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.

Unveiling the MixRank Mobile App Directory for Google Play

At MixRank, we’re making changes to include even more relevant data for your digital advertising competitive intelligence needs. As we expand our data set into the mobile landscape, we’ve made some recent updates to the database that maps web advertisers, publisher domains and apps back to parent company profiles. Our latest features include two brand new directories, new filter options for the directories, and new search functionalities. Here’s a breakdown of the latest features we’ve added.

1. Mobile App Directory and Filter Options: We’ve been tracking Play Store apps since January 2013 and within the app directory, you’ll find filter options to view the Topselling Paid, Topselling Free, Top Grossing, Topselling New Paid, Topselling New Free, and Trending apps.

For free apps, MixRank has uncovered the SDKs that mobile apps are leveraging, allowing you to see what technologies and app packages mobile developers have chosen to use.  If you’d like access to this data, sign up here.

2. Company Directory & Filter Options: We are tracking over 5 million companies cross verified on LinkedIn. Property Count indicates the number of MixRank reports that are mapped to this company. Visit the company directory to filter the companies by industry.

To gain access to the MixRank Directories, visit the Browse section on the top right hand corner of any MixRank page.

3. Company Reports: To gain access to company reports you can click on the company name from the Company Directory, or from any other report or directory on the top right hand side.


Within the company reports, you can view the various web properties that MixRank has reports for. Below you’ll see the Zoho Corporation’s Company Report with multiple web advertisers and Play Store apps. This data is particularly useful when measuring ad spend and online presence for a company.

4. Universal Search: With the drop-down arrow next to the search bar, you can get more granular with your queries by indicating what type of MixRank reports you’re looking for.

If you wish to search for all MixRank reports, we’ve added a universal search that allows you to search under Everything. Try it now!

Android Developers: Stop Making Casual Games

By Jana Fung and Max Isenberg

Though Casual games have an easier time reaching the top charts, they stay there for much shorter periods of time and reach a smaller audience than Arcade & Action games.

After looking at the Google Play Top Charts over a 6 month period, we found that while 35% of Casual games in the Top 100 reach the Top 25, only 2 Casual games that started the year in the Top 25 were still there six months later.

With the first half of 2013 now over, we decided to take a deeper look at the journey a free game undergoes to enter the top charts in the Play Store and stay there. We especially focused on the Casual games category, as popular games such as King.com’s Candy Crush Saga have come to dominate the overall Top Game rankings.

We analyzed the following six subcategories: Sports Games, Brain & Puzzle, Casual, Cards & Casino, Arcade & Action, and Racing. We tracked the charts for the first half of the year, ending July 16th, 2013. Our findings:

The First Two Weeks are the Most Important for Reaching the Top Charts

Figure 1: Percent of Top 100 Casual games that reach the Top 10 based on number of days between the first entry into the Top 100 and the first entry into the Top 10 Casual games charts

83% of Casual games in the Top 10 took less than 2 weeks to get there. As a developer, it’s important to strongly market your game in the first 14 days after its release because after that point, it becomes much harder to push a game to the Top 10. This is despite the fact that Casual is the easiest category to reach the top rankings.

Casual Games Have a Higher Chance of Reaching the Top Rankings

Figure 2: Percent of games in Top 100 that reach Top 25

To explore the difficulty of reaching the top in various categories, we studied the likelihood that Top 100 games to break into the Top 25 over the same 6 month period. More Casual games get a chance to break into the top charts, with 35% of the Top 100 making it to the Top 25 within 6 months. This pattern holds for the Top 10 Casual games.

Figure 3: Percent of games in Top 100 that reach Top 10

In total, 80 unique Casual games that ranked in the Top 100 over these 6 months reached the Top 10. Reaching a top ranking is not the only determining factor for how many downloads a game gets; it also has to stay there.

Casual Games Are Less Likely to Have Long Term Dominance in the Top Charts 

Figure 4: Number of Top 100 games initially in the Top 100 at the beginning of the observation period that remained in the chart for the entire duration of the study

We looked at the set of 100 games at the top of each chart for each game Category on the first day of our observation in January. We then counted how many of those 100 were still in the Top 100 on the last day of the observation in July. Of the Top 100 Casual games in January 2013, only 24 remained 6 months later, lowest among all categories. We did a similar review with the Top 25.

