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Success in the Mobile Gaming Market Can Be Explainable and Predictable

3 minute read | May 2016

In the ever-changing mobile games market, it can often seem like success is unpredictable. New titles can rise from out of nowhere to dominate the download charts, while successful titles can seemingly fall from grace without explanation. As a result, many publishers choose to flood the market with several titles and then retroactively review their download rates and usage to determine which titles to support going forward. Even then, however, knowing why mobile gamers change their behavior is often unclear. The dynamic also makes gamers’ future preferences unpredictable.

The nature by which titles in the mobile market grow their owner base and usage is part of what makes predicting success so challenging. Some titles achieve this by producing visibility through promotions, by generating social buzz through word of mouth recommendations, by retaining owners through higher levels of engagement, to name only a few strategies.

The good news, however, is that the potential strengths and weaknesses of a mobile game are measurable before the title goes to market. To gain insight into the “why” behind changes in behavior and naturally foreshadow in-market actions, Nielsen analyzed more than 180 titles using almost one year’s worth of data from Nielsen Mobile Game Tracking. The analysis looked at a number of key metrics and found that in-market success is not driven by one specific pre-launch strategy.

Looking to the future is never more important than before a publisher launches a new mobile game. In looking at how mobile gamers responded to Supercell’s pre-market strategy for Clash Royale, our analysis noted exceptional levels of awareness and strong download interest and urgency. As a result, the title, when benchmarked to other mobile game titles, showed enormous potential one month before launch. In-market data eventually reflected the pre-market hype, and Clash Royale ranked among the top downloads for both iOS and Android immediately upon release.

The pre-market analysis for Blossom Blast Saga tells a similar story of how awareness, interest and urgency of download factored in to the title’s potential to not only succeed, but ultimately succeed when launched. In the month before Blossom Blast Saga launched, only a relatively small group of mobile gamers were aware of it. While this would certainly delay adoption, the game’s strong appeal in interest and urgency of download positioned it well for success. Looking back at the in-market data, we see that while it took almost a full week to top the charts, Blossom Blast Saga became one of the top five most downloaded mobile games on both iOS and Android, which not coincidentally, was accompanied by a 50% increase in awareness among Nielsen Mobile Game Tracking consumers.

Social buzz is another key factor in any mobile title’s success. Bethesda’s launch strategy for Fallout Shelter illustrates how the quantity and quality of social buzz around a mobile game title can have tremendous impact on ownership. Bethesda heavily utilized micro-targeting to ensure early-adopters generated positive social buzz around the game. This strategy started paying out as soon as the title was released on both platforms in August 2015, with Fallout Shelter receiving exceptional ratings from its early adopters and the number of owners recommending the title reaching sufficient levels. The increased buzz drove higher awareness, powering up the adoption funnel, and resulted in faster ownership growth.

These examples only begin to scratch the surface of what we can learn by proactively listening to mobile gamers, rather than simply tracking their behaviors. While drivers of success span diverse concepts, a mobile title’s potential to capitalize on each of these can be measured, which empowers the market to recognize strengths and weaknesses, identify their causes, and track their improvement over time.


The insights in this article were derived from an analysis of each title’s performance versus key benchmarks from the Nielsen Mobile Game Tracking database. Nielsen Mobile Game Tracking is a 360-degree tracker that surveys a unique group of 1,200 mobile gamers each week. Download rates were sourced from the iTunes store and Google Play Store.

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