What App owners can learn from hugely successful Gaming Apps

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There are over 5.2 million apps in the app store, and 23% of this staggering number fit into the mobile Gaming apps category. Mobile Gaming is not just the largest category. It is also the biggest revenue driver in the app stores worldwide. Games made up 80 percent of the gross revenue generated by Apple’s App Store  and more than 91 percent of Google Play revenue in the first quarter of 2017. Gaming is also an app category with high mobile user engagement. In June 2016, 88 percent of digital gaming time was spent via mobile apps.

It’s no wonder that the new App Store revamp was largely focused on giving gaming developers and mobile gaming apps a more pronounced platform.

So with all that success, mobile gaming businesses must be doing some good things, and a lot of them are relevant to the broader app businesses. Here are our pick of the things they do well:


Let’s start with the most evident reason behind the success of Gaming apps. Achieving an award or working towards a goal is an appealing incentive, considering the psychology of motivation.

By integrating gamification design-elements and features that make Gaming apps so successful, there is a big chance that your retention rates will increase.

Many apps across the app store categories make great use of gamification elements. A wave of gamified dating apps have risen to success in past years. Apps like Tinder, Bumble and Coffee meets Bagel have successfully used swiped-based gamification to add an addictive element to the user experience.

Various productivity apps also make great use of such elements, like Habitica, a list-making app and gamified task manager. The app motivates users to check off tasks, awarding them by upgrading their avatar, unlocking features and partaking in quests. The app has seen recent success due to its gamification model.

There are other gamified elements that could work well with apps in other categories, for example the inclusion of a ranking system aids in building a competitive element to an app. It also allows other users to interact with each other to build a sense of a community, when approached in a friendly way. App owners can also prepare challenges or allow users to achieve streaks. These are a few ways that gamification can increase retention rates for your app.

supafanz gaming app
Social app Supafanz have gamified their app by letting users compete with fellow celebrity fans all around the world. Users compete to rank on their global leader board.

Implementing gamification elements for your app could conclude in higher retention rates, but ensure that it makes sense in the context of your app. Gamification strategies must still correlate with the app’s functionality and purpose.

Test, learn and act

Testing any app is essential in ensuring that you are delivering the most seamless product to your users. During and after release, you need to ensure the functionality and design bugs are ironed out.

Gaming apps are vigorously tested during development stage especially due to the additional graphic elements that are typical in the vertical. Gaming apps strongly focus on testing AI, multi-player functionality, and network capabilities regarding performance requirements in their testing. Due to the complexity of some gaming apps, the strong focus on testing ensures that these apps make a good first impression. Fahim Sachedina, Growth Manager at successful QA Testing company, Global App Testing, noted:

“From the research we’ve carried out, there is a high correlation between the game’s commercial success and the overall quality of the user’s experience. They won’t keep an app nor will they engage or use it if they find bugs – gamers have a lower tolerance for glitches overall. Device fragmentation coupled with global environments make this a very tricky prospect.”

Whilst this may not be relevant to apps across the board, there are some focus areas that other app owners should consider testing to the same extent.

Let’s start with social sharing. For gaming apps, this is an essential element. A great incentive for downloading the app is the ability for users to share results across their ecosystems.

Studies show that 89% of millennials trust recommendations from friends and family more than claims by the brand. So, implementing sharing links is essential in this case, and testing to ensure that they work should be a priority.

Another example is the UI. Ensuring that your app works in both landscape and portrait should be tested for all scenarios. Gaming apps must consider what changes during a game once screen orientation changes and this should be tested by every app owner. Ensuring that the app is responsive should be a priority. This is to ensure that the app is still easy to use and functional across a multitude of screens on various devices and orientations, which should include regression testing.


As the biggest revenue driver of the both Google Play and the Apple App Store, there are many models that all app owners could follow to also drive revenue.

You should start by balancing you market investment across both iOS and Android, by submitting apps to both app stores. App Annie reported that whilst Apple’s iOS App Store remains the world’s largest by revenues, the world’s competing Android software markets combined are expected to exceed the App Store in total revenues at some point later this year. This is due to increasing global app installs in Google Play and third-party Android stores where Android is the most popular OS. As the industry is developing at a rapid rate, and ‘Tier 1’ markets are becoming exceedingly saturated, more and more developers and publishers are considering emerging markets.

Now that you have made your apps available on both platforms, you need to consider your pricing model. Let’s look at the most popular Gaming app from 2016, Pokémon Go. Pokémon Go was the top grossing app in the U.S. in less than a day after its launch. It made almost one billion dollars in revenue in 2016 alone.

Whilst Pokémon Go is a freemium app, its in-app purchases offering played a significant role in its titanic revenue increase since its launch.

With the appeal of freemium apps lessening the friction towards initial download, the offering of extra features and modes once engaged with the app is a great way to monetise. In fact, by 2017, in-app purchase revenue is set to be the number one source of mobile app revenue. It will account for 48.2% of earnings compared to 14% from ad-based revenue and  37.8% from paid app downloads.

There are many ways to make good use of in-app purchases, but the specifics will be very dependent on the functionality of your app. Beyond Gaming apps, photo editing apps are extremely successful in monetising through in-app purchases. Apps such as VSCO Cam or Filterloop offer basic functionality and a set of free filters for users to edit their images, plus premium filters that users can pay for, usually segmented into filter packs. VSCO Cam gives users the option to preview the filters to entice users to purchase.

There are lots of other ways to successfully use in-app purchases such as the unlocking of a ‘save’ option for apps that have gamified elements, or the unlocking of special features. Furthermore, tiered subscriptions work particularly well for content-based apps.

Want to find out more about optimising your app and keeping up with the latest OS capabilities? Make sure to subscribe to our Mastering Mobile Marketing video series. You can also get in touch by visiting the Contact Us page. Follow us on LinkedIn, chat with us on Twitter @yodelmobile, and join our #mobilemarketingUK LinkedIn group

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