Smarter TV buying from SimulX

Some of the biggest mobile games use TV advertising to support their business. Supercell, King, Machine Zone, and others have all spent heavily on TV over the past year. Unlike online ads, however, it can be very difficult to track the effectiveness of those ads. And the planning/buying/optimization cycle is much slower than the tools used by digital marketers.

Enter SimulMedia’s new business unit SimulX. They’ve combined Think Gaming’s performance data with TV spend history by games to determine the best TV spots to buy for mobile games.  And they’re building out tools to make TV buying look similar to the digital tools that marketers know and love.

We’re excited about our partnership and look forward to a new generation of smarter TV buyers.

Top ad networks for acquiring paying players

Many of the game developers we talk to are interested in how they can acquire user for their games. The problem is that the world of ad networks is basically composed of two giants areas: Facebook, and the Wild West of everything else.

We’re working on a solution to bring transparency and order to this mess, and have started working with a bunch of the smartest game marketers on some cool solutions. This includes transparent information about which ad networks, targeting options, publishers, and geographies are actually driving high ROI for marketers, and which are a waste of money.

Check out our directory of the top ad networks and let us know if we’re missing any of your favorites.


Zynga Buys Natural Motion for $527 million

Zynga announced they are acquiring Natural Motion, whose top games include CSR Racing, CSR Classics and Clumsy Ninja.

It’s a big deal for Zynga, who is paying up very significantly for Natural. $527 million, which is over a 10X revenue multiple using our estimates, based on where their games are currently performing. That’s much more expensive than similar deals, though the Supercell/SoftBank deal made things frothy.

But Zynga needs hits, and both CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja look like franchises that could deliver sequels. They’ve also got the benefit of Natural Motion’s technology to power new games. We’re excited to see what the new combination will bring!

Glu Mobile promoting free in-game credits

Glu Mobile is running an interesting promotion with Google Play. They’re offering 20 free in-game credits (roughly $1.00 value) for downloading Deer Hunter 2014, currently #10 on iOS Top Grossing Games.


It’s a great idea to prime user spending by giving them free currency. Players learn the value of the hard currency and it whets their appetite for more.

1) Without playing the game, it’s hard for a player to know the value of 20 Glu Credits. We’d expect the perceived value may be considerably higher than $1.We’re interested in this promo because it will test a few contrasting:

2) It’s hard to convince a player that has never played a game to buy hard currency, so the credits may be worthless for most people.

Anyone with more info on how these perform or the economic split with Google Play should drop us a line….




Google Play changes app policies on in app purchases

Google has made some changes to it’s app policies regarding games. Their intent appears to be two-fold:

  1. Cleaning up bad behavior: Advertising needs to be well-behaved, and apps can’t make system-wide changes without clear notice and user acknowledgement.  This is long overdue – badly behaving apps are reminiscent of spyware and adware of days past. This should help the health of the Android ecosystem, though it may hit.
  2. In-app purchases are required to use Google’s payment services: This should help with fragmentation of the Android purchase experience. We are big believers that the consistency of Apple’s IAP experience is one of the reasons that iOS outperforms Android on per-user economics. A cynical view is that this is Google’s attempt to crowd out mobile competitors, but we think this is overdue and should have been predictable.




The psychology of pricing games

The Power of Relativity is a great article by Spryfox CEO David Edery on game pricing, and how important relative pricing can be. Spryfox develops LeapDay, Highgrounds, and Triple Town, so has a ton of experience with what works and doesn’t in mobile. Great feedback that matches what we see every day. 

Whether it’s through anchoring, making sure consumers see the right substitutes, or simply making sure supply is meeting demand at the optimal point, pricing psychology plays a huge role in making money, so developers need to think about the right approach. Read David’s article for some hard-won lessons.  

New feature released: watchlists

Think Gaming just released the ability to create watchlists of any games that we track. Watchlists let you track the iOS app store rankings, revenue estimates, and revenue per user estimates of your favorite games, your competitors, or your own games. 

