Every day hundreds of new games are released. Many of them are made by small studios or even solo developers. Some games are “dream projects”, others are first attempts at the craft. There are also titles made to grab some of the income away from the big players, like Playrix or Supercell. But most of them have one thing in common — they will likely not gain any popularity because a major mistake was made at the concept stage: they didn’t check if their idea was actually in demand.
AppQuantum and other publishers and developers never take on a project without first thoroughly evaluating the market situation. To that end we use all available assets: our teams’ combined experience, analytical services, industry best practices as well as a massive amount of work done by specialists who constantly watch out for mobile gaming industry trends.
All of the above, of course, costs a hefty amount. But what if you’re a small developer, without a large budget and a team of analysts on hand? You can still conduct market research by yourself. AppQuantum’s Producer Alina Zlotnik will be your guide in this article. She’ll tell you what you can do on your own, if you don’t have access to resources and expertise of a large mobile publisher.
What is market research?
In this particular case, market research is any research done in order to find or check a certain trend. Main objectives of this are to find a niche, genre and setting for a project, and analyze the competition and their games. Research can also be done to confirm a known trend or, on the contrary, verify that the team’s idea is non-workable. The market changes quickly and constantly. What was popular yesterday can be forgotten tomorrow, making thorough market research so vital.
It’s important not to rush this process and analyze the data thoroughly. On average, it takes a few hours to do the research, provided you know the trend you’re looking for. If not, the process can take days to weeks.
Checking an existing idea
If you’re reading this, you might already have an idea for a mobile game. All you need to do now is find out what its chances of success in the current market are. We’ll begin with looking at the livelihood of an idea from a marketing point of view using a PvP crossword game as an example.
For that we need to:
- Study the current state of PvP crosswords on the main stores (AppStore and Google Play);
- Analyze state of the genre using specialized services;
- Verify the feasibility of developing the game and draw conclusions.
Studying the competition
At this stage it should be enough to run a precise search on Google Play or AppStore to find relevant games. In order to see whether or not they actually fit the criteria you should play each one or at least look through their descriptions and screenshots.
This is the longest part but it can’t be neglected. At this stage there’s a risk that non-relevant games might make it into your research. This will affect the analysis and overall results.
Example search results:
To move on to the next stage, it’s necessary to put together a list of games that fit the idea you chose. With PvP crosswords Pictawords and Kryss are perfect fits.
It’s good to also look at the “Related Apps” list suggested by the store. It often includes games that fit the concept but aren’t easily found through search.
Study the state of the genre with specialized services
To analyze the market for this article we used the following services: App Annie, SimilarWeb, SensorTower, AppMagic.
Most analytical services are heavily limited without paying extra for premium accounts.
In order to find out the current state of the market you should pay attention to indirect factors:
- Number of competitors and their growth rate;
- Movement of similar games through top lists;
- Quantity of reviews at different periods of time.
First of all, let’s build a graph based on the games we studied, where we compare game ratings. The easiest service to do that with is AppMagic, which allows users to compare projects by store feature effectiveness, as well as track app movements in Top Free lists.
At this point you can continue looking for competitors using “Related Apps” sections on AppMagic or Similarweb.
However, it’s important to consider that AppMagic limits the number of apps you can compare simultaneously — no more than 10.
The resulting graph will look something like this:
To make sure our graph is at least partially correct in its reflection of the market, let’s take a look at competitor income (Sensor Tower, December 2021):
- Liga Slova. Bitva Crossvordov — <$5,000
- Kryss — $70,000
- Word Wars - Word Game — $90,000
- Word Battle — <$5,000
- King of words — <$5,000
- Word Wars - pVp Crossword Game — <$5,000
- Wordgrams — $10,000
First conclusions we can draw from the graph:
- The trend first appeared in June 2020;
- 2 projects went on to gain the majority of the market: Kryss and Word Wars. Note that Kryss is a classic PvP crossword, and Word Wars is a scrabble-like game.
- Most games that tried to come into the market either flopped or got an insignificant part of the audience.
Let’s take a more detailed look at the genre’s top games.
From the graphs we can see that:
- Quantity of reviews (and, in turn, installs) for WordWars doesn’t go down, unlike Kryss, which has a slightly negative trend;
- The games have been enjoying solid positions in the Top Free lists for a long time.
Having studied the market, we see uneven results. On one hand the niche is growing — new games come out and get their own, albeit small, audience. On the other, getting the audience away from competitors is a nearly impossible task without considerable marketing investments.
In this case it pays to look at the niche’s top player’s income.
You should also consider that the services don’t show ad revenue, so income for ad-monetized projects could be scores larger than what’s shown in open sources. According to Sensor Tower, Kryss (on Google Play) earned $70,000 in December 2021, while Word Wars (also on Google Play) made $90,000.
Is it worth developing a project that would only gain a small percentage of that income? Only you can decide that. For small teams this money can be a good start, while larger companies are unlikely to be interested by those numbers and will move on to another concept.
Looking for something new
The easiest way to start researching new ideas is to look through the latest articles on industry related websites. For example, GameRefinery, Deconstructor of Fun and such.
Early in the year, a lot of media outlets published their predictions for how the gaming industry and its genres are going to develop. Only time will tell whether they will come true or not. However, you shouldn’t write them off. More often than not such pieces are based on industry expertise and their authors make reasonable and logical assumptions.
It’s a little more difficult when a trend is already found but is still unstable. To see what we’re talking about, let’s take a look at one of the most talked about games on the casual market — Merge-2. Gaming experts are divided in their opinions. Some believe that jumping on the bandwagon was only worth it after Merge Mansion came out. Others think this segment has only begun to develop and the best is yet to come.
Often, if a lot of outlets and services are talking about a trend, it means you’re too late. But there are situations when a trend lives on. And no matter how many people say it’s about to die, it just doesn’t go away. One such example is the hypercasual games boom. When it first appeared, the niche was predicted to die quickly by pretty much everyone. However, one look at the stores makes it clear these projects are very much alive.
One of the most difficult ways to find ideas, one that requires a deep understanding of the market and trends is studying new releases. Storeglide and AppAgg are the tools to help with that. These services help track game launches in different countries. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and spot a new wave right at the start, but it will likely be impossible to verify your hypothesis. You’ll need to rely on intuition. But with great risk comes a big opportunity to be one of the first to jump on the bandwagon.
To check whether a trend is coming up, you can look at the game’s growth rate over the past month. Suppose a certain title shows growth that isn’t stopping any time soon. For a game in the top list this is unsurprising. However, a single game is not enough to draw conclusions about the whole genre or niche. For more grounded and serious conclusions it’s necessary to analyze the project’s competitors.
Market research is a large body of work that’s necessary to complete in order to minimize the risks and release a project that can interest the audience. Of course, at first you might not succeed at becoming a trendsetter and creating something completely new, but there’s nothing bad about releasing products that appeal to a mass audience. Every new project will stand out and interest more people, and, after a few attempts, you’ll create a game the whole market will be chasing after.
If you’d like to employ deep industry expertise from a team of seasoned professionals, hit us up :)