Flurry recently quantified China’s meteoric adoption of iOS and Android applications. While China ranked 10th in application sessions at the beginning of 2011, it finished the year in 2nd place, only behind the United States. With its large population and rapidly emerging middle class, adoption of apps vaulted China into the position of world’s 2nd largest app economy. In additional analysis, Flurry also determined that China has the most market upside, based on calculating those in China who can afford smartphones versus the current installed base.
This report reveals that, for the first time ever, China now leads in new smart device adoption (iOS and Android smartphones and tablets). We also update app usage velocity trends for China and the rest of the world, since first studying this late last year. For this report, Flurry used its entire data set, tracking more than 1 billion anonymous, aggregated application sessions per day. More than 60,000 companies use Flurry Analytics across more than 160,000 applications.
China's Growth Spurt
Let’s start with a look at the fastest growing countries, as measured by app session growth.
Comparing Q1 of 2011 versus Q1 2012, the chart above shows the ten fastest growing countries in terms of app sessions. A session is the launch and use of an application. For example, a consumer who opens a news application and then spends two minutes reading various articles counts as one session. Starting on the left, China leads the world in app session growth, with an enormous growth rate of more than 1100% between Q1 2011 and Q1 2012. China’s growth rate is particularly staggering given that it was already the world’s 7th largest country in terms of app sessions by the end of Q1 2011. This speaks to the country’s sheer population as well as increasing affluence among a meaningful part of its population. Please note that we project the last ten days of Q1 2012.
Building an App? Go East, Young Man!
We next study new device activations between China and the U.S., with amazing results.
The above chart shows new iOS and Android device activations per month in the U.S. and China for the last 15 months, from January 2011 through March 2012. In January 2011, the U.S. accounted for 28% of the world’s total iOS and Android device activations, while China accounted for 8%. In February, Flurry calculated that China surpassed the United States in monthly new iOS and Android device activations for the first time in history. China is now the world’s fastest growing smart device market. For March, we project that China will account for 24% of all iOS and Android device activations, while the U.S. will account for 21%. Again, please note that we project the several days of March to round out Q1 2012.
With China now activating more devices per month than the U.S., this means that the gap is closing between the two countries in terms of installed base. Not only is China already the second largest app economy, but also could eventually overtake the U.S. as the country with the largest installed base of smart device users. We estimate that the U.S., a more mature market, currently has more than twice as many active devices than China. However, China, a faster growing, emerging market, already has twice as large an installed base as the next largest market, the UK.
Apps Without Borders
In this last chart, Flurry looks at the shift in application usage across the world.
The chart above compares mobile app sessions tracked by Flurry Analytics in Q1 2011 versus Q1 2012. The green area shows the percent of app sessions occurring in the United States, the leading mobile app market. While the absolute number of sessions in the U.S. has more than doubled between Q1 2011 and Q1 2012, its share of total sessions has declined from 56% to 46%. In other words, while the U.S. app market is growing rapidly, the rest of the world is growing even faster. Looking at the balance of the top 10 countries (ranks 2 – 10: China, UK, South Korea, France, Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany and Spain), this group has increased in collective sessions by 3.4 times between Q1 2011 and Q1 2012, resulting in an increase in total session-share from 27% to 30%. Further, the rest of the world (another 217 countries across which Flurry tracks user sessions), has grown by more than 4 times, increasing in session-share from 17% to 24%.
No matter how we slice it, the application market continues to grow at unprecedented rates, and increasingly across more borders. With smart devices adoption rates more than four times greater than those witnessed during the 1980s PC revolution and twice as great as those seen during the 1990s Internet Boom, no other consumer technology has been more accessible than smart device application software. It’s literally taking over the world.
Before Harry met Sally in the late ‘80s, the dating process typically involved an introduction from a friend. Then, with the Internet and email, dating evolved. By the time we were watching the movie You’ve Got Mail - and actress Meg Ryan was cementing her status as a romantic comedy lead - the concept of online dating was going main stream.
