Target Market and Competition

First off, I would like to point mobile developers to an external pdf – Essential Facts about the computer and video game industry by the Entertainment Software Association.  This is a detailed review, primarily, of the American video game market. Personal computers remain the dominant gaming platform, followed by consoles and mobile devices (generally opposite the international norm).

My stance is that personal computers and mobile devices are becoming more and more alike. While there are definitely differences, personal computers have been around for a lot longer providing some historical market context for those willing to take a look. Leastwise, many games that were once made for PCs are now available for mobile devices.

What is surprising, and should not be, is that the average age of gamers in the United States is 35. The overall breakout runs:

  • Under 18: 26%
  • 18 – 35: 30%
  • 36 – 49:   17%
  • Over 50: 27%

It is also noteworthy that of 155 million gamers in the United States, 44% are female.

This tends to put a different slant on why many developers are not breaking even, aside from not actively engaging marketing and advertising. A quick look at the games on virtually every mobile app store gives the impression that their target market is a “younger audience” – if not under 18, then certainly under 25 (splitting the age bracket). It’s not that they don’t have a clearly defined target market as much as the competition is “extreme” for that target market. We can also infer that this target market is subject to limited discretionary spending – likely dependent upon parents for their money to purchase games.

Functionally, there are far fewer mobile games being marketed to the 25+, and especially the 35+, crowds where the most likely spenders are found. Their interests appear quite evenly divided across social, action and puzzle game genres, but only socially-oriented mobile games have attracted their attention. Action and puzzle games are not, setting aside online gambling and casino-like games.

It is easier to develop a game for a younger audience than a possibly jaded older audience. Those willing to pay (more) tend to expect more. “More” or “better” is not always concerned with graphics, but the game engine and AI itself. If someone is 35 today, they were likely playing video games on their PC or console in 2000.

Within that context, I can say from personal experience that it is very difficult to find a game (of any sort) that offers significantly better game play than some of these older games. There are the “industry standards” which have gone through several versions since – whether we want to reference Syd Meier’s Civilization, Paradox’s Hearts of Iron, Metal Gear, Call of Duty, Grandtheft Auto, or even World of Warcraft.   A lot of good games then were somewhat ahead of their time or devoted to too small of a niche (then) and have become “abandonware” or picked up by distributors for ongoing release at massively discounted rates.

Yes, those are mostly PC titles, suffice that many games that were PC “yesterday” could do well on “mobile” today, and some are.

Old software does not have to die. If it was good enough “back then” to get an official release in a box on a physical store shelf, there’s a decent chance that a facelift and makeover could resurrect its playtime today. As most of the game mechanics and code have already been defined, the main challenges involve porting them to a new platform and/or language, improving upon its initial faults and perhaps adding a few new components to the game. Those inclined to explore this direction, of course, would need to track down previous developers and publishers to negotiate a license for continued development.

But more to the point of marketing to older gamers is taking a look at all of the different kinds of games they have likely played in the past. What was popular? When and why? How could a particular PC game be adjusted to work for mobile? There are many reasons why most mobile app developers are not breaking even, suffice that where the US market is concerned, too many are competing for too small of the paying market.

Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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