Mobile gaming has experienced a tremendous pace of growth. To succeed, you need to provide a great user experience. This obviously includes good design and interesting gameplay, but the best game in the world won’t keep players around if it often lags, freezes, or crashes. You need to maintain high levels of performance and stability or risk losing users to your many competitors.

In this piece, we’ll go over the explosive growth in mobile gaming and why it is so important to your game’s success to provide a great user experience.

The State of Mobile Games

The mobile gaming market is huge and is expected to grow 2.9% annually until 2024 and beyond. COVID has only accelerated this already incredible growth, with App Annie reporting mobile game consumer spend at over $20 billion in Q3 2020.

Where there’s money, there’s competition. shows an upward trend in gaming apps on Google Play each year, and that’s not expected to go down anytime soon. With tools like Unity simplifying game creation, it’s easier than ever before to develop for mobile. Both Google and Apple have huge incentives to make it easier for young mobile gaming companies to get their foot into the door because mobile games make up more than 50% of their app store revenues alone.

What Does This Mean for Mobile Gaming Companies?

In a broad ecosystem of competition, retention brought about by technical execution is paramount to your long-term success. According to App Annie’s recent Game IQ report, mobile gaming is on track to surpass $100 billion across all mobile app stores in 2020.

Which begs the question: How original is your game, really? Are you over-reliant on unique gameplay as your primary differentiator?

The harsh reality is that nothing gets copied quicker than a successful mobile game. Originality alone will not separate you from the competition for long. Angry Birds can be generously described as “inspired” by Crush the Castle, but only one of those names is a multi-billion dollar brand.

How then can you hope to succeed in mobile games?

The answer is this: Technical execution of your game. All other things being equal, users want a seamless experience.

In other words, you need to keep mobile gamers happy because even while they’re spending more time and money, there’s never been more competition.

For reference, global box office revenue was $42.5 billion in 2019, and that’s considered the record high with blockbuster movies by Disney, Sony, and Warner Bros. all shattering the billion dollar mark. The mobile gaming market already dwarfs that.

If you want a big piece of the proverbial mobile gaming pie, you better be prepared to deliver the Hollywood Blockbuster version of a mobile gaming experience. When the consumers are spending that much money, they expect mobile companies to provide a stellar experience. After all, whether you like it or not, your mobile game shares the same app stores as all of your competitors. And when everyone touts that their game provides a unique user experience, we know the actual difference between the successes and failures comes down to performance and stability.

Did you know that 95% of players will leave a game within 30 days?

What are you doing to keep them happy?

Happy Users Provide Better LTV

Happy users spend more time in your game. That results in higher Life-Time Value (LTV), either through watching more ads or making more in-app purchases. As a brief primer, LTV is essentially the expected revenue of the average gamer on your platform, and Cost Per Install (CPI) is the cost of acquiring that user. Considering that CPI is more or less a static upfront investment, making bets designed to increase LTV provide more opportunities to maximize revenue the longer that users keep your app installed, and even more importantly, play it.

The conclusion here is obvious: the happier your users, the more likely they are to keep using your app and the more likely they are to spend money. This is why retention is a key component of the LTV calculation.

Some may say: But doesn’t the responsibility of retention lie with the design and gameplay of the game itself?

Of course that plays a huge role. But in order to enjoy your game, a user must be able to actually play it.

Are you providing a seamless way for users to play your game?

The User Experience Is About More Than Just The Game

Keep this in mind: Before the gameplay, the user encounters loading times. Before the design of the UI, the gamer may encounter ANRs. Before the gamer gives you their credit card information, they may encounter crashes because of poor resource management.

Mobile games come with brutal user expectations, and it is up to the mobile engineering team to unravel the best methods to deliver an ongoing, often-patched source of entertainment. It doesn’t matter how interesting your game design is or how attractive the art is — if trying to play the game is like trying to pull out teeth because of lag, freezing, and crashes, no one’s going to play the game.

This is why before you analyze your mobile game’s success as attributed to the design, UI, appeal to its core users, core gameplay loop, etc., a smart company needs to ask itself whether or not its application is technologically competent first. Before focusing engineering time on catering to specific gamer personas and demographics, it's important that you deliver a great game experience to all users built on a strong technical foundation of your game working.

You need to understand the way users experience your games if you want them to stick around. Here are a few questions that you should be asking with every game on every release:

  • Do you truly know how users experience your game?
  • How many users experience a crash, and how many of these crashes are you aware of?
  • Are there ANRs or technical issues with your game that are actively preventing users from wanting to spend money on it?
  • Are users force-quitting your app? If so, which screens are the primary cause?
  • Are users abandoning purchases because they take too long?
  • Do you know every time your app freezes?
  • Do you know that users will uninstall apps for ANRs before you ever see a stack trace for them?

After all, in order to succeed with your gameplay, you must first succeed with the technical experience you provide users. You spend a lot of time and money building a great game and marketing it to get players onboard. The worst feeling is immediately losing players to a competitor because you fail to deliver a good experience.

If you are unable to answer some of the questions above, you have some significant gaps in your tooling. Far too many games fail because they lack visibility into the issues affecting their users and their game. Don’t be one of those games.

Be one of the games that keeps its players happy.

How Embrace Helps Mobile Teams

Embrace is an observability and debugging platform built for mobile teams. We are a one-stop shop for your mobile app’s needs, including error debugging and monitoring performance and feature releases.

Need help improving the performance and stability of your Unity games?

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