5 massive factors changing the future of games: social, platforms, technology, monetization, and app stores

What is the future of games?

One thing we know: it’s going to be lucrative. The top 25 public game companies generated over $100 billion in revenue last year, according to a recent story on VentureBeat featuring data from Newzoo.

The largest, Tencent, had almost $20 billion in estimated game revenue. Sony, Microsoft, Apple, and Google are on the list. Activision hauled in almost $7 billion, and names like France’s Ubisoft, Korea’s Netmarble, and Japan’s Square Enix all generated more than a billion in 2018 revenue.

To state the obvious, games are a big deal.

But what’s changing in gaming?

At Singular we recently had a chance to review our business with a major gaming client. To prepare for that, a number of us internally including Elizabeth Lauer-Lopez, Victor Savath, and Ligita Kneitaite spent some time consulting our crystal balls (and data) on the future of gaming in general, and mobile gaming.

Here are the results:

Future of games: Social at scale

We’re seeing more and more games with social experiences at scale. HQ Triviashowed us that a year ago in a non-traditional category. Fortnite, which has hit an astonishing total player count of over 250 million people, has hit almost 11 million concurrent players.

That’s social, and that’s scale.

Future of games https://pixabay.com/photos/fortnite-workplace-video-game-pc-4077483/

A few weeks ago I chatted with Unity’s chief marketing officer Clive Downie. Unity powers half of the games on the planet, and it’s building tech to scale to 50 million concurrent users. In a few years, that’s likely to be hundreds of millions, and eventually, it will be planet scale.

The massive benefit of social at scale?


See how N3TWORK, makers of Legendary: Game of Heroes uses Singular as its marketing stack.


When a game succeeds, it becomes a social phenomenon. That has huge new user acquisition benefits, thanks to incessant coverage in the media and in social media conversations, but it also has huge player retention benefits: friends who game together, stay together, you might say.

And they often stick to the same game, too.

Future of games: Connected platforms

In Ready Player One, Wade Watts (AKA Parzival) didn’t need to enter different apps to join other gunters in a racing game, or dance in a club, or chat with his huge robotic friend Aech in a first-person shooter. He just entered different experiences in the Oasis, a global VR universe.

future of games

We’re not going to see the Oasis anytime soon.

But we might see some components of it.

Think: why do you have different identities in every game, even games by the same publisher? Why can’t you have a shared wallet, maybe transferable XP between games, and shared friend groups? To go a little crazier and cross game publisher boundaries, why can’t you take your friends from Fortnite to PUBG?

For players, there’s huge potential rewards: faster on boarding, richer experiences, more fun in more environments, and a more social gaming session.


Check out how Jam City uses Singular to optimize performance of its creatives.


For publishers, there’s easier cross-promotion, faster player onboarding, and potentially longer engagement via more owned platforms, leading to increased brand connection and better monetization opportunities.

Of course, there are caveats.

Game publishers still need to enable super-fast on-demand experiences for the minute-to-kill, I’m just waiting-in-a-line-at-the-coffee-store moment. Anything that increases login and set-up time is a risk.

But if publishers can find a find a way to mitigate that, they have the opportunity to build connected universes inside mobile apps, and with coming smartglasses and 5G, the possibilities are incredible to imagine.

Future of games: Technology driving everything, everywhere, in real-time

We’re seeing that hit games are increasingly multi-platform: mobile, console, desktop, even web.

That might be native versions like Minecraft or Fortnite, or it might be via emulated technology like Bluestacks, which showed up in Singular’s recent ROI Index. And they might even migrate from console to mobile, like Call of Duty.

Increasingly, we’re seeing noise around streaming too.

future of gaming is not a box

Thanks to Google Stadia, streaming console-level games is now possible with sub 25-millisecond lag even for titles like Assassin’s Creed. (Note: here’s the required grain of salt.) Competitors are legion and massive: Microsoft xCloud, Nvidia GeForce Now, Valve Link Anywhere, PlayStation Now, plus a rumored Amazon product.

In other words: there’s a lot of money and big-company corporate cred jumping into streaming, so something very interesting is likely to happen here.


