynga does on Fb
· [adult swim] mostly does Action, Arcade, Entertainment
Mostly even big publishers stick to genres they already have games in, and have experience, thereby building an engaged audience and knowledgebase in the company.
Credits: Abhinav Sarangi is a digital entrepreneur who is currently exploring an EIR opportunity at Games2win.