As a social ritual, dating is a human behavior easily accelerated by technology. And it’s big business. One recent study estimated that nearly 1 in 5 singletons, who have access to the Internet, use Internet dating. Another report stated that 17% of recent marriages in the U.S. were the result of online dating websites. In size, combining North American and European markets, the online dating industry well exceeds $2 billion in revenue. Within the world of mobile apps, the largest category on iOS and Android, behind gaming, is Social Networking, in which dating apps appear. Given the voracious consumer usage we’re observing, it may also be the smartphone’s second killer app.
In this report, Flurry compares the usage of dating websites (combined desktop and mobile web) to native mobile applications over the past 12 months. For Internet consumption, we built a model using publicly available data among the top 50 dating websites from Compete.com, comScore and Alexa.com. For mobile application usage, we used Flurry Analytics data, which now tracks over 90,000 mobile applications. With respect to dating, Flurry tracks a large set of dating apps with more than 2 million total users.
Let’s start with total time spent on eDating in mobile apps versus on the web. Note that for this report, we use the term “eDating” to encompass online and mobile app dating.
As you can see, mobile dating apps now command more time compared to online dating sites: 8.4 minutes vs. 8.3 minutes. A year ago, people spent more than twice as much time on the Internet for dating as they now do in mobile apps. However, mobile app usage has increased dramatically over the last year, from 3.7 minutes in June 2010 to 8.4 minutes in June 2011, overtaking online dating time spent. These findings parallel Flurry’s recent report that showed, in total, mobile app usage has overtaken Internet usage.
In terms of engagement, frequency of use is driving growth in time spent per day in mobile dating apps. Last year, the average user opened his dating app 2 times per day, a little under 2 minutes each time. Now he opens his app over 5 times a day, but for shorter periods of time, about 1.5 minutes per session.
Next, let’s look at the proportion of people who use the Internet vs. mobile apps for eDating.
The chart above shows that dating apps are more popular on smartphones than online dating sites are on the Internet. We measured this by looking at the proportion of unique users of dating services versus the total, per platform. For the Internet, we compared unique visitors of online dating sites versus the total number of people using the Internet, which totaled 12% in June 2010 and 13% in June 2011. For mobile apps, we compared unique users of mobile dating apps versus all apps, which yielded 15% in June 2010 and 17% in June 2011.
We also found that the number of people using dating apps is growing faster than the number using all apps. In short, dating is a growth category. Overall, the number of unique users of all applications increased 125%, year-over-year, while the number of unique users using mobile dating apps increased by 150% over the same period. Comparing Internet dating to mobile app dating directly, unique users in mobile dating apps now account for about one third compared to the number of Internet dating users, which has doubled over the last year.
In an age where Facebook allows consumers to display their relationship status and easily connect to friends of friends, we speculate why mobile dating apps are gaining unprecedented traction on iOS and Android. The first reason, we believe, is that dating itself is inherently local and better served by mobile. Now, unplanned meetings of two nearby matches is more of a possibility. Secondly, it seems that mobile apps facilitate better engagement throughout the day. Today’s eDater need not be in front of her computer to view potential matches, or to receive or send messages. Her phone is always by her side. Our engagement numbers regarding frequency and session length, described above, support this trend.
iOS and Android devices are versatile multi-purpose machines that have already significantly impacted the business models of music, games and other Media & Entertainment industry categories. And now, within the nexus of mobile-social-local, mobile dating apps appear to be looking for love in all the right places.
In this new age of mobile computing, the long-term success of Apple and Google depends largely on their ability to amass third-party developer support. Developer innovation improves the way consumers connect with others, entertain themselves, work, and more, all through apps. The more a platform provider can attract unique and superior content, the more appealing the hardware device appears to consumers prior to purchase and the more loyal they become afterwards.
Last week, Apple reported that it had sold a cumulative 200 million iOS devices. Currently the App Store contains more than 425,000 apps, with total downloads surpassing 15 billion. From the developer’s point of view, the most attractive aspect of the iOS consumer audience is that they all have credit cards on file with iTunes. This means 100% of them can seamlessly pay for apps and in-app purchases. All told, the App Store offers a powerful business opportunity to developers and has attracted leading mobile developer support.