Read how Singular “was key” to helping DGN Games become the fastest growing social casino.


Possible downsides include that the costs of computation for games might now fall much more heavily on the game publisher, since instead of the lion’s share of computational cost falling on a distributed network of millions of devices (gamer’s own phones, consoles, computers), it all falls on a server farm.

And someone has to keep those lights on.

On the upside, gaming experts have told me there’s a higher monetization opportunity because there are now lower risks of trying a game, thanks to there being no large upfront cost. That leads to a larger userbase, potentially. And of course streaming is custom-made for a subscription model, which means a longer payback period.

(Frankly, an ad-supported model makes a ton of sense here too.)

Future of games: Monetization evolution

Game monetization is changing quickly.

A few years ago, it was all in-app purchases. In 2016, for instance, 94% of the revenue generated on the U.S. iOS App Store came from the top 1% of publishers who had paid apps or IAPs … and IAPs generated 20 times more revenue than paid apps.

future of games monetization

More recently, in-app advertising has moved into the leadership position in terms of mobile app monetization.

But subscriptions are just starting to grow as well. GameMine is having success with this model, offering access to its entire portfolio for one price. And some streaming games will likely be subscription-based.

eSports is also also offering new monetization opportunities.

It’ll cost you a cool $25 million to buy a franchise in the new Call of Duty professional league, and then you’ll be able to sell tickets, viewing, ads against viewing, sponsorships, broadcast rights, and maybe even new models of joining, helping, or learning from your on-screen heroes.

Future of games: Decreasing power of app stores

App stores like Apple’s and Google’s are tremendously important and will continue to be so. At the same time, however, we’re seeing ways in which their power is being reduced.

The first visible crack in the wall might have been Fortnite moving off Google Play for Android.

Since Fortnite is a global phenomenon on consoles, mobile (including iOS), and desktop, Epic Games could do what most game publishers couldn’t. Clearly, massive games with their own marketing momentum can save the 15-30% store cut of in-app purchases and subscription revenue by moving off-platform. Just as clearly, that’s much harder for new, unknown games.

Also, this works on Android, where you can side-load apps. Not so much on iOS.

In addition, new technology such as streaming, which we’ve already talked about, also reduces our overall dependence on app stores.


Learn how Singular helps Zynga efficiently get more accurate, granular data


If I can just stream a game to my mobile or desktop browser, I don’t need a native app from a platform landlord. That opens up all kinds of possibilities — and dangers — because Google and particularly Apple closely police what games and apps are allowed on their platforms.

It also means marketing a game just changed significantly.

There are also regulatory challenges to the way that app stores operate as bouncers at the app nightclub. Apple, for instance, is facing three separate antitrust actions in Europe from Spotify, Kaspersky, and The Netherlands.

Whether those cases have merit or not is an open question, but we have seen the EU take a leading role in limiting the power that larger U.S.-based multinationals have. And any judgements might impact how Apple polices its App Store and what third-party game publishers can produce, offer, and monetize.

Summing up

Games are an increasingly large part of our lives, thanks largely to mobile. But how we making, distributing, and monetizing them is changing.

Smart publishers will continue to find ways to out-grow the competition. And Singular will be there to help them … on mobile, on web, on IoT, on streaming media, or wherever the industry moves.

Talk to us today about a demo.

Jam City optimizes campaign performance and creative strategy with Singular

We got to sit down with Jam City’s VP of User Acquisition Marketing, Brian Sapp, to discuss how his team is using Singular to optimize campaign performance and improve their creative strategy. Watch our discussion on Jam City’s use of campaign analytics below!

Video

Transcription

Introduction

My name is Brian Sapp. I’m the VP of UA (User Acquisition) Marketing at Jam CityJam City is one of the leading mobile casual gaming developers in the West. We have a fairly large portfolio of games. Some of our tentpole games are Cookie Jam and Panda Pop. But recently we launched Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery, [and] that game has been a big success.

Connecting fragmented marketing data

Singular right now we use to ingest data from all of our ad networks and as you can imagine, when we spend with over 40 networks, that’s a lot of data. The manpower it would take to go into each network and pull in that API, do the work, or pull it in manually, would be extremely time-consuming.

