Mobile Mavens

Should mobile developers be aiming to build GTA V style hype?

Should mobile developers be aiming to build GTA V style hype?

Grand Theft Auto V

has hit the shelves, and queues that would make Apple jealous sprang up at midnight on launch day at retail outlets across the globe.

Much of the demand for GTA V, of course, stems from the fact that it's over five years since its predecessor hit the shelves.

The immediate question that crossed our minds, however, was whether any mobile games will ever be able to build hype in this manner, or whether they'd even want to.

So, we asked the Mavens:

Should big mobile IP be looking to build hype for releases in a GTA V fashion and, if so, how could they do it?

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative


This is an interesting question.

At first impulse I want to say yes. Eventually a mobile app will create the same kind of draw at GTA V, or we should at least be striving as mobile developers to deliver a game that has as much demand.

However, after thinking about it for a bit, the way GTA V is sold creates opportunities that are not really present in the mobile space, i.e. the pre-order system.

For months people have been pre-ordering their copy of GTA V and these orders have just been queuing up until the release date, at which time all the purchases happen within the same day making it seem like the revenue was earned at once.

A more realistic view is to say that the $800 million that Rockstar earned happened in a two month period, growing as it got closer to launch.

Sure there were lots of lines at local game stores, but I bet the revenue from pre-orders was much greater.

Pre-orders just don't make sense in the digital space. You can buy it as soon as it's available wherever you are and there is no running out of physical media at the local store.

Personally, I would love for there to be a pre-order mechanism in the App Store where I can hype my game for a year and have people commit to purchasing it without getting feedback on whether its good or not. I would probably get a lot better at making awesome teasers.

As far as hype goes, I think that hype works much better in an environment where a user can commit to a pre-order right when they see the latest gameplay video or sneak peek. You can sell them on a short video and rack up the purchase immediately.

On mobile (or any digital platform), hype is not nearly as effective. They can't commit to buying it until the release date so if you start hyping it a year early, you have to hope that they will remember your game later on.

Because of this, marketing and press opportunities for mobile are better exercised after the release date.

Maybe some hype before, but the major push needs to happen when your customer can commit to the purchase. If you are going for an evergreen title I would rather see a slow start that builds momentum rather that an all-out launch that dies as soon as your feature ends.

It will be interesting to see how the console industry changes as it transitions to digital.

Instead of reading about long lines and record revenue, I'm sure we would be getting reports about servers being down and people having to wait a long time to download their game.

David MacQueen Executive Director Strategy Analytics

I'm going to throw this out there.

GTA V back-of-an-envelope calculation: $800 million at $70 a copy equals 11 million copies sold in less than a week.

Plants vs. Zombies 2: 25 million downloads in two weeks.

Seems a pretty similar scale in terms of number of gamers. Revenues will be totally different, of course.

Oscar Clark Consultant, Co-Founder Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

True, but take off the production, distribution and marketing costs, and Plants vs. Zombies 2 can't be that far off – and, of course, the publisher and platform shares. Let alone the sunk costs associated with building up such an iconic brand.

Games like Candy Crush, Hayday and Clash of Clans are generation $1-1.5 million each per day, and although they have significant acquisition and support costs, their business models are both more sustainable and I suspect in the end more profitable for the developers themselves.

I'm not trying to take anything away from the phenomenal success of Grand Theft Auto V so far (and I applaud the achievement), but it strikes me that this 'hit' driven business is not something I'd learn all that many lessons from – except perhaps the enormous value of an iconic and troublesome brand identity.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Ideas Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

David – I've delved a bit into the numbers – which, I know, is more your area than mine – but it seems like the comparison isn't equal at all.

If Plants vs. Zombies 2 has hit 25 million installs in two weeks, then using the rule of thumb that about 4 percent of players will spend on in-app purchases, you only have 1 million paying users.

If we assume the average IAP spend of a paying user applies, then this is $14 per user (according to Flurry), resulting in $14 million revenue in over two weeks.

And even the $14 million doesn't reflect that the revenue is unlikely to all come in two weeks from those paying users, or the percentage of app installs that are either deleted or never opened.

Contrast that to Friday's Rockstar announcement that sales of Grand Theft Auto V had earned it $500 million in the first 24 hours. It doesn't have to worry about uninstalls or the issues of ARPPU vs. ARPU.

Not that equal, then, unless I've missed something?

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

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jon jordan
While GaaS title might have a much longer life-cycle than more linear content, there will always be a commercial interest in releasing a sequel to a popular game because eventually even your top spending players churn out.

A sequel is a key re-engagement hook.
Oscar Clark
John's last point is right - there probably will be a big gap even taking into account the production/distribution costs; but using average IAP as a measure is the wrong comparison. If we are looking at GTAV we need to compare IAP for similarly powerful f2P games brands which may well have users paying out a lot more than this every month.

Perhaps PVZ2 isn't that comparison... but perhaps Clash of Clans or Candy Crush are better choices
Phil M
I think there's something to be said between the difference of releasing new games, GTA 1-5 and updates to existing games, which is how it is on mobile. There might never be a CoC 2-5 externally, because the game is continually evolving (I presume) internally, so what would Supercell hype?