At the same time, Google’s more open Android OS distribution strategy has garnered the support of numerous notable OEMs, spawning a rapidly growing installed base of Android devices that is gunning to overtake the iOS installed base. With broader distribution across more carriers, Android device activations surpassed 500,000 per day tweeted Andy Rubin last month. This growth is up from 300,000 activations per day reported just last December. In terms of apps, the Android Market has 200,000, and Google said it crossed the 4.5 billion downloaded application mark in May.
At Flurry, we regularly track developer support across the various platforms that compete for their allegiance. When companies create new projects in Flurry Analytics, they download platform-specific SDKs for their apps. Since resources are limited, the choices developers make in building for different platforms strongly signal their confidence in those platforms. They are literally investing their R&D budgets in the hopes of generating future revenue. In total, over 45,000 companies use Flurry Analytics across more than 90,000 applications. For this report, we compare Q1 to Q2 new project starts.
Studying the numbers, it’s readily apparent that Android has lost developer support to iOS. Specifically, Android new project starts have dropped from 36% in Q1 to 28% in Q2. Overall, total Flurry iOS and Android new project starts grew from 9,100 in Q1 to 10,200 in Q2. Of note, this drop in Android developer support represents the second quarter-over-quarter slide, which follows a year of significant, steady growth for the Google-built OS. Over the course of 2010, Android developer support had steadily climbed each quarter, peaking at 39% in Q4 2010.
Considering the events that could have precipitated this shift in developer support, Flurry has identified two probable causes:
1. iPhone Launch on Verizon: With iPhone’s arrival on Verizon in February 2011, three and half years after launching on AT&T, Apple closed the most significant vulnerability gap in its U.S. distribution, and likely worldwide. In fact, with its lengthy exclusive distribution agreement of iPhone on AT&T, it could be argued that Apple itself gave Android the opportunity to reach critical mass on other carriers, most notably Verizon. In that time, Google, Verizon and a host of OEMs worked hard and fast to push Android devices as an alternative to AT&T’s iPhone juggernaut. With Verizon’s launch of the iPhone, the pendulum appears to have swung back in favor of iPhone over Android development.
2. iPad 2 Launch: Establishing an installed base of more than 20 million tablet devices in less than one year, the iPad success story has been compared to taking a buzz-saw to the PC industry. Apple’s iPad shipments, from its last disclosed quarter, were higher than the initial first two quarters of iPad availability. Apple has additionally claimed that it is seeing the “mother of all backlogs.” Building efforts lag behind consumer demand for the device. We believe that wholesale consumer acceptance and adoption of tablets, which just a year ago was questionable within the industry, is further luring developers to build for iPad instead of Android.
While Android’s device installed base continues to surge, ongoing work to improve the Android Market layout and to push forward the adoption of Google Checkout are critical to its success. PayPal’s recent acquisition of mobile payment player, Zong, demonstrates that Google may not be enabling consumer payment quickly or well enough, which is inviting 3rd party competition and creating billing fragmentation. Furthermore, the development community is concerned about the rising cost of deploying across the Android installed base, due to the double whammy of OS and storefront fragmentation. With developers pinched on both sides of the revenue and cost equation, Google must tack aggressively at this stage of the race to ensure that Apple doesn’t continue to take its developer-support wind.
To free, or not to free
Among the most common questions we get from game developers is whether the free-to-play (a.k.a. freemium) model makes sense for their next game. For teams that have always charged players up-front with a premium pricing model, the thought of distributing games for free makes them very uncomfortable. I made the switch myself when I joined a free-to-play social games startup as a Studio Director in 2009, so I’m well aware of both the anxiety and the opportunity.
To best answer this question, I decided we should do it the Flurry way: with hard data. To do so, we compared the revenue generated by pricing model, freemium vs. premium, among the top 100 grossing games in January and June of this year. Premium simply means charging for the download (e.g., $0.99). Freemium describes the free-to-play model, where the game is given away for free, and then the consumer can purchase virtual currency and/or virtual goods through in-app-purchases. Tracking over 90,000 apps with its analytics service, Flurry can measure the amount of revenue generated per ranked position in the App Store top grossing category. The chart below compares the proportion of revenue generated by each model.