Singular solves that for us, solves it in a much faster time, and more efficiently than we could do it ourselves. And then, having that data in the dashboard, especially for someone like me who’s spending across 8-10 titles, we have a massive portfolio, the dashboard really gives us the ability to easily pivot that data whether it be by spend, by channel, by paid installs, by tracker installs, impressions, it’s very, very useful, as well as creative. Having all of the data, especially creative data, plus images, plus the data behind the creative, in one dashboard is extremely valuable for us.

Aligning with Creative Product Marketing

So we actually have a team called Creative Product Marketing that focused on our creative roadmap/creative strategy and they’re using Singular to look at our performance by game, by channel, and right now it’s the fastest, easiest way we have to do that across all the different data sources.

Next-level Performance Analytics

Singular collects a lot of the ad network data for us and we’re using that to look at CPI by campaign, CPI by geo, paid performance, scale, spend, organics versus paid installs. And so we’re also ingesting data from our attribution partner which allows us to kind of marry the two, and so we get very granular on Singular’s reporting for whatever questions we have.

I use it for executive reports, building massive pivot charts, visuals that I want to see across the portfolio. The combination of our internal tools plus Singular really gives me everything I need.

Ready to take your growth marketing to the next level? Let’s connect!

Nexon transforms marketing data into granular performance insights with Singular

We got the chance to catch up with Nexon‘s Director of Acquisition, Warren Woodward, and discuss how his team uses Singular to analyze and optimize the performance of their sophisticated user acquisition program. One topic we covered was how challenging it can be to analyze the performance of ad creatives, especially when advertising multiple titles across many ad partners. Thankfully, Nexon overcame this challenge. 😊Check out our discussion below!

Video

Transcription

Introduction

My name is Warren Woodward, and I’m with Nexon. I’m the Director of User Acquisition. Nexon is an international gaming company. We have games for PC and mobile across the world. We have a couple of major IPs, such as Maple Story, and the biggest video game series in China, Dungeon and Fighter.

How Singular fits in Nexon’s growth stack

At Nexon, we leverage Singular in a few different ways. We use it as our source of truth. We also use it as a way to join data from multiple sources for day-to-day campaign optimization. Singular for us is a great way to look at all that data in one place. And for me as Director to look in on everything that everyone is doing and see it all in an apples-to-apples comparison to understand how to best move budget around.

Reaching growth goals

Singular helps us reach our growth goals ultimately because it saves us time in any number of ways. With the number of titles that we’re buying for, we don’t have the time to go into every separate source, every separate title, and look at it all à la carte. So the ways that we can slice and dice, and stack rank what’s important to us to see what’s giving us the highest ROI… everything across the game, where are we spending the most, what’s bleeding, let’s us judge how we can use a finite number of hours in the day to get the most impact to our campaigns.

Singular let me see it all in one place, slice and dice it. If I just want to see all of the performance for any given country or OS, or maybe just dive really deep to a particular ad network. It’s nice to have one dashboard that can quickly make all these ad-hoc reports. And also to do a creative analysis and collaborate with the creative team.

Perfecting storytelling

So one of the ways that we use this on a daily basis is to get our creative team talking about performance, the same way that we do; to be looking at a creative level across the dozens of creatives who might have any given time for a game. Understand the trends that are working. It helps us identify what we want to make next, what’s really working, and we start seeing a better return on investment for the creatives themselves when we can see how they’ve been performing in the ecosystem.

Ready to take your growth marketing to the next level? Let’s connect!

China lifted the gaming ban and developers are flooding back to enter the market. Here’s how you can too

The world’s biggest gaming market banned new games from entering the market starting March of 2018. China stopped approving games amid a regulatory overhaul triggered by growing criticism of games for being violent and allegations that they were causing myopia as well as addiction among young users.

Just recently, however, that changed.

In December, China decided to approve the release of 80 new games after months of no action. Now that the Chinese government has lifted its ban on new gaming releases, gaming app developers are chomping at the bit to launch their new mobile gaming apps on Chinese app stores.

