On 2.2% Of Mobile Free-To-Play Players Spend Any Money...

And 66% of all players quit playing the free-to-play game they've downloaded after only one day.

This is according to new research by App Testing firm Swrve, which tracked the behaviour of 10 million users over a period of 90 days and found that the free-to-play audience is fickle, transient and — for the most part — pretty cheap when it comes to spending money on free-to-play products.

It's a fact most of us are aware of — a relatively small amount of players tend to spend the most amount of money in the free-to-play market. There's even a term for them: whales. Another previous report from Swrve stated that 0.15% of players are responsible for over 50% of the revenue made from free-to-play games.

But perhaps the cautionary tale here is just how quickly users move onto the next product. 19% of players will open a free-to-play app just once, and when 66% of the total audience is gone after day one, that could be a problem.

"It’s a bit like a first date," said Hugh Reynolds, CEO of Swrve. "If it’s going to be effective, it needs to be effective quick."

Most Mobile Game Players Quit After One Day (Exclusive) [Re/Code]


    1) Most mobile apps are crap. They barely function and are slathered with advertising. If we're deleting games after a day it's not because we're cheap, it's because there's a thousand other apps that do it better and we're going to go looking for them.

    2) People WILL buy a product when it's the simpler option and no one likes being nickel and dimed. Case in point: EA's recent Dungeon Master release for mobile platforms was a flop because they blocked too much of the game behind pay-to-win barriers where you'd have to constantly buy currency to make ANY progress whatsoever (or wait like 3 hours to mine a block of gold). On the upside, they reminded me I didn't own Dungeon Master anymore since I lost my discs in a house move back in 2003 so I went and bought DM2 from GOG.com for like $6 - I didn't need to buy DM1 since GOG took the liberty of giving it away for free. If EA had just release the game for $3-$5 instead of making it free to play they might have actually made some decent money. Granted it didn't guarantee them and ongoing revenue stream from microtransactions, but then again neither does a game no one is playing because it sucks.

    3) Even if microtransactions weren't blatant and exhorbitant barriers advertised as a "Shortcut" rather than artificial impediment to progress, having to constantly make microtransactions to bolster this metagameresource is kind of annoying.

      Totally agreed. I would rather pay $3-5 for a good game with lasting game play then download one of the F2P abominations that are out there. This is why I get nearly all of my Android games from Humble Bundles AND I get the added benefit of having a lot of them on Steam and Linux as well all for the same price.

      I don't know if I agree with you on point number 2, especially where you say that EA would have made decent money if they'd released Dungeon master (dungeon keeper?) as a $3-$5 complete game. I mean, I want to believe it, and it would make me happy if it were true, but all the data seems to show that people want free and they want microtransactions. Gamers who are used to PC and console games obviously complain about the bullshit, but we're not the target audience for those games.

      Dungeon Keeper is currently making an estmated $6000 per day in revenue from microtransactions and is hovering around the top 200 grossing apps.

      There's only 2 paid games in the top 50 grossing apps, Monument Valley and Minecraft. There's only 5 paid apps in the top 100.

      The combined total revenue from the top 50, possibly even the top 100 paid games is not equal to the revenue from the single top free game (or number 2 or 3 for that matter).

      I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! I hate it as a player, and I hate it as a developer who has made a paid game. But it's very hard to argue for releasing a paid game on the AppStore today. If you're an indie with principles then go for it, you might very VERY VERY lucky, but if you're a business like EA you're going to follow the money.

      Last edited 10/04/14 10:09 am

        yeah i agree that the new generation of mobile gamers these days prefer microtransactions because they're stupid (for the most part.) games like candy crush give bullshit value on purchases. 5+ moves, various candies... tickets.. these give no lasting value at all, just a chance to finish the whatever stage you're on and the prices they charge are ridiculous. i feel its basically gambling for them.

        Hard to disagree with, I certainly didn't consider Dungeon Keeper to be doing that well based on the market response but then I'm not an app developer so I'm not analysing these trends - I speak as a consumer.

        The point is, when an app is good people will pay for it. What you're seeing is a market saturated with free apps that people are mostly uninstalling within 24 hours, per the article. Obviously if you spend money on something you're more invested and play it longer, but how do you earn that kind of reputation? Indie apps and games are made usually by extremely small companies if not some dude in his bedroom, so there's no marketing budget. It's all word of mouth. When I got my first iPhone Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride were the big thing (both paid apps at the time) and Halfbrick Studios earned my loyalty. People aren't going to pay five bucks for an app if they don't know what they're getting, this is true, even though let's face it, if you've already got an iPhone 5S in your pocket $5 is really not a lot of money. It's odd how people will buy a stack of $80 games for their Xbox but $2 for an app? Ridiculous! I'll get a free one! Oh, the free one literally gives you cancer. Never mind then.

        I don't think we're seeing a market where paid apps are failing because of free alternatives. It's just that most apps aren't very good and wouldn't be tried out at all unless they were free to begin with. Occasionally something like Flappy Bird goes viral and the dev makes a lot of money despite the game being terrible.

      Yeah my son spent a whole weekend playing that Dungeon Keeper game on his iPad and when they released the original for free, we loaded that up and dropped the iPad version like a bad habit!

    geez it must be disheartening for developers to know that most people uninstall their 'game' barely 24 hours after installing it

      I'd say it's disheartening for publishers because they've lost sales. Developers probably expect it.

      Probably not too disheartening considering that's about as long as it takes to make these games.

      It's more the company culture that would be disheartening. Free to play games are mostly designed to be created cheaply and as long as you get a few whales, it doesn't matter if people uninstall it after the first day. Once the whales start leaving, you just throw together a new one and ride the cash flow until the cycle repeats anew. Any developer making F2P games is going to be pretty aware that their work will be seen as more or less disposable.

    the free-to-play audience is fickle, transient and — for the most part — pretty cheap when it comes to spending money on free-to-play products.

    i love how its worded that the problem is with consumers not playing the games for long enough or spending enough money.

    i could have made up those statistics and told you the same answer without having to conduct research.

    the absolute truth is that most free to play games are rubbish and their microtransactions aren't very micro. the 0.15% that make the 50% revenue are usually the ones who like to be #1 because without microtransactions they have no edge over the rest of the player base.

    in my personal opinion, i'd rather spend money on i'll actually enjoy like Steam sales or currently titanfall not some crap ass mobile game that gives very little value at all.

    Mobile gamers aren't gamers (and yes, I really hate defining the term). They're people who are bored. They're the people waiting the bus, they're the people waiting for their power to come back on, they're the people waiting for their meal, they're the people waiting for their tires to get fitted, etc. They'll download an app, piss-fart around with it for a few minutes, then go back to their lives.

    This isn't a new thing, when mobiles first came out everybody either spent their time texting each other, being overly excited that they can communicate with someone on a different bus, or playing Snake.

    Should the first word in the title be 'Only' instead of 'On'.

    This data points to the same thing as others, the money apparently comes from people with gaming addiction problems.

    It is such a shame microtransactions exist, it is really ruining games. It makes much more sense to make a free-to-start game and hope to hit the transactions cash-cow, than to make a great game and just charge a couple of bucks for it.

    I miss getting the free demo and then just paying a single cost for the full game if you liked it.

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