With over 656,000 active mobile games in the App Store alone, what makes players keep coming back, while others move on to the next big title? Nielsen Games set out to find the answer by analyzing several games released in the last year that fit the “big bang adoption” curve in a new report, Long Term Mobile Game Success: Beyond Awareness and Adoption. Using titles like Clash Royale, Fallout Shelter and Pokémon GOexamples of exploding downloads upon release, Nielsen studied game retention and found that unmet demand for new content is potentially the cause for fading lack of interest.

The study shows that gamers are generally content with an exciting new mobile game for about three to five weeks before they start to crave new content. Nielsen found this to be true for most titles across the board, regardless of game genre or target audience.  “For newer titles, especially those riding a wave of momentum,” Nielsen notes, “developers should plan to release new content to re-engage their early adopters during this three-to-five week window. Releasing new content while you still have your early adopters engaged not only retains their attention, avoiding the cost associated with bringing back an old consumer, but it puts your new content in the hands of consumers who have already shown a propensity to spread the news about your content, which leads to more free buzz.”


While new content is incredibly important for a mobile title, Nielsen also explored the main elements that engage a player to begin with. The analyst firm found that different game elements are important for male vs. female players. For instance, women value gameplay and social elements more than men. On the other hand, men prefer graphics (particularly in the sports genre) and storylines—especially when it comes to role-playing games (RPGs).

The study also examines what elements are most important across the most popular genres: matching puzzle, role-playing and sports. While gameplay and value are the most valued features in the matching puzzle and RPG genres, graphics are a top priority for sports fans.

Nielsen concluded that developers should place emphasis and more resources behind the features that are most important to their particular genre and target audience. Additional content released at pivotal times will also improve retention based on the information learned. “If developers can re-engage early adopters before they lose interest and switch to a different title,” Nielsen said, “It can prolong the momentum behind mobile games and lead to more sustained user acquisition.”