The big winner in mobile content is Games, accounting for 80% of download revenue (AppAnnie) and even more from in-app purchases. Console gaming giants like Electronic Arts and Sony have been humbled by by new entrants such as Supercell (Finland) and Gung Ho (Japan). Supercell produces just two games, both FREE: Clash of the Clans and Hay Day.

These games earn more than $2.5 million per DAY, with operating margins of 56%. ALL of this revenue comes from virtual goods. GungHo, with a valuation of $4.8 billion, reported February revenue of $80 million for a single free game, Puzzles & Dragons. Despite these dizzying successes, most game publishers struggle to make a living. Data from in-game mobile ad network Tapjoy points to User Interface (UI) as the key differentiator for engagement and monetization. Consider these 8 tips to improve UI for free mobile games:

I. New User Flow: The game must hook a new player within 30 seconds. That means a simplified tutorial with 70% completion rate. New players should begin experiencing the game as quickly as possible.

II. Optimize the Download: Heavier games have substantially higher abandonment rates. Many games ignore this reality and losing users before they even open the game.

Conversion Rate: Clicks to Installs (Tapjoy)

Android

0-5 MB

 

50-60%

50-10 MB

 

30-45%

100+ MB

 

15-20%

iOS

0-5 MB

 

65-75%

50-10 MB

 

30-40%

200+ MB

 

25-30%

III. Localization: In high growth Asian markets like China and Indonesia, localization dramatically increases the likelihood of getting featured on local App Stores. Within a week of localizing a game, downloads typically increase by 128% and revenue 26%.

IV. Don’t Force Registrations: Users resist mandatory Facebook log-in and other forms of coerced registration. This causes drop-off rates of 50-75%.

V. Engagement is Monetization: Allow for rapid progress at first and reward users often and early in the game. As progress becomes more and more difficult, the likelihood of monetization increases

VI. Store and Virtual Currency Design: Make it easy (no more than two clicks) to locate the store and purchase. Use large icons over text whenever possible, including when currency is low. Let users know they’re getting a deal. Clarify the benefits of any in-app purchase.

VII. Loading Screens: These are by nature time-consuming but also an opportunity to engage users with messages. Give users helpful hints and try to integrate humor.

VIII. Daily Rewards: Build daily rewards into the game by giving players a reward for coming back every day. For example, in the later days of the reward cycle, offer the users bigger or exclusive rewards. Show them what they earned and what they can potentially earn in this session.

Levi Shapiro is a Partner at TMT Strategic Advisors, a research and strategy firm focusing on the technology, media and telecom sectors. He can be reached at levi@tmtstrat.com or via twitter: @levshapiro

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