Figure 5: Number of Top 25 games initially in the Top 25 at the beginning of the observation period that remained in the chart for the entire duration of the study

Only 2 Casual games within the Top 25 at the beginning of the year charted in the Top 25 every day during this 6 month period: Ludia Inc.’s Family Feud & Friends and King.com’s Candy Crush Saga. This turnover within the Casual games category suggests that many different games cycle through the top charts. And while games may experience higher visibility on the Top charts, Casual games lack the ability to hang on to their rankings compared to other games, like the 12 out of 25 Cards & Casino games that protected their rank status for 6 months.

Casual Games Have Shorter Stays in the Top Charts

Figure 6: Number of days the average charting game spends in Top 25

We next looked to see how long these games stayed in the Top 25 charts compared to other gaming categories. Casual games are only averaging a 21 day stay in the Top 25, compared to an average of 28 or more days in other gaming categories. We also looked at the average length of stay in the Top 10.

Figure 7: Number of days the average charting game spends in Top 10

Here, Casual games average only 12 days, half the time spent compared to Racing games that hang on to a Top 10 rank for 24 days. Not only is the Casual game category a difficult one to establish lasting and persistent titles, but also the average games cannot translate their initial popularity into even month long stays on the top.

A Lower Percentage of Casual Games Last for Very Long on the Top Charts

Figure 8: Percent of games that enter the Top 10 that stay for at least 2 weeks

The figure above displays the percentage of games that reach the Top 10 that last for longer than 2 weeks. As Casual games break into the Top 10 rankings, their time spent is short. Only 20 games out of the 80 games that reached the Top 10 stayed in the top charts for 14 days or more. The Casual games category demonstrates a tremendous a difficulty of staying on the charts for extended periods of time. In contrast, only 36 games entered the Top 10 for Arcade & Action, but 16 of those games (or 44%) lasted for longer than 2 weeks.

These facts, paired with the 19% of Casual games reaching the Top 10, suggest user boredom and low loyalty explains the fast-moving adjustments in rankings. Games cannot easily establish lasting presences in the category before the next wave of Casual games comes in and displaces the previous one.

Arcade & Action is the Most Popular Android Gaming Category

 Category Total # of Apps in Category # of Top 100 Games Games with 1M+ Downloads % Top Games with 1M+ Downloads Minimum Downloads Sum
Sports Games 4916 279 110 39.43% 407951010
Brain & Puzzle 34373 407 171 42.01% 683275000
Casual 22280 436 224 51.38% 727625000
Cards & Casino 6640 265 82 30.94% 262815500
Arcade & Action 21984 405 267 65.93% 1611096000
Racing 3490 343 130 37.90% 515236010

Figure 9

To evaluate the success potential for these categories, we considered three major criteria: ease of entry into the top charts, turnover in the top charts, and the reach of the category.

For ease of entry, Casual does very well, with 19% of Top 100 games eventually reaching the Top 10, comparing favorably to Arcade & Action’s low 9%. Thus, Casual games have a better shot to hit the top charts than games in other categories.

However, reaching the top easily comes at the cost of briefer stays on the charts for Casual games. Once in the Top 10, Arcade & Action games reap the rewards of the Top charts for a longer period than Casual games, averaging a 20 day stay in the Top 10 as opposed to an average of only 12 days for Casual Top 10 charters.

Not only do Arcade & Action games experience a lower turnover rate than Casual games, they also have a much larger reach. In the above table, ‘% Top Games with 1M+ Downloads’ is the ratio of the second over the first column, which gives the percentage of Top 100 games that had at least 1 million downloads. Additionally, ‘Minimum Downloads Sum’ is the sum of all games’ downloads that ranked in the Top 100. The Google Play Store gives download counts in ranges, so this metric sums the lower bound of all the ranges of games in each category, so the number is the minimum number of downloads for games in that category.

Though growing in popularity, Casual isn’t a threat to Arcade & Action’s existing popularity as the most played game category. Arcade & Action takes the cake among consumers, having the most games with > 1 Million downloads and over 2X the downloads than Casual games, despite there being roughly the same number of Top 100 apps in each category.

Thus, while reaching the top is harder for Arcade & Action games than Casual, its significantly lower turnover and its larger audience make it the better target for developers. While a few Casual games have recently gained notoriety, top Casual games generally get fewer downloads than similarly ranked Arcade & Action games. The Casual top charts are the most saturated, making it difficult to stick and accrue downloads that make your games more valuable; instead, focus on Arcade & Action games that more easily hold their value by lasting on the top charts and gaining many downloads.

Next time, we will uncover exactly how much momentum it takes to reach the top charts and the surprising apps that were the biggest winners and losers of the 2013 Google Play charts.