The other day I tweeted something I noticed in the app store. Only 5 of the top 25 apps were games. In an unscientific scan of my memory, over the last five years, this feels pretty low to me. My quick hypothesis is that social was the new fun. In fact there were far more social networking apps in the top charts than there were games. Here are five quick thoughts on why we are seeing lower penetration of games at the top of the charts.
- Everyone is spending more time on social. When we released Draw Something, Instagram was half as big, Vine was barely alive, and there was no Yik Yak, or Snapchat. Now the time consumed by all these social apps has exploded, cutting into game time (entertainment time in general), and all of these social apps have light games (acquire likes, followers and revines) that satsify some of the same urge. Social fun is eating game fun.
- Social is also open to a younger audience. The under 13 set have always been big consumers of short, easy to play games on mobile. A few years the idea of any younger kid on Facebook was verboten. Now younger kids can have private Instagram accounts which feel safe and are about consuming not sharing. That hurts game downloads as well.
- Mature games take up our time. On every plane or subway I still see people playing Candy Crush. And Solitaire. Mature games with long lives, especially among older players, still consume their game time. And these games don’t show up in the charts because they aren’t driving huge new downloads (everyone already has them).
- Continued focus on single player games. Trivia Crack and Quiz Up both reached number one because they were social. Social games are harder. They require greater back end scale and better game design. But they are still in the minority of games released.
- Saturation of the app store. There continue to be so many talented developers, and developer tools that enable the quick building of games that it is impossible to keep up with how much product comes out.
My recommendations for any developer concerned about mobile games and their competition for people’s time, would be as follows: Make new games that capture people’s imaginations quickly and have shareable components (flappy bird), make social games with fast reward systems (trivia crack), and leverage new untapped audiences and social reach (Head’s Up, Ellen’s great IRL game). And to answer the title of the post. Yes we should be worried. My iPhone is no longer a game device. It’s a social network, chat, texting, Netflix watching, sports streaming, photo editing powerhouse and that leaves me less time for gaming.