The vast majority of mobile games fail within the first three years after launch, according to a new report.
Conducted by Atomik Research for SuperScale’s Good Games Don’t Die report, the report gathered data from 500 game developers across the UK and U.S. The key takeaway was that 83 percent of mobile games don’t last longer than three years. In the few years, we’ve seen this occur even with big-name titles, like Nintendo’s Dr. Mario World and Dragalia Lost, Niantic’s Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier.
Of course, this is to say nothing for the many lower-profile titles that likely don’t even last as long. Moreover, the report notes that 43 percent of mobile games are actually cancelled before they even come out.
While this isn’t a completely global report, the U.S. and UK are certainly sizable markets from which we can gather general trends. It’s clear from the findings that the highly saturated mobile market is likely even tougher to crack than many expected. Even a giant mobile game developer like Niantic (Pokémon Go) laid off hundreds and cancelled multiple titles due to increased spending followed by dips in revenue.
As the report notes, 76 percent of games reach their peak revenue in the first year, emphasizing the importance of making a strong first impression at launch. Meanwhile, only four percent of games reach peak revenue in the second year.
But while part of that undoubtedly is just people naturally moving on from a game, the report notes that many developers fail to provide new content to retain players. According to the report, 38 percent of developers don’t release regular updates for their games, less than half offer monthly updates and only five percent continue support after seven years.
“I don’t think people really fully understand how few games make it past even one year, let alone 10 years,” Justin Ostensen, senior game designer at Vancouver-based Kabam on Marvel Contest of Champions, told MobileSyrup recently. Set to celebrate its 10th anniversary next year, the game receives regular content updates, including original Indigenous hero Chee’ilth this month.
But instances like that are rare, to say the least. It’s no doubt why many developers partner with subscription services like Apple Arcade or Netflix Games for more of a safety net. Despite the failure rate, though, 78 percent of developers said they prefer working on mobile games.
On the whole, the report notes that two-thirds of studios have had to conduct layoffs, downsizing and/or budget cuts. In the past year, more than 6,000 game developers around the world have been laid off, including those at PlayStation, Xbox, EA and Epic Games.
In the meantime, the mobile games industry is projected to earn about $90 billion USD (about $123.3 billion CAD) this year.
Image credit: Warner Bros. Games