The idea of an app arcade has long made gamers and game publishers salivate about the possibilities. Although the players are of different races, they all have a great thirst for experimentation. That’s why free-packaged games (like Mario Bros that came with older Nintendo or Solitaire or Minesweeper consoles that came with Windows) generally find mass appeal. If a game looks interesting enough, it will be played. And if people like it, they’ll keep playing.
That’s why early 2019 was a time of great expectations for players. Google and Apple both announced all-you-can-eat gaming services that would prevent players from being interrupted by ads and eliminate in-game purchases that enhance gaming. These gaming services were considered revolutionary – a one-stop-shop to find curated games of all genres that players can explore, try out, and ultimately play. Publishers, meanwhile, could offload some of the burden of finding new users and monetizing their games to tech giants.
Unfortunately, both services got off to a shaky start. Less than two years after these announcements, Google said he dissolved his Stadia Games and Entertainment team, and last summer we heard reports that Apple was canceling contracts with game makers, leading some to believe that Apple is rethinking its arcade strategy.
It’s hard to deny the obvious appeal of an arcade game, but there were questions about the business model. With Internet, cable, and streaming subscriptions to pay each month, would consumers add another bill to their budget? And would game developers be willing to cede control of their audiences to Google and Apple in order to participate in these services?
An arcade alternative
While these arcades may still have long-term value, another model has emerged: device gaming arcades. With this model, OEMs and mobile operators are working with game developers to select a range of titles their customers are likely to want and play, and preload them onto devices. The games, which range from casual games to multiplayer role-playing games, are organized in game folders accessible from the home screen.
The ease of this model has been shown to benefit game publishers, who preload more apps than any other category by a significant margin, and gamers, who prefer to find games via preloads than any other paid marketing method. Much like Mario Brothers and Minesweeper, removing friction between in-game and in-game players helps with testing and ultimately consistent players. When people first buy a device, seeing a “games folder” will undoubtedly be irresistible for the casual and avid gamer to explore. The data shows that activation rates are extremely high for games (and apps in general) that are immediately accessible to users.
But it doesn’t stop with activation; Engagement and re-engagement rates are also good with 37% of all preloads leading to ongoing players. This is no surprise given that gamers remember the game every time they pick up their devices and look at their home screens (around 166 times a day for 66% Population). Depending on the OEM or operator, the app developer may send alerts to users to re-engage, perhaps offering free coins to improve the game as a re-engagement campaign.
Oh, these UA obstacles
It’s hard to talk about activation and engagement without acknowledging the brutality of the AU campaigns. Even if Google Stadia and Apple Arcade were to be widely successful, these services would only offer a fraction of the world’s games and apps, so UA investments would be inevitable.