Inspecting the chart, we see that free games already represented 39% of the games revenue generated by Apple’s App Store in January, but that number has since risen to 65% last month. The traction of the freemium business model is undeniable and growing fast. In fact, with games often occupying more than 75% of all top 100 grossing apps in the app store, it’s the single most dominating business model in the mobile apps industry today.
Unleashing the beast
In the old paid world of video games, success was measured by multiplying the number of units sold by the unit price, the traditional retail model. In the new world of digital games distribution, it’s all about how many players you can keep engaged with your free game, followed by how many compelling spending opportunities you can provide them.
When you make your game free and add in-app purchases, two powerful things can happen: first, more people will likely try your game since you’ve made the “ante” zero; and second, you will likely take more total money, since different players can now spend different amounts depending on their engagement and preferences. It’s not unheard of for individual players to spend into the tens of thousands in a game they like.
Flurry data shows that the number of people who spend money in a free game ranges from 0.5% to 6% depending on the quality of the game and its core mechanics. Although this means that more than 90% of players will not spend a single penny, it also means that players who love your game spend much more than the $0.99 you were considering charging for the app. And since you gave away the game for free, your “heavy spender” group can be sizable.
Free-to-play is here to stay. If you’re a game studio, you simply need to understand how to take advantage of this game-changing opportunity. In future posts, I’ll cover strategies and tactics you can employ to make this powerful model work best for you.
Although the Internet entered the mainstream a mere 15 years ago, life without it today is nearly incomprehensible. And our use of the web has rapidly changed as well. In simple terms, it has evolved from online directories (Yahoo!) to search engines (Google) and now to social media (Facebook). Built on the desktop and notebook PC platform, the web’s popularity is significant.
Today, however, a new platform shift is taking place. In 2011, for the first time, smartphone and tablet shipments exceed those of desktop and notebook shipments (source: Mary Meeker, KPCB, see slide 7). This move means a new generation of consumers expects their smartphones and tablets to come with instant broadband connectively so they, too, can connect to the Internet.
In this report, Flurry compares how daily interactive consumption has changed over the last 12 months between the web (both desktop and mobile web) and mobile native apps. For Internet consumption, we built a model using publicly available data from comScore and Alexa. For mobile application usage, we used Flurry Analytics data, now exceeding 500 million aggregated, anonymous use sessions per day across more than 85,000 applications. We estimate this accounts for approximately one third of all mobile application activity, which we scaled-up accordingly for this analysis.
Our analysis shows that, for the first time ever, daily time spent in mobile apps surpasses desktop and mobile web consumption. This stat is even more remarkable if you consider that it took less than three years for native mobile apps to achieve this level of usage, driven primarily by the popularity of iOS and Android platforms. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
The preceding chart compares the average number of minutes consumers spend per day in mobile native apps vs. the web. For mobile apps, Flurry tracks iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and J2ME. And for the web, our figures include the open web, Facebook and the mobile web.
Flurry found that the average user now spends 9% more time using mobile apps than the Internet. This was not the case just 12 months ago. Last year, the average user spent just under 43 minutes a day using mobile applications versus an average 64 minutes using the Internet. Growing at 91% over the last year, users now spend over 81 minutes on mobile applications per day. This growth has come primarily from more sessions per user, per day rather than a large growth in average session lengths. Time spent on the Internet has grown at a much slower rate, 16% over the last year, with users now spending 74 minutes on the Internet a day.
As a note of interest, Facebook has increasingly taken its share of time spent on the Internet, now making up 14 of the 74 minutes spent per day by consumers, or about one sixth of all Internet minutes. Considering Facebook’s recent leak regarding Project Spartan, an effort to run apps within its service on top of the mobile Safari browser, thus disintermediating Apple, it appears Facebook seeks to counter both Apple and Google’s increasing control over consumers as mobile app usage proliferates.
