Why Mobile Marketers Should Focus Acquisition Efforts in the First Month of Launching a New Free Game

By Jana Fung and Scott Kamino

Although it may seem intuitive to invest resources in the games that have been struggling in the Play Store since inception, new data from MixRank suggests that focusing marketing efforts on new games will give mobile apps the highest probability of reaching the top charts.

In this study, we first looked at the most successful free games in 2013, and spotted trends for specific milestones. We found that these games were reaching the Top 10 charts within similar time period of other Top 10 free games. To take the a deeper look, we specifically analyzed the most recently top ranked games during the month of July 2013. Here’s what we found.

50% Top 10 Free Games in 2013 Reach a Top 10 Rank Within 13 Days of Being Launched

We came to our findings by analyzing free games that ranked in the Top 10 during the past 3 months (May – July 2013). The sample includes 41 out of 45 of the games that held a Top 10 position during the 3 months. (The remaining 4 games were excluded from the data as the exact date it appeared on the Top 10 charts could not be determined).

This trend suggests that the first two weeks of launching a game is an extremely critical time period for achieving success for a game. To gain a more detailed understanding about the ideal time frame for achieving success, we analyzed the games that ranked in the Top 10 during the month of July.

In July 2013, > 90% of Top 10 Free Games Reach Top 10 Within 30 Days of Being Launched

*Full historic data for this game is not available

This table shows the date games were uploaded, and the time that elapsed before appearing in the Top 10 rankings.  With only 1 out of 17 sampled games that achieved a Top 10 rank status after available for 58 days, it is rather uncommon for older apps to have a chance of making it into the Top 10 Free Games rankings if they haven’t already.

So, should developers try to keep moving up the slow and steady route with mobile acquisition strategies or should they cut off resources from their old games and invest in developing a new one? Knowing how rare it is for older apps to break into the Top 10 charts, it may be more realistic for developers to release a new game and reallocate their budgets to achieve a Top 10 rank within 30 days.

Once a game reaches that Top 10 ranking in the Play Store, it does have a chance of stabilizing longevity.  
But how likely is that? Below we look at the 2013 historic rank of the 22 games that placed in the Top 10 Free Games chart during July.  Highlighted in color are the 5 games that have been ranking in the Top 10 chart for several months.

Free Games Rarely Stay in Top 10 Charts for > 1 Month

In this graph, we see a 5 different games that were able to sustain a Top 10 rank throughout 2013. However, compared to the rest of the 22 games that ranked in July 2013, this trend proves to be quite uncommon.

The remaining gray lines in the chart represent the 17 games that ranked in the July Top 10 and were recently launched during May – July.  In order to understand the probability of a game reaching Candy Crush or Angry Birds status, we dissect this graph to see the trends of the newer games.

For a developer, a game’s level of success can be bucketed into one of the above charts: top games that sustain popularity with consumers for long periods of time or top games that rise quickly and fall just as quickly.

These figures take a detailed look at the 17 recently launched games. The first chart shows games that have been persistently fluctuating within the Top 10 charts, performing well for several months. Considering the vast number of games released in the Play Store this year, these games appear to be rare commodities, with only 4 out of 17.

As it turns out, majority of top ranked games do not experience this trend of staying in the Top charts for months at a time. In the last chart, we isolate the remaining 13 games to see a more standard journey of a top ranked game.  The trend shows that these games appear to rise fairly quickly to the top charts, and then drop soon thereafter.  We also noticed that once these apps have dropped beyond the threshold of the Top 50, none of them were able to regain their status back into the Top 10.

So, as we know that the first 30 days of launching a game is the most critical time to reaching the Top Charts, game developers are faced with decisions behind what to do when their games are seeing a dramatic decrease in rankings.  Based on this study, once there’s a notable drop in rankings, games will most likely not be able to recuperate, so resources are better spent marketing a new game rather than re-investing in the failed ones.

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