The mobile games industry works… differently from console and PC games. It’s practically considered financial suicide to release a game that’s not free, and often a vast majority of games’ profits come from individual high-paying players known colloquially as “whales.”
In its study of over 100,000 games, comprising more than 1.2 billion active players, GameAnalytics found that the average person stops playing a game within the first day of downloading it. This is true even among the best-performing games on the market, since a game is considered to be doing "great" if only 35 percent of its players stick around past the first day. On average, a game only keeps about 25 percent of its players past day one.
Even those players don't stick around for long. After 7 days, developers hope that 11 percent of their players are still opening up the game. By day 28, only the top 25 percent of games manage to keep just 4 percent of their new players.
Those who play the games don't play in long spurts, either. The average play session is only 7 to 8 minutes, a number that they note has been decreasing over time.
There are notable exceptions to this games that GameAnalytics has labeled "classic" games -- board games, word games, casino games and card games -- have double the retention rate, and Casino, Card, Multiplayer, and Role Playing games keep players around about twice as long.
While these numbers may be surprising, they make sense when you think of how the mobile games industry works. Most games are free to play, so a player is more likely to download a game that they only passingly interested in, and abandon it once they decide they might want to try something else. And there's plenty of "something else" out there to try -- in 2016, over 500 games were released on the iOS app store per day.
But with the market absolutely flooded with disposable games, it makes sense that app stores might want to take things in a different direction. A torrent of low-quality games has been partly blamed for the great video game crash of 1983, and while the mobile games industry certainly isn't the same thing as the early-80s console industry, nobody wants to risk a repeat of that disaster.
So the question is: will the new way of approaching games such as Apple Arcade or Google Play Pass end up revolutionizing the way we consume mobile games? Or will they end up not reaching the success they hope for?
Time will tell. But with Apple Arcade releasing with a free trial this Friday, it may be worth giving it a look yourself.