If you guessed less than 24 hours, you’re a winner.  Which means if you’re a mobile game developer spending money to acquire new users, you probably are not a winner.  

In an exclusive to Re/code, Swrve revealed the results of a 90-day tracking survey of 10 million players, indicating that 19% of players open a game only once and 66% stop playing within the first 24 hours.  Of the player that stay, 53% of their spending occurs within the first seven days of playing.  

Meaning, the average game player will leave a game within 24 hours, and the average game spender will be of little value after the first week.




If the name Swrve sounds familiar, they are the firm that released a study earlier this year that suggested that .15% of all mobile gamers are responsible for 50% of total revenues.

Swrve is a mobile analytics and optimization firm specializing in A/B testing, especially in the first moments of game play, so they have skin in the game to sound the alarm about mobile retention.   In an interview with Re/Code, Swrve CEO Hugh Reynolds likens a new player of a mobile game to a customer who walks into a retail store.  In the same way a salesperson can size of up a potential customer and pitch a sale in real-time, mobile game companies can do the same thing with mobile analytical tools like Swrve.

The problem is that Swrve may be doing too good of a job with their PR when issuing these alarmist reports (though I feel wrong calling something alarmist when it’s probably highly accurate).  

If these numbers are true about the bounce rate of players in free-to-play games, there is no analytics firm in the world that can fix this problem.  




The core issue is that there are no costs to download a mobile game and no costs to leave, since over 90% of all games on iTunes and 98% of games on Google Play are now free-to-play.  The longer you give away games for free, the more you create a habit of gamers no longer paying. The exceptions being a game that’s genuinely become addictive enough to play, kids who click and are tricked into buying items by mistake, or adults with addictive personalities (e.g., gambling problems).

This should give pause to the powers that be at Apple and Google.  In the same way the NFL may be screwed as more data on concussions and brain damage result in less athletes playing football, more reports like this will convince developers to stop creating mobile games.

Then again, App Annie’s latest report pegged the mobile app industry at 102 billion annual downloads and $26 billion in revenues.

It’s becoming impossible for the average game developer to make money in mobile games, but those making money are making a lot of it.  Until the total numbers stops growing, there will always be game developers willing to dream the impossible dream.