The 80 / 20 Rule? For Mobile Gaming, Try 46 / 0.22

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Steve Anderson
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The 80 / 20 Rule? For Mobile Gaming, Try 46 / 0.22

One of the biggest rules around is the so-called “80 / 20 Rule.” Known by many names—the Pareto Principle, the Law of the Vital Few, the Principle of Factor Sparsity—this rule basically posits that, in many cases, 80 percent of a system's effects come from just 20 percent of its causes. 80 percent of revenue comes from 20 percent of customers, 80 percent of problems come from 20 percent of systems, and so on. But a new study from Swrve says that, when it comes to mobile game revenue, it's not 80 / 20...it's 46 / 0.22.

The Swrve study tackled the gaming habits of over 10 million players in 30 different titles over the course of 90 days, and the results that said study returned were downright shocking for most any mobile game developer. Out of that massive pool of gamers, just 2.2 percent of same spent money on any of the games in question. The top 10 percent of that tiny sliver—0.22 percent—accounted for fully half of the revenue collected in that time frame.

Staggering? Oh yeah. But it gets more pronounced. Those who can't hold a player's interest in the first 24 hours lose that player altogether in two cases out of three; 66 percent of players stop playing altogether after 24 hours.

This is a concept that has to strike fear in most every mobile developer's heart everywhere. Most players will never contribute a single nickel to the bottom line. An incredibly slim number of players will actually step in and pay money for a game. That means, in order to succeed, games have to appeal to an incredibly tiny pool of players in order to make a real success. Chances are this is a development that will make some developers start looking at advertising support instead, but by like token, it's also a development that's going to make mobile developers think as well.

There are a lot of mobile games out there. Competing in this massive pool requires a little something different, something unlike everything else in order to really succeed. Appealing to a large number of people increases the size of that small percentage of players that will pay, and that's what game developers need to go for. Sounds obvious? Sure it does. But the key point is to find what that market will hunger for. Remember “Angry Birds”? It was a huge success at the time for its unique gameplay and oddly memorable characters all on a mobile environment. “Flappy Bird” may have been one of the simplest games of its kind out there, but people couldn't get enough of making that bird fly with screen tapping. It's hard to say just what will hit, but novelty seems to be going quite a ways out there, and the better a job a game developer can do in providing that great mobile experience, the more likely it is that that developer will realize success.
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