I was catching up on some reading this weekend. Something curious showed up in some Flurry Insights data: Gaming lost ground to entertainment, messaging, and social apps. I think this is kind of a big deal for those making apps and games.
From the report, “Gaming saw its share decline from 32% last year (52 minutes per day) to 15% of time spent (33 minutes per day) this year. This is a 37% decline year-over-year.”
Flurry suggests a few reasons for this decline including (1) a lack of new hits, (2) users become the game — creating more watching of games than playing, and (3) pay instead of play — players paying to advance instead of grinding. These make sense and I believe they do contribute to the shift. But I suspect there are two broader issues at play.
Other indutries are catching up design-wise.
Games, as a category, lead minutes-spent-on mobile from the start.
Why? Are games special? Did mobile suddenly make games more appealing?
I don’t believe so.
The game industry was in the perfect position to take advantage of the mobile shift when the iPhone came down from the heavens.
The game industry was full of entrepreneurs that had cut their teeth on earlier shifts: first with the emergence of free-to-play PC games demonstrating a new business model, and then with the gold-rush of Facebook games showing there were new, larger, audiences to be monetized. Just as both of those shifts were losing steam, a group of well-financed entrepreneurs were ready and able to bring their learning to the next wave: mobile. And it was a monster wave. As a new platform, game studios needed to learn quickly by making simple games. It was very easy to adopt an ultra rapid iteration process. These early developers learned quickly from vasts amount of near-real-time data and redefined what the user experience for games should be specifically for mobile. For a long time, games were really the only category truly designing for mobile.
That is not the case anymore. Other industries are not catching up — they have caught up. And in many ways are bypassing games in terms of innovation. (Except in my opinion, in the area of optimizing paid UA — game companies still rule here.)
People are looking for more meaning from their mobile moments
We expect alot from our devices these days. I don’t think people are as satifified with simple time-wasting apps as they once were. We know instant gratification is a tap away.
I think this puts mobile games in an interesting situation. Their customers are beginning to want to feel more fullfilled in those mobile-moments which mobile games based their design around. Yet many mobile games have stripped out their larger sense of meaning as they chase casino-like mechanics and monetization funnels. They have even ditched the language of storytelling and replaced it with the language of casino-operators. That strategy paid off in massive ways for the very best mobile game companies. I just wonder if this bit of data from Flurry reflects another shift and potential opportunity for developers with contrarian designs.