Games & Social Networking Dominate Mobile App Usage
With mobile app usage soaring, Flurry additionally studied which categories most occupy consumers’ time. For this snapshot, Flurry captured time spent per category from May 2011 across all apps it tracks, now totaling more than 85,000. The results are shown in the pie chart below.
The chart clearly shows that Games and Social Networking categories capture the significant majority of consumers’ time. Consumers spend nearly half their time using Games, and a third in Social Networking apps. Combined, these two categories control a whopping 79% of consumers’ total app time. Further, as we drill down into the data, consumers use these two categories more frequently, and for longer average session lengths, compared to other categories. Any way we slice it, Games and Social Networking apps deliver the most engaging experience on mobile today.
With a better understanding of how consumers spend their time across app categories, Facebook’s Project Spartan makes even more sense. As a category, social networking – which is Facebook’s core competency – commands the second largest allocation of consumers’ time. Games, which typify the most popular kind of app played on the Facebook platform itself, are also the top categories on both Android and iOS platforms. As interactive media usage continues to shift from the web to mobile apps, one thing is certain: Facebook, Apple and Google will all expend significant resources to ensure that no one company dominates owning the direct relationship with the consumer.
In 2006, European mobile analysts dubbed mobile the “seventh mass media channel” following print, recordings (e.g., albums, cassettes, DVDs, etc.), cinema, radio, television and the web. However, mobile failed to fulfill its promise. For mobile to have reached its true potential as a mass media channel, it needed to overcome slow and expensive carrier data networks, poorly managed carrier decks, and a heavily fragmented handset base which featured a myriad of small screens, weak processors, confusing user interfaces and clumsy WAP browsers. With so much friction in the channel, content creators were stymied in their ability to deliver compelling experiences to consumers, making mobile look far more like a niche than mass media channel.
Then, in 2007, the iPhone changed everything. In addition to unleashing a prolific media device, Apple wrested control of the storefront from carriers, convinced carriers to offer flat-rate data plans to consumers, tapped into blazing Wi-Fi as a pipe and shipped a useful mobile browser. Most importantly, they built a low-friction, robust channel through which content creators could distribute smartphone apps to consumers: the App Store.
In a few short years, with Apple as a game-changing catalyst, applications have already been downloaded tens of billions of times. Research firm, In-Stat, forecasts there will be 48 billion app downloads in 2015. With their success, apps already challenge the television in terms of reach and the Internet in terms of engagement.
For this report, Flurry used data from over 45,000 companies across their more than 85,000 applications. Flurry Analytics tracks over 15B user sessions per month across iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and J2ME.
Unprecedented and Accelerating Reach
The chart above shows the number of people actively using apps on their smartphones in May 2011 across the top five European markets. Flurry calculates active smartphones by first measuring its own penetration across these devices via apps into which Flurry Analytics has been integrated. For example, Flurry detects roughly 85% of all iOS and Android devices worldwide. We then grossed this number up, by country, for our estimates.
Combined, the top five European markets – the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – actively use apps on 46 million devices each month. With a combined population of just over 240 million, for ages 13 and over, the addressable market through smartphone apps averages approximately 20% of the largest, most affluent European countries. Additionally, with a month-over-month growth rate (Compounded Monthly Growth Rate, CMGR) of more than 10% over the last two years, we project the installed base of smartphones will more than double over the next 12 months alone.
In the chart below, we show the smartphone app audience as a percentage of each top European country’s population, again ages 13 and over. The UK leads in penetration with a whopping 33% of its population using apps on smartphones per month. France places second with a sizable 20%, next followed by Germany, Spain and Italy coming in with 14%, 9% and 10%, respectively.
After having established the percent of each country’s monthly population that can be reached through smartphone apps, we next look at the pace of smartphone adoption, by country.
