King.com has partnered with AppAttach to get its games, including the superpopular and Candy Crush Saga, preinstalled on smartphones direct from the manufacturer.
It’s a new — and old — form of mobile user acquisition — and something that could be increasingly important, as the mobile game industry is on track to hit $20 billion this year.
Preloading software on a device before shipping is a way of ensuring that consumers take at least one look at your software, but it earned a bad rep in the 2000s as manufacturers essentially sold icons on their desktop PCs, resulting in a “crapware explosion.”
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AppAttach, which also works with Kabam, SwiftKey, Spotify, and Big Fish Games, says its methods is different.
“Our goal is to help our device manufacturers learn what’s apps are working and what aren’t so they can provide their users with a set of relevant preloaded apps that drive a better user experience,” AppAttach CEO James DePoy told me via email.
DePoy says the company has placed apps on about three million devices so far, and that’s growing at about a million phones a quarter via 46 smaller device providers, including Lenovo. Typically, the company works rev-share agreements with manufacturers and carriers and app makers, taking a small slice of the proceeds itself. Everything is tracked via an embedded analytics engine, so all parties know what apps actually get opened and used — and what kind of revenue players generate in those apps.
The big question for app developers, of course, is: Does it work?
“We’re raising preload conversion rates,” DePoy said. “It’s tough to give a specific percentage given the difference on a device-by-device basis, but they generally perform much better than say in-app advertising across the board.”
User acquisition is getting tougher and tougher for app developers, so this is not a surprising development. How successful it will ultimately be is dependent on how good AppAttach is at predicting what apps will be useful for users in various locales — and whether they can start to do deals with bigger manufacturers and carriers.
DePoy says it’s a growing trend, and bigger partners are coming on board:
“Today we’re working with about 46 device providers. Very global in nature, with an early focus on South America. Some of these are long-tail providers and we’re moving into second tier providers.”
Other recent additions include Yahoo!, Shazam, and Maxthon.