To get started, create an account. Add games to your watchlist by clicking the “Watch this game” link for any game. If you need ideas, start by browsing our lists of the top free gamestop paid games, and top grossing games

Good, bad, or indifferent, please let us know what you think! 

Mobile monetization is terrible! Or is it?

VentureBeat has a few sound bytes from Interpret’s forthcoming Gamebyte syndicated research report. A first read would have you believe that the sky is falling. Most notably, they cite lower monthly ARPU for mobile games and the fact that only 21% convert on in-app purchases. OMG – mobile monetization is terrible! 

But there’s a shiny silver lining. Free-to-play games are much more broadly penetrated: ~50 million people in the US play games on their phones, twice as many as play MMOs on PCs. And those 50 million people already generate as much revenue as MMOs, despite the fact that

  1. Smartphones aren’t fully penetrated
  2. The Android monetization experience is a hot mess and it’s the fastest growing smartphone OS.
  3. In-app purchase revenue is a new phenomenon where most game developers have a lot of work to optimize in-app pricing and positioning 

Our take? Yes, it’s early. And, yes, there’s lots of work to be done. But this rocket ship appears to be gathering steam in a way that portends very significant future growth.

Long live mobile monetization! 

The golden tail of card battlers

Card battlers have been among the best monetized games in mobile. Rage of Bahamut enjoyed a long stretch as the top grossing game through most of 2012 and GungHo’s Puzzle and Dragons is rumored to be grossing $2.5 million daily, mainly in Japan. 

Less discussed is the “golden tail” of these games. Relative to other top grossing games, card battlers have incredibly long-term retention and monetization. Staying at the top of the top grossing charts is, in large part, a war against churn. Most new users churn out very quickly, leaving a much smaller engaged base to be monetized.

Most of the best revenue generating apps are therefore also on the Top Free Apps or Top Paid Apps list. And when they can no longer add new users, they fall off the list quickly.

Not so card battlers. Among the top apps, card battlers Rage of Bahamut, Castle Age, Lord of the Dragons, and Dark Summoner, are unique. They maintain great presence in the top grossing list without adding new users. This means they’ve got an incredibly engaged audience that continues to buy. In fact, they may increase spend over time, a real rarity. 

There are (at least) two contributors to this great ARPU: 

  1. Very short core loop. The card battles are perfectly designed for Bing Gordon’s “stoplight test”: if you’re at a traffic light and can’t cross the street, your app needs to provide value before the light changes.  
  2. Events to create demand for virtual currency. DeNA’s Yuji Shimizu has a nice explanation of how Blood Brothers builds events

Our guess is that #1 is a huge element, and is likely true for every type of game. We’d expect that the length of the core loop and retention/monetization are very tightly coupled. 

Candy Crushing it: is earning $200 million plus from the #1 top grossing app Candy Crush Saga on mobile

In the US, Candy Crush is now overtaking Clash of Clans as the highest revenue generating game in the iOS app store. It’s still very close, but if recent trends continue, Candy Crush will take over the top grossing spot from Clash of Clans, which has been dominant for all of 2013.

This creates a few things worth highlighting:

More than one audience can get you to the top of the charts. Candy Crush is a casual puzzle game, presumably appealing to casual gaming’s core “soccer moms”, whereas Clash of Clans is a builder that seems to appeal to more hard-core gamers.

It’s a really big market. Supercell was rumored to be doing $1 million in revenue daily from two titles: Clash of Clans (#1) & farming title Hay Day (#4) in January. We’d estimate that Candy Crush is earning an annualized $200 million from mobile for*

* Methodology: Assume that Clash of Clans earns 60% of Supercell’s revenue, so would earn $219 million if annualized. (Note: if you you use a higher estimate, this will increase the $200 million estimate for Candy Crush. We chose to be conservative). Candy Crush probably isn’t cannibalizing Clash of Clans since they target different audiences, so we assume Candy Crush earns at least $600K / day, or $219 million annualized revenue.