The chart above shows just how quickly the base of devices running smartphone apps is growing by country. While the UK and France are the most penetrated to date, as a percentage of their countries' populations, the laggard countries are closing the gap in terms of growth. Spain leads in growth of its active smartphone user base with a monthly growth rate of 14%. Germany and Italy’s active smartphone bases are both growing at 11%. Additionally, France and the UK continue to grow, month-over-month, by 7% and 6.7%, respectively.
With growing adoption of iOS and Android-based smartphones, the imminent release of Nokia phones based on Windows Phone 7, and the fact that the majority of consumers actively use applications, we predict that the growth of this mass market media channel will continue to grow until near total smartphone market saturation. To underscore just how aggressively this channel is growing, if we assumed the growth of smartphone adoption continued at their current rates, all five countries would have full smartphone penetration in just over two years.
Games and Social Networking Rule
Flurry tracks the total number of application use sessions, from when consumers start app sessions to when they end them, and groups these sessions into categories such as games, news and travel. The top categories ranked by session usage worldwide are: Games, Social Networking, Sports & Entertainment and News.
The graph below shows how consumer usage varies by app category across the top five European markets.
With the exception of Italy, the games category is the most popular app category across all countries. In Italy, the one country where the games category does not lead, Social Networking is the top category, with 38% of Italians using Social Networking apps compared to other categories.
Comparing each country’s proportion of usage by category, more consumers play games in France than compared to other countries – a massive 45% of all French app sessions are Games. In Spain, a greater percentage of the Spanish population consumes news compared to other countries, and the UK leads in relative Sports & Entertainment app consumption. In all 5 countries, the 4 top categories make up 80% of all traffic.
Solid App Retention and Engagement
In May 2011, the average worldwide 6-month retention rate for all apps was 36%. In other words, of all consumers who downloaded an app over the last six months ago, 36% had used that same app within the last 7 days of May (Flurry looks at “last 7 days” for its retention metric).
Continuing to look at the top 5 European countries, all have posted 6-month retention rates of greater than 30%. The chart below breaks out each countries 6-month retention rate compared to the worldwide average.
Reviewing the chart, we note that the UK leads in retention with 38%, followed by France at 37%, Germany at 34% and then Spain and Italy at 32% and 31.5%, respectively. Generally, we see a correlation between the maturity of a given market and app retention. We observe that consumers typically try several apps before they settle into using a group of favorites, which they then use several times per week, even per day. In less developed countries, we often see much more app experimentation. The five countries we review for this report are clearly all highly developed economies.
As a mass market media channel, smartphone apps not only reach a sizable audience today, but also continue to grow at staggering rates. The channel is already formidable with no signs of slowing. Smartphone app consumers are highly engaged and consider their smartphone among their most important personal possessions; we believe the 8th mass market media channel has indeed arrived in Europe.
In the United States, Thanksgiving weekend sales are closely studied to predict consumer spending for the upcoming holiday season. This year, NPD Group reported that the share of shoppers for brick-and-mortar increased by about 6 percent while online shoppers' share grew by 44 percent. Further, according to IBM’s Coremetrics, Cyber Monday online sales already exceeded this year's Black Friday by 31%.
Similarly, over the Thanksgiving weekend, Flurry measured strong growth for new smartphone devices and application downloads. Note that because the mobile device and application download markets continue to grow at accelerating rates, we used a week-over-week vs. year-over-year comparison.
The chart below shows the number of new devices detected by more than 55,000 applications in the market which include Flurry Analytics. The bulk of growth is driven by Apple iOS devices and a number of recent break-out Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S, Motorola Droid 2 and LG Optimus S. Flurry detects a new, unique device the first time an application which includes Flurry Analytics is launched on that device.
Reviewing the chart above, new devices detected on Black Friday jumped by 57% over the previous week's Friday. Total new device growth for the holiday weekend, compared to the same four-day period from the prior week, was 31%. Interestingly, this surge demonstrates that consumers appear to be buying and activating smartphones early in the season for personal use. This early indicator suggests that strong spending on smartphones as gifts throughout the season should continue.
