If you want to understand the current state of mobile gaming development and monetization, I have two words for you: Moby Dick. Why bring up Herman Melville’s novel, you ask? Because at its core, iOS monetization is all about a bunch of people in small, rickety boats hunting whales. As the 2015 annual Swrve Monetization Report reveals, 64% of all revenues from IAPs in F2P games comes from a mere 0.2% of all players. This number reveals an increase from last year’s report where only 50% of all revenues came from the top 10% of paying players. Further to the point, 60% of all payers (players who make at least one purchase) contribute just a tad over 8% of a game’s total revenue, also known as not enough for developers to care about or cater to.
What does this mean for mobile game monetization and for developer design decisions more generally? Well, pretty much what you’ve already figured out if you’ve been playing iOS games: most F2P game developers can’t survive the App Store’s rough seas unless they are out hunting whales, because the rest of the users (even paying ones) don’t really matter. Since for most F2P developers those whales are just like Moby Dick, eternally-elusive, most F2P games are bound to sink without a trace. So, are you surprised that if you aren’t part of that 0.2% percent, you aren’t a factor in the developers’ design decisions?
Here are a few more interesting tidbits from the report. 58% of purchasers make that purchase the day of the install and, on average, after 15 hours from the install. Furthermore, there’s a shift in the value of purchases from last year’s report, with the true revenue driver in mobile F2P games being 10$-20$ IAPs rather than the cheaper ones. Based on that number, the report concludes that there’s a “growing willingness among gamers to buy in-app purchases at higher price points." So, in the developers’ eyes (who, you can be sure, base their development decisions on reports like this one), if you haven’t been buying expensive IAPs, you aren’t their revenue source and, consequently, they shouldn’t be designing the game to suit your gaming habits and preferences.