Companion apps have been leveraged by big titles like Call of Duty, The Divison, NHL 13, Fallout, and countless more. They provide a genius way to engage players even when they aren’t in front of their consoles or PCs.
However, these apps require installing yet another app on our phones, and are forced to adhere to the rules of the Google Play and App Store.
But what if we were to build companion apps as progressive web apps, rather than native Android and iOS apps?
… Well, what is a progressive web app anyways?
What are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)?
Back in 2007, Steve Jobs envisioned a world where websites acted and looked just like native Android and iOS applications. Safe to say, he took that back pretty quickly.
But in 2015, developers at Google introduced the term “Progressive Web App” , or PWA for short, to define a type of website that is responsive, installable on device, and capable of many things that everyone thought only native apps can do (such as being able to function offline, access camera, microphone, navigation, etc).
Now we live in a world where we can build web applications almost indistinguishable from their native counterparts.
They aren’t so widely adopted yet, but some big names have already tested them on their massive audiences. Take Twitter for example:
Progressive Companion Apps
Now that we know what a PWA is, we can talk about why PWAs are a great choice when building companion apps for your games.
Let’s call them Progressive Companion Apps for future reference.
Keep Your Revenue Share
Micro transactions in games are a massive source of revenue for many games on the free-to-play model. However, most platforms take a slice of your revenue.
If you try to be sneaky and accept in game transactions outside of the confines of Google Play or the App Store… well… just look at the current war between Epic Games, Apple, and Google.
If you are building a Progressive Companion App that sells non in game items (think fan gear, digital or physical collectables, behind-the-scenes content, etc), you can still reap the benefits of an installable mobile app, keep 100% revenue, all without violating any policies of the platform.
Remember, you’re in web country now! Land of the free.
Build Once, Run Everywhere
At the end of the day, it’s really just a website that looks & feels like a native app. This means if you design it properly, your players can use your companion app on Windows PC, Linux, Mac, iPhone, Android, Windows phone, the list goes on!
Web is probably the one place where when we say “build once, run everywhere”, we really mean it (except you, internet explorer…). You don’t need a separate developer for each platform, you only need a web developer who can build PWAs (I’m going to give myself a shout out here).
Alternative Marketing Channels
When you build a companion app as an Android or iOS app, you are at the mercy of the policies of Google and Apple. When you build a Progressive Companion App, you are at the mercy of… your imagination!
Visibility in the app store will largely determine the success of your game + companion app. If Apple decides they want to push some Arcade games the day your app launches, well, tough luck.
If you build a Progressive Companion App, you can push your app with good ole SEO skills, affiliate links, or even better, share links from other users!
Have you ever received an invitation to download an app from some random friend? Did you actually download it?
If you could have clicked the link and tried it out instantly without downloading, would curiosity have gotten the best of you to at least take a peak?
If it was actually interesting, would you have installed it?
Probably. Or not. Doesn’t matter, since you can still use it without installing!
Referrals work wonders on the web because it’s so easy to access what we are looking for. Going with a Progress Companion App unlocks this marketing power.
No Need for Downloads
Let’s face it, it’s hard to get someone to download and app and not delete it in the first couple of minutes.
Assuming you manage to convince a player to download your companion app, Adjust analyzed 8 billion app installations and found that games are typically deleted within the first 4 days…
A Progressive Companion App, however, does not need to be downloaded.
“But Kris, you said PWAs can be installed!”
Yes… but that doesn’t mean they are downloaded up front. A player can use a Progressive Companion App from any browser without ever installing. If they choose to do so, they can install it on their phone / computer, but there still isn’t a typical download process as you would face when downloading candy crush, for example.
The gaming industry often overlooks the web as an alternative gaming platform, but it’s actually perfect for things like companion apps where the experience tends to be less intense in terms of graphics and memory usage.
If you have questions or thoughts, feel free to share in the comments!