Next steps for game developers in 2015

New approaches to marketing games

Given the fact that an average cost of install in mobile advertising is overpriced and probably will rize up to $10 for native mobile apps next year, indie game developers and publishers need to find alternatives to get their apps discovered. And maybe, the solution can be found in the technology that game developers used to pay no regard for. Yes, it’s HTML5.

PuzzleSocial, a game development studio based in NYC, unveiled a case study about leveraging mobile web to drive high-quality installs for their game called “Daily Celebrity Crossword”, which is available for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire. They built a lite version of the game on HTML5 and distributed it via mobile web. In 4 months, this resulted into 320,000 unique game plays and, which is more important, 10% of those players proceeded to download the native mobile app.

Roughly, this new marketing model can be presented as follows:

    An HTML5 based lite virsion of a game provides limited game play with a few levels available for free;
    Users discover the lite game version via one of the mobile web distribution networks and can start playing it right from a mobile web browser without needing to install an app;
    If they like the game, they can follow the link to download the full game version from an app store, that is shown to them at game over;
    A game developer is charged by a distribution network only when a user downloads a native app.

Another promising user acquisition channel is at the back of social video services like YouTube and Twitch. So called “Let’s Players”, people streaming their game play with comments online, have been on the stage since the establishement of YouTube. But in 2014, game developers fully realized the strong potential of Let’s Players which became a full-fledged, powerful media. It’s highly important for game developers to build relationships with popular Let’s Players, who can broadcast a game to millions of their own fans. PewDiePie, a Let’s Player of the year 2014, has 33 million subscribers on YouTube. He’s also popular on Twitch (440,000+ followers), a game-specific video broadcasting service with 60+ million monthly active users. There’s a lot more Let’s Players who are interested in new games to comment, check them out.

Alternative mobile app stores

It’s been a while since the messaging service Kakao Talk, which is no.1 in South Korea, succeeded as a mobile gaming platform. At the end of 2013, it had 140 million registered users, $203 million revenue and 426 games available. However, Europe and North America always preferred traditional mobile app stores. 2015 may become the year of revolution for mobile games in this area, since Viber decided to follow Kakao’s path. Earlier this year, Viber announced the launch of Viber Games, a marketplace for mobile games. The company plans to make this feature available globally in January 2015. Yet, 5 countries have been selected for soft-launch in December 2014: Ukraine, Belarus, Israel, Malaysia and Singapore.

Initially, Viber Games launched with two titles from Storm8 (Viber Candy Mania and Viber Pop) and one title from Playtika (Wild Luck Casino). All of them are free-to-play, and Viber will make money from in-app purchases inside those games. Besides, users can synchronize games with their Viber account in order to send gifts and share achievements with friends. Viber Games is not a stand-alone platform, it’s rather a separate section within Viber messenger which redirects to a native store to install a game on a user’s device.

As we can see, Viber is taking the leaf from Asian messengers like KakaoTalk and Line, and that will probably cause a shift in the way users discover games.

Pay attention to emerging markets

China, Japan, South Korea and other Asian countries attract more and more interest from game developers. Indeed, Eastern market looks stronger than ever: Japan and China took positions #2 and #3 respectively (right after the United States, which still holds #1) by downloads and revenue on the App Store in Q3 of 2014. On Google play, Japan surpassed the United States by revenue taking the #1 from the US, South Korea reached #3 and Taiwan closed the top 5. Other emerging markets to consider are Brazil and India, which gained #2 and #3 by downloads on Google Play respectively.