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The Demons of Discoverability

May 29, 2013

I’ve written before about the problem of getting seen online. It’s a major issue and every success story such as Clash of Clans pulling in $1 million per day:

On December 21, it hit a new high: Supercell’s two games are now bringing in more revenue than all of EA’s 969 games combined, according to App Annie.

(Wow!) For for each of those stories here are many, many times more stories of gloom among developers.  Take this comment I saw posted on LinkedIn on a gamedev forum:

I developed an Indie game with XNA for Windows Phone, I have done a lot of code with this technology and I consider that my game is really good, even it’s not very original.

I published my game on windows phone market to the lowest price. Almost two months later I got only 2 sells.

After a lot of work, to me, this is the end of my indies projects.

Its a shame to hear that, I know what it is like to pour all your life and time into a project.  There is an article on Games Brief that puts some new numbers to that:

As the marketplace for mobile and casual games has become larger and ever more crowded, it has become increasingly difficult for publishers and developers to get their games noticed and overcome a growing discovery problem. For just the month of March 2013, Xylogic counted almost 31,000 new iPhone apps and over 22,000 new Android apps in the US app stores alone. (Of these new apps, 18% and 22%, respectively, were games).

With 1.5M mobile apps already available in the US, and the number of game app downloads projected to grow from 21 billion in 2012 to 64.1 billion in 2017 (Juniper Research), it’s no secret or surprise that the sheer volume of different games that makes it hard to attract attention from consumers.

So that means that in March 2013 there were 1000 apps per day released.  Of those 180 were games.  On Android 709 apps per day released of which 155 were games.  Over the two platforms 335 games were released.  So what is the fate of these games? Most are destined to die in penury:  From these stats, 251 will make less than $3000.  From these stats 221 will not see a single download.

It’s a tough market and it’s going to get worse.  One of the big issues in addition to this is that it’s not like quality alone is what separates the games that makes some money from those that don’t.  I’m betting that plenty of the 200-plus un-downloaded apps are good games, some will even be great ones.

It’s unfortunate that producing a good game, or even a great one, is no longer enough to stand out from the crowd and be discovered by enough prospective users. Even some critically-acclaimed games go largely unnoticed by consumers – a disappointment to many in an industry that prides itself on innovation and creativity, and where the hope is that the commercial success of a game ought to correlate somewhat closely with its quality. In short, the combination of the vast number of releases and the rising cost of marketing has turned discovery into mobile gaming’s thorniest problem.

Getting players to see your game really is a major challenge, certainly one I spend a lot of time dwelling on…

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