App consumption over Thanksgiving weekend also showed solid growth. However, as the chart below shows, downloads on Thanksgiving Day led all days of the holiday weekend with 54%, versus new handset growth which led on Black Friday. At 39% growth, Black Friday applications were also strong. Total week-over-week download growth was 25%.
Christmas is historically the strongest season of app downloads to mobile phones. As consumers receive new handsets, they immediately personalize their handsets with new content. With early growth indicators for both handset and download growth, Flurry predicts Holiday 2010 will deliver another record-breaking season for application consumption and mobile device sales.
Mass market consumer adoption of Apple iOS and Google Android mobile devices has attracted an unprecedented volume of content, delivered through applications. Because the majority of these applications downloaded are also free, many ecosystem players have assumed that advertising revenue models will dominate how these apps are monetized.
However, new analysis by Flurry reveals that the sale of virtual goods is overtaking advertising in top categories on the iOS platform. Note that because Google’s Android Market does not yet support in-app purchases (micro-transactions), this model is not yet viable for Android apps. This study was conducted using data collected from a sample of leading iOS social networking and social gaming applications, with a combined reach of 2.2 million daily active users.
Reviewing the chart above, the majority of revenue generated from advertising occurs during the 2009 holiday period. During 2010, however, revenue increasingly shifts from advertising to virtual goods sales until reaching a proportion of more than 80% from virtual goods. Admittedly, the idea that consumers acquiring virtual swords, gold coins and respect points can outperform advertising seems counter-intuitive; however, this phenomenon is neither new nor unique to the iOS platform.
In fact, virtual goods sales already represent the primary source of revenue for social gaming on Facebook. Michael Pachter, Wedbush Morgan Securities video game analyst, reports that social gaming has grown from approximately $600 million in 2008 to $1 billion in 2009. Further, he forecasts that social gaming will generate nearly $1.6 billion this year, and grow to more than $4 billion by 2013.
One factor responsible for low advertising levels may be advertising agencies’ slow acceptance of mobile as a media platform, with skepticism about the viability of social games and social mobile media as a channel for advertisement. With these agencies representing and guiding the biggest brands, they appear to be missing a meaningful opportunity to reach a mass market of consumers who have adopted new platforms and forms of content.
As social games continue to expand their consumer reach, demonstrating their ability to attract an audience beyond teenagers using iPod touches, their relevance will increase. In fact, with mobile social game critical mass now rivaling TV prime time viewership, Flurry anticipates a stronger ad revenue generation through mobile social networking and games in 2011. Over the next 18 to 24 months, Flurry predicts strong revenue growth from both virtual goods and advertising revenue from social gaming. We say play on!
On October 5, 2009, CBS canceled "Guiding Light," the longest running television drama in history, which began in 1952. Last month, CBS aired the last episode of "As the World Turns," the Proctor & Gamble production that has been running for more than 50 years. Ad dollars allocated to soaps fell nearly 30 percent from 2005 to 2009, and then fell another 20 percent in the first half of 2010.
Since the 90s, the television industry has been reeling from the disruptive forces of the Internet and DVRs. No longer could the industry depend on a captive audience to which it had grown so accustomed. While the industry has adapted its programming with a glut of cheaper, but profitable competition reality shows and edgier dramas to reclaim a loyal audience, a new entertainment force is once again driving disruption: the iPhone. The chart below illustrates how iOS social games, a popular form of gaming mixed with social networking, stack up against primetime TV viewership.
Social games on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices are competing for television viewers. In fact, these apps, tracked on the Flurry network alone, comprise of a daily audience of more than 19 million who spend over 22 minutes per day using these apps. Treated as a consumer audience, its size and reach rank somewhere between NBC’s Sunday Night Football and ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and only 4 million viewers shy from beating the number one prime-time show on television, FOX’s American Idol.
However, Flurry is only seeing part of the picture. With Flurry integrated into more than 50,000 apps, out of Apple’s stated total of 250,000 apps, Flurry has about 20% penetration. Additionally, since this analysis focuses on only two categories of applications, social games and social networking apps, it’s clear that iOS devices are already ahead of prime time television’s hottest shows.
