Presented by Google for Games

Catch up on the other articles from Google for Games in this series covering a wide range of topics that help developers take their games to the next level. Find them all here.

Mobile games continue to make up an important part of the larger games industry. Of the 3 billion global players, 50% of total revenue comes from mobile games.

But mobile gaming isn’t a market where you can throw any idea at the wall and watch it stick, as players’ needs continue to evolve and change. The Google for Games 2022 Mobile Insights Report found players continue to value diversity across storylines and characters, maintain strong opinions regarding monetization, and emphasize localization as being more important than ever.

“Player insights help game companies define their audience, and develop across a range of cultural and regional differences to ensure players’ needs are being met,” says Ashley Black, head of Americas app gaming at Google. “Insights help developers think through the lifecycle for their game more critically as well, so they can better plan for the future of their game.”

Here’s a look at some of the report’s key findings.

Diversity and accessibility can no longer be an afterthought

Diversity and representation has surfaced as a significant element to engage players within game design. When asked about what features they’d like to see in future games, 34% of players said they looked forward to seeing more diverse characters and character creation options. About two-thirds of those surveyed felt that it was very important or extremely important that the games they play include diverse characters, as well as diverse storylines.

All groups, especially younger audiences and those with disabilities, place a high value on having accessibility options. That means adding features like closed captioning or high-contrast color settings to ensure a high-quality gameplay experience for everyone.

Localization is essential

One of the report’s major findings is that effective, thoughtful localization that truly captures an audience’s experience is also important to players. From the game’s language to the game experience (e.g., incorporating culturally relevant quests to the game’s storyline), localization matters when players are choosing a game, or choosing to stay in a game, with 58% saying it’s very important to extremely important that a game’s content is localized to their country or region.

“It’s important that developers understand these cultural and language differences, as gaming is a global pastime,” Black says. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for games, and developers need to create with many unique audiences in mind.”

Even the smallest differences can matter, Black noted. For instance, in the U.S., game prices typically end in .99, whereas in Brazil, it’s better to represent that price as a flat rate, e.g., $1.00 USD or R$5.00.

“These can be very subtle differences, but they make a big impact in terms of how a game is perceived, and ultimately how developers build authenticity with players,” she says.

The time before launch is critical

The report also surfaced some essential insights into game launch in the evolving market. For one, the pre-launch stage is a critical time to lay groundwork for games; developers must take the time to test and iterate long before their title hits the app stores. The research found that 40% of players discard a game when it’s not as much fun as they had hoped, and 29% quit playing because it takes too long or costs too much to proceed to the next level.

These are issues that can be vetted before launch, whether it’s done by testing in-game mechanics through in-house playtests, or by taking advantage of tools in the Play store to run closed and open tests.

Once you’ve launched the game, you need players to find you — and the report revealed many players find their games simply by browsing the Play store for titles that stand out. To make sure your app is speaking to the right audience in the right region organically, you can customize your store listing on Play and optimize your store listing by testing screenshots and icons.

You can also boost your discoverability with an ads strategy. Google App campaigns offer coverage across a broad array of channels: Search, Google Play, YouTube, and through the display network. Powered by machine learning, App campaigns can help you acquire new, valuable players for your game.

The monetization question

To maintain and grow your business, it’s important to understand how players monetize within games. The report found that players are willing to purchase additional content  in their games, and in most regions, they’re spending on in-game currency in order to progress in the game more quickly. In Asia-Pacific regions, however, they most often spend money on customizing the appearance of skins for weapons or characters — which again points out how necessary it is to understand the needs of your local audience, and make sure that you’re catering to each differently.

Overall, hybrid monetization strategies are an effective way to grow your business. The research shows that 75% of mobile players actually believe that in-game ads have a positive or neutral effect on their gameplay experience, making them a powerful way to grow topline revenue.

“Perhaps in the past there may have been some hesitation from IAP-heavy games to also include ads,” Black explains. “But if you’re showing your audience properly curated content, then ads are not as obtrusive as players might have expected.” GungHo, makers of Puzzle and Dragons, partnered with Google to implement ads while keeping a premium experience for players.

Again, to ensure that your game is viable globally, you need to consider your advertising strategy from a regional perspective, focused on how behaviors, preferences, and motivations differ across markets.

Ensuring your game’s longevity

A long-term engagement strategy has to be two-pronged. You can’t just look at why people are staying in your game, but why they might be leaving — because those two aren’t necessarily the same thing. 

“You need to make sure that you’re looking at both the opportunity and the challenges, and that you’re addressing those, again, based on a variety of audiences,” Black says. “The report found that reasons to stay are entirely subjective, and different for each person.”  

Looking into the reasons behind player churn requires staying on top of player feedback. For instance, if there are too many bugs or glitches, you’ll hear about it in your reviews. But directly working with players can be the best way to stay ahead of these issues.

Staying active in gaming communities also helps increase user engagement, both inside and outside of the game, helps build brand credibility, and also helps you truly understand your players.

“The more engaged you are with your gaming community,” explains Black, “the better your ability to improve your game and make sure that you’re speaking to the needs of your players, and what they want.”

To learn more about what players are thinking, saying, and doing, you can view the complete global and regional Google for Games 2022 Mobile Insights reports here.

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