Data & Research

Social networking apps supersede games at top of the smartphone tree

Games have peaked, say Flurry

Social networking apps supersede games at top of the smartphone tree
Developers working on games for smartphones will increasingly have to "fight over a finite group of consumers" in the coming years, as users increasingly spend more of their time on social networking apps.

That's according to a study published by Flurry, which – for the first time since the firm has been tracking app usage – claims social networking apps on smartphones are now tussling it out with games both in terms of consumer attention and the generation of in-app ad revenue.

Social surge

Flurry's survey of daily smartphone app consumption concludes that, as things stand, the average consumer spends 24 minutes a day on games.

That's equal to the 24 minutes a day they also spend on social networking apps.

Interestingly, an identical study carried out by Flurry during the same period in 2011 found games were the dominant form of app, accounting for 25 minutes of a user's day, well ahead of social networking releases on 15 minutes.

"The most significant trend is that, for the first time in the history of applications - Flurry began tracking application usage in 2008 - another app category is rivalling games," details Flurry's Peter Farago on the firm's blog.

"We take the rise in social networking apps as a signal of maturation for the platform. As game demand may be hitting its saturation point, consumers are also discovering other apps, namely social networking.

"The year-over-year growth in social networking has been staggering. Not only has time spent increased by 60 percent, but also within a growing amount of total time spent in smartphone apps among consumers, from 68 to 77 minutes, or a growth rate of 13 percent."

Ad happy

Perhaps most crucially, Flurry claims stats sourced from AppCircle conclude social networking is also generating more revenue from in-app ads than games, with a 37 percent share to games' 36 percent.

"From inspection, ad revenue in apps is driven primarily by games and social networking categories," adds Farago.

"This is the first time in Flurry’s history that any category has surpassed games in ad revenue generated - Flurry launched AppCircle summer 2010."

The end result, Farago states, is that developers can no longer count on smartphone games growing exponentially. Studios instead will have to fight amongst each other to increase their respective shares of the market.

"As long as the total iOS and Android installed base grows, all categories will continue to grow naturally," he concludes.

"However, as we reach saturation for mobile gaming on a per user basis - one consumer can play only so many free-to-play games - the games category could start behaving more like a 'zero sum game' from here on out, meaning that game companies would have to fight over a finite group of consumers in order to grow their businesses.

"For one app to grow, it would have to take from its competitors. Going forward, the Games category will have to look to innovate on mobile to maintain its dominance and growth."

[source: Flurry]

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.