While mobile games are more popular than ever, they're played out in a way. Most new games that come out are the same old games that have been out for years, just with different themes and skins. Take the new Game of Thrones: Conquest game for example. It's dressed up as a Game of Thrones game but in reality it's just a copy of every other strategy game out there, like Clash of Clans.
So what are appreneurs (app entrepreneurs) to do? How do you stand out from the crowd? Mobile gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry with just under 700 new games being added to Apple's App Store every day. Most games don't make any money at all, so what makes yours so special? Differentiation in mobile is hard and I recently came across one of the best examples of innovation in mobile gaming I've seen in a long time. My hope is that you'll be inspired by the innovation to create something new and broaden the mobile gaming world. At the very least, you should seriously considering working live video into your next venture as this new game did.
Live video in mobile games
I stumbled upon the mobile game HQ: Live Trivia Game Show, a fresh take on the game of trivia. This is a live trivia game complete with an actual host--this live host aspect is what sets this app apart, and players are competing for real money without having to put any up at the start of the game.
The creators are also the creators of the now shuttered app, Vine, so they know a thing or two about our appetite for video. As you might already know, the mobile app economy is a copycat industry and this area of live video in gaming is certainly something I expect to grow even if HQ doesn't find long term success.
Timing is everything
The game only occurs twice a day, at 3pm and 9pm Eastern. Every other mobile game can be played whenever the user wishes. This is potentially a major downfall for the app at the same time, it is potentially its greatest factor in success. Let me explain.
Not being able to play whenever you want in 2017 is going very against the grain as we're an on demand society. If we look at how television has progressed, we see people are watching more and more on their own time and not on the network's. Many of us have previous commitments which means some of us might never be able to play or won't play enough to get hooked. This minimizes the user base for HQ to monetize.
The upside is the excitement, anticipation and social bonding over a live event. Push notifications are a huge factor in user retention and user retention is a huge factor in generating revenue. The push notification for a live game about to start is, in my mind, one of the best push notifications a mobile publisher can send out. It creates actual urgency. Maybe people will even plan their schedules around it if the app creates a loyal enough fan base.
Big revenue potential for a free game
One of the most successful and well known trivia apps is Trivia Crack. According to estimation data from my company, Apptopia, Trivia Crack takes in about $1M in revenue every month between advertising and in-app purchases, also known as IAPs. People love trivia (think about your local bar nights) and it can be lucrative. Right now in HQ: Live Trivia Game Show, you get an extra life for every friend you get to sign up for the game. This is their user acquisition strategy.
Eventually, this extra life will turn into an in-app purchase. Let's say that an extra life costs $1 and there are 20,000 people competing for a $500 prize. Maybe 2,000 people who get eliminated purchase the extra life to get back into the money and now the game has paid for itself a few times over. In addition to IAPs, traditional sponsoring would work well in this format.
This is where you can really leverage the live aspect for your own app. There's an opportunity for branded questions or sponsors of specific questions. Maybe a brand sponsors an entire game and creates a theme. Because it's live video, there could also be short commercial breaks or the host could be wearing a brand's shirt. The mix of live advertising and IAPs looks like a strong one for future mobile games to take advantage of.
You can definitely keep churning out similar games with different themes and make some money. If you want to (pardon my pun) change the game, you need to dream up a format or type of interaction people haven't seen a lot of yet. Live video in mobile games is very new and there's plenty of room for competition if you want to dive in.