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The interactive narrative games taking over the App Store

Why are story-based games on the rise?
The interactive narrative games taking over the App Store

What's the legacy of Glu Mobile's Kim Kardashian: Hollywood?

It's tempting to conclude that although the game was a massive hit, it served only to inspire a wave of progressively less successful celebrity-licensed mobile games from Glu and its competitors.

But for the CEO of Ludia, the Montreal-based developer of What's Your Story?, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is the game that really “broke new ground” and gave rise to the kind of interactive narrative games that are now so ascendant on mobile.

Pocket Gems, the developer of Episode, may disