Social publisher King is off to a strong start in 2014 by dominating other companies when it comes to how much time people spend in their games.
Across all of its games, King took up 26 percent of the time smartphone owners spent playing games on Android devices in the first quarter of the year, according to Strategy Analytics’ AppOtix data platform. That’s more than any other single publisher, and Candy Crush Saga — King’s match-3 puzzler with deep social integration — made up the biggest portion of this. This is an important factor that King will likely try to build on to shore up its share price toward its March debut of $22.50. Mobile apps made up a $16 billion market worldwide lastyear, and it is continuing to grow into 2014.
King is also No. 1 at generating play sessions, which measures how many times players open game apps. Words With Friends publisher Zynga is in a close second in this category thanks to its more than 20 titles on mobile. That company may take over this particular metric in the second quarter thanks to the recent release of FarmVille 2: Country Escape, which marks the first mobile version of Zynga’s marquee franchise.
That could hurt King and other developers like Clash of Clans developer Supercell, according to Strategy Analytics.
“Gaming as a category, occupies 13 percent of the time spent across all activities in Q1 2014,” AppOptix chief research Bonny Joy said. “Based on our analysis, a typical user engages with gaming apps 17 minutes per day. Our data suggests, the current market dynamics is a zero-sum game, where time spent on a new title is likely to come at the expense of another.”
This is also likely driving up player acquisition costs as a few big-time developers all fight over the same audience of players.
“Unlike other categories such as social and messaging, where a handful of apps completely dominate the segment, the games category is characterized by a fragmented set of apps,” Strategy Analytics vice president Barry Gilbert said. “AppOptix data suggests publishers are under constant pressure to develop new titles to stay relevant in capturing user attention.”
King has successfully accomplished that — although none of its other games are nearly as popular as Candy Crush Saga. Zynga, meanwhile, is attempting to reestablish its relevancy with the aforementioned FarmVille 2. That publisher continues to see some success with its Words With Friends and Poker games on mobile, but it has lost ground in recent months. Finally, Supercell is currently at the top with two games, Clash of Clans and Hay Day, but if the trend continues, it will need something new to maintain its momentum.
Despite King dominating gamer time on Android, its share price has taken a beating since its March debut. It debuted at $22.50 on March 26, but it immediately dropped several points. It is trading today at around $17. Investors are worried that the developer is too reliant on the revenue from Candy Crush Saga, which is only one game, and King does not appear to have a successor lined up to replace that revenue if the puzzler fizzles out.