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10 Tips from 10 Industry Leaders on the App Store's 10th Birthday

Once upon a time, exactly a decade ago, Apple launched the App Store . On July 10, 2008 there were a mere 500 apps available for download, but today, according to the most recent figures released by App Annie, there are over 2 million apps that have been downloaded more than 170 billion times from Apple’s store.

Games represent one of the biggest and most popular app categories available in the App Store today, offering everything from new genres like hyper-casual to casual and mid-core. In 2017, games accounted for 31% of App Store downloads, but an astounding 75% of total spend.

Games even featured in Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends report, where she highlighted the mainstream and evolving nature of the gaming industry. In 1995, a little over a decade before the launch of the App Store, there were a mere 100M interactive gamers, but by 2017, that number grew to an astounding 2.6B, with the accessibility of mobile presumably contributing to the rising popularity and reach of games.

Today, gamers represent a wide demographic segment which covers ages, genders and interest profiles. The average age of a gamer is 35 (which is higher than many people think), 63% of mobile gamers are women, and 23% are over the age of 65.

In honor of the 10th anniversary of Apple’s App Store, we’ve pulled together 10 tips from 10 game industry leaders, people who have not only succeeded in creating great apps users enjoy, but in turning those apps into hugely successful businesses. Continue reading below to hear executives from the companies behind games like Angry Birds, Cookie Jam , Homescapes , Adventure Capitalist, and Cut the Rope weigh in on everything from the importance of fostering a positive office culture in the gaming industry, to the rise of hyper casual, the evolution of ad monetization, and how data and creative come together in UA strategy.

1. Kongregate’s Jeff Gurian: Make sure to close the loop between your marketing and monetization departments.

“While a lot of companies keep monetization and marketing departments siloed, they really do go hand in hand. UA needs to know what the eCPM’s are because that affects what the ARPDAU is for ads, and that affects the LTVs, especially in games that are ad driven. If UA doesn’t know how much the value of ads has increased, then they don’t know how they can increase their bids accordingly.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

2. Mishka Katkoff, Director of Product Management at Rovio and the founder of gaming blog Deconstructor of Fun: Hyper casual games and ad monetization go hand-in-hand.

“If you’re a publisher like Voodoo, you’re essentially seeing a volume of these different [hyper-casual] games and taking the best one based on metrics. It’s a high volume, big-scale prototyping process, so it’s fascinating. Additionally, hyper casual and ad monetization are proving to go hand in hand, as video ads are already starting to define an important part of gameplay.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

3. Warren Woodward, Director of User Acquisition at Nexon: Soft launches are a great time to experiment with creatives, not traffic sources.

“In a soft launch, above all else, we [the UA team] see ourselves as providers of data to the developer and to the product team. We want to learn about the economy in the game and about the product performance. There are a lot of fake users out there and it’s important to choose traffic sources cautiously. For example, if there’s a company that promises ten cent CPI’s, no questions asked, it’s probably too good to be true, and a fake user is worth absolutely nothing in a free-to-play product. If you see CPI’s that are too good to be true, or there’s a company guaranteeing you CPI’s- those are huge red flags that those are probably not real players.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

4. Nir Miretzky, Chairman of GameIS: Constant iteration and improvement is what ensures continued success in mobile gaming.

“Mobile games are constantly iterating and improving because they get real-time updates and real-time reviews, and game companies change their games all the time accordingly. You will never play the same game twice - if you wait for two months it’s not the same game. You can see Candy Crush is still getting new levels after a few years because a lot of people are still playing and paying money. As long as it’s more profitable to still make levels and then to buy the users – it will go on.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

5. Erin O’Brien, Head of Culture at Gram Games: Create a culture of fun so that you can enable the creation of fun.

“Primarily and most importantly, the products of gaming companies are supposed to be fun, engaging and entertaining. So you need to ensure that the people that are making those games are happy and are having fun making those products and being in the company. If they’re not, that’s going to bleed into the products they make and you’re going to end up with games that just aren’t as fun. Take the time to listen to your team because they spend every single day in your office. They’re going to have the best idea of what is best for the company and they’re going to be the people who best understand what is needed and what would work best.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

6. Carissa Gonzalez, Senior Marketing Manager at Pixelberry: How to balance between data and creative in user acquisition.

“A big challenge with this role is that you want to stay on brand but you also want to be data driven, so it’s a challenge to find that balance. The other day I was talking about creative strategy with one of my colleagues, and he said, “If you’re doing UA and you don’t get one complaint at all, you’re not doing your job right. You can’t do UA without taking a deep dive into your numbers. One of the first things I learned early on was to “never trust the data” – if it’s good question it, if it’s bad question it too, if it’s out of trend question it. Whatever is it- always question it.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

7. Artur Grigorjan, Head of Growth at Playgendary: Asia represents the biggest opportunity for game developers to see growth.

“It’s important to approach the Asian market differently than you would at ‘home’. It’s unconventional and sounds counterintuitive, but my advice is that it’s actually better to differentiate your games in the Asian markets, rather than adjusting your content to look more Asian or overhauling the game to match the Asian user. Using this approach, Playrix was able to find our niche in Asia, and now Township is the most successful farm simulation game in China.”

Read the post here

8. Jane Anderson, Head of Ad Monetization at Zeptolab: Be aware of cultural events and holidays in every country, they will impact performance.

“You should always be aware of the calendar of holidays in every country. For example, I learnt a lesson when I noticed that on September 1st, when kids went to school, overall performance decreased in China - in fact it decreased tenfold. This impacts developers, because on holidays they spend a lot and advertisers increase their spend. You need to always be aware of what’s coming. Easter is nothing in MENA, for example, but in other countries you need to be ready for it.”

Podcast coming soon!

9. Sally Lu, Senior Director of Ad Monetization at Jam City: SDKs are here to stay.

There are a lot of things than an SDK is able to provide that SDK-less can’t. As a publisher, of course we don’t want to do SDK because it’s such a hassle to go through, there’s a lot of depth cost involved, but an SDK can provide many fancy things, like playable ads, different formats, and different tracking and attribution options [which non-SDK solutions can’t], and this will still be unique to certain SDKs.”

Watch Sally's interview here.

10. Tatyana Bogatyreva, Head of UA at Gram Games: Involving UA from the very beginning of game design is critical.

“We have ‘Do It Yourself Fridays’ [where] everyone is encouraged to work on a game. UA is involved from the very beginning - once there's an idea mocked up during these “Do It Yourself Fridays” it becomes a prototype, and during the prototype phase UA comes in and we have to advertise the game with a limited capacity and then give feedback in terms of the funnel metrics, IPM, CPIs etc. Then the game team looks at their retention and that's when the decision is made whether to progress into the next stage”.

Podcast coming soon!

With each passing day, more and more games are being developed and published in the App Store. Almost 3.5M (or 77%) of the 4.5M apps released on the App Store in 2017 were games, and the number of gamers (and range of available genres) continues to expand, most notably with the recent rise of hyper casual games. As ad monetization continues to prove itself to be a viable and lucrative revenue stream, and with the prospect of even more advertising budgets moving in-app, we can expect to see the mobile game industry continue to grow. In the meanwhile, here’s to another decade, Apple, and may the gaming industry live happily ever after.

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