The Chinese mobile opportunity

Vast opportunities are on the horizon as approvals begin to flow again.

China accounts for one out of every four US dollars generated globally from mobile games. The revenue generated by apps in China in 2017 is an estimated $35 billion USD, and app downloads from Chinese Android stores are expected to reach almost $90 billion by the end of this year. Additionally, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the country’s internet user base now stands at around 772 million, 97% of whom are smartphone users.

This is one massive dragon of an addressable market.

But as a rule, China’s licensing system requires that foreign publishers obtain government approval that often involves a complex process before releasing their games on one of the country’s app stores. This process can take months and has had a significant impact on some (but not all) foreign publishers, deterring some from launching locally. One consequence of the increasingly challenging regulatory environment: at the time of the complete ban, foreign developed games accounted for only 25% of the top 250 mobile game downloads on China’s App Store. That could start to change as approvals are starting to flow again.

With China’s recent reversal in attitude and policy, the tide appears to be turning for non-domestic publishers. 2019 and beyond looks promising for game developers who wish to tap into the Chinese market.

Here are a few important things to know before entering the market.

Complex app store landscape

While the Apple App Store lives very successfully within the great firewall, Google Play is strictly blocked, along with the rest of Google’s services. Instead there are over 400 Chinese alternative app stores where you upload your product for review.

Baidu’s mobile app store

The major ones are often owned by China’s biggest tech companies. For instance, Tencent, Baidu, Huawei, Vivo, China Mobile, and Oppo run major Android app stores. Of course, every store has its own terms and conditions, as well as specific requirements.

In recent years, some of the top handset manufacturers came together to form an alliance to standardize some of the app development and publishing features between app stores.It’s still early to determine how effective this will be.

Different advertising channels

With so many foreign internet services and apps blocked by the great Chinese “firewall” including Google, Facebook, Instagram, one of the key things that advertisers need to be aware of is that the advertising ecosystem in China is extremely different.

Ad channels and ad networks that have worked well for them in other markets may not necessarily render the same results in the Chinese market. In many cases, they may not even exist in China at all.

 

One way we can help: Singular houses the largest database of global advertising performance data and has successfully helped marketers to identify and work with the most effective ad channels globally, as well as in China.

(If you would like to speak to one of our in-house client success consultants, we would happy to share our list of top performing ad channels in China.)

Culture, language, and UX

 

WeChat’s opening screen

Chinese culture, language, governance, and mobile user habits are very different from the rest of the world. While the world’s average smartphone user has around 80 apps on their phone, in China users have over 100 … including and especially WeChat, the top social media app with over 200 million daily active users. WeChat has over a million mini-apps … including payments, services, stores, and just about anything else that run within WeChat.

This unique climate means that simple translation won’t suffice, and more complex redesign is often required.

Working with a local developer and translator is highly recommended, and success in China often means re-inventing your game or app for Chinese preferences and habits. Chinese customers typically shun apps which appear translated, so it’s important to make the app look as if it were made in China.

User monetization

In China, most paid and subscription-based apps don’t generate revenue, as free unofficial versions are readily available. This has led to the majority of companies monetizing apps through ads. Interstitial ads are one of the most popular methods of app monetization, with nearly all of the most prominent local apps implementing them to promote in-app purchases and other relevant products.

Banner ads and video ads are also prevalent. One challenge: as a large and populous country, China has many different dialects, which app publishers have to remember as they localize their apps.

APK fraud

Thanks in part to the proliferation of app stores, APK fraud is a challenge. Scammers grab the source code for your app or game, change it slightly and add their own monetization. Then they simply re-upload it to multiple app stores as their own, and benefit from an ad revenue stream, or in-app purchases.

Overall, the Chinese internet and mobile ecosystem is probably the most complex in the world. But since it is also the biggest in terms of consumer app spending, the rewards for getting it right can be massive.

Getting started

Singular has helped top global advertisers to successfully enter the China market.

We welcome you to reach out to speak to one of our in-house experts on the Chinese market and share more in-depth learnings for entering the market successfully.