Given that the app store only launched in July 2008, these figures are staggering. Mass consumption of applications on mobile devices has exploded in record time. Also noteworthy is that the enormous audience these applications reach takes place every day, 365 days a year. Compared to a top television series, which airs 22 episodes a season, advertisers can reach a larger consumer audience through applications 15 times more frequently.
There are a lot of conclusions that can be drawn from this phenomenal shift in audience behavior. The most obvious is the impact on the advertisement industry, which has relied on the reach generated by its prime time television slot for years. This season, while Americon Idol is busy shuffling judges, the people have voted: iOS social games are as prime time as prime time television. Enjoy the show!
More than 30,000 games have been released in the iPhone App Store since its launch in July 2008. With titles that consistently dominate the Top Paid and Top Grossing lists, there is no question that the games category is the most lucrative category in the App Store. This report focuses on how Apple has affected the market share of U.S. video game and portable game revenue since the introduction of games sold through the App Store for iPhone and iPod touch.
Using publicly available market data, provided by NPD (mostly through Gamasutra's Behind the Numbers series), Flurry calculated U.S. console and portable game software sales for 2008 and 2009. We also estimated Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable game software sales, which make up the significant majority of the portable category, in order to compare these to iPhone game sales. We estimate iPhone game sales using a combination of data made available by Apple and using ratios and calculations from an aggregated set of data that we track through our analytics service.
We begin with a look at the U.S. gaming market, which NPD defines primarily as console and handheld. PC gaming, which has been declining over the last decade, and is currently approximately 5% of the total U.S. market, is not included. Also, for this analysis, we ignore online gaming revenue (e.g., virtual goods and subscription fees from social networking games and massively multi-player online games).
Below is our estimation of market share by platform among console, portable and iPhone platforms for 2008 and 2009.
NPD Group shows that combined U.S. console and portable software revenue was approximately $11 billion and $9.9 billion in 2008 and 2009, respectively. After estimating portable sales, we were able to back into console revenues. We then added our own estimates for iPhone game revenue, which total $115 million and $500 million for 2008 and 2009, respectively.
With these figures, our main finding is that iPhone (and iPod touch) is a gaming platform to be reckoned with. Controlling 5% revenue of a $10 billion industry in just a year and a half is significant. From a market share perspective, console games lost ground to portable platforms and iPhone. While the downturn in the economy may have dampened sales of the more expensive console games category, there is no denying that iPhone has generated substantial revenue and entered strongly into a mature industry.
More interesting to us than iPhone's impact on U.S. gaming was its impact on the portable category, which we estimate totaled $2.25 billion and $2.55 billion in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Michael Pachter, managing director at Wedbush Morgan Securities and a prominent video game analyst, suggests "iPod touch is the most dangerous thing that ever happened" to game publishers. As prices come down for the iPod Touch, and games sold through the App Store continue to have lower price points, more of the young gaming generation may switch to Apple devices over Sony PSP and Nintendo DS for gaming. Further, Apple has squarely positioned the iPod Touch as a gaming machine. Check out a TV spot here to get an idea.
From what we calculate, consumers are downloading iPhone games in droves. Comparing iPhone against Sony and Nintendo games sales shows that Apple has taken nearly one fifth of the portable market in 2009, largely at the expense of Sony PSP. With Sony PSP Go, Sony's latest effort to revive its portable sales, having fallen short of expectations, Sony finds itself now challenged by two competitors in this segment.
Looking forward, with the iPad set for an April release, the traditional gaming giants may yet again be disrupted by Apple. With companies like Electronic Arts and Gameloft joining Apple on stage during its January unveiling of the iPad, the tablet device will enjoy elite game publisher support on day one. Further considering data that Flurry released in its latest Smartphone Industry Pulse report, where we determined that more than one third of iPhone game developers come from the traditional gaming industry, Apple has already established broad third-party game publisher support. With the iPad featuring a larger screen and more processing power, games on the tablet take a step closer to PC and console gaming. Unless the other major video game platform providers (i.e., Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft) respond accordingly, Apple could continue to roll up video game market share.