Staying Ahead in Today’s Highly Competitive Mobile Gaming Market

The market for mobile games just keeps growing and growing, with new overnight successes emerging every day.

In Q4 2013, more than 75% of consumer app spending in both the Apple App Store and Google Play was spent on mobile games, a “significant increase” from Q4 2012, according to a statement from Bertrand Schmitt, CEO of AppAnnie. Also, according to AppAnnie, mobile game app spending tripled in 2013, to reach $16 billion in revenue.

As the demand for mobile game apps grows, app developers are responding to these trends as well. According to a recent survey conducted by the Game Developers Conference, 52% of game developers are working on mobile games for tablets and smartphones. But developers taking the plunge into developing mobile games need to be aware of the potential pitfalls, as well as the general trends in the industry.

Mobile game apps, while lucrative, also incorporate factors that mean they are more likely to develop performance issues. They are often custom designed, integrate media-rich and animation-heavy content, and also tend to be API intensive. And if any one of these factors slows down the performance of your game, a user is simply likely to delete the game and download another one, since there are so many to choose from. Here are three best practices that will help you ensure the best possible performance on your mobile gaming app:

1. Be aware of current trends in the industry. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry is always a good thing to do, no matter what type of app you’re developing. You don’t want to embarrass yourself by creating an app that’s lagging behind the competition, and at the same time, you may not want to create something that’s already been done (although there are no doubt many companies cloning successful apps quite blatantly). Some of the big trends we’re seeing right now include big-screen functionality, the free-to-play model, the onset of 3D gaming, and a shift of user focus toward emerging markets.

Flappy_Bird_Nick_02_610x3692. Pay close attention to game design. With the freemium model becoming more and more popular, the quality of games will have to be stellar. Better user experiences will be one of the main reasons for users to stay with an app and eventually move towards becoming revenue-generating users. Mobile device fragmentation, which includes the emergence of multiple screens and unpredictable form factors, is now the norm, so simpler games (like Flappy Bird) with excellent graphics are likely to have a better chance at success.

3. Invest in a mobile APM tool. Games are usually media and animation heavy, as well as API intensive. And these factors can very quickly have a negative effect on user experience especially through slow performance. Investing in a mobile application performance monitoring tool that allows you to track different performance metrics like network requests and errors, thread breakdowns, JSON parsing speeds, CPU usage and performance breakdowns by different hardware will be key to making sure your app stays competitive.

The mobile gaming industry is continually changing, as is the mobile industry in general. “Monitor and iterate” should be the mantra for game developers that want continual success in 2014.

[Image credit: Nick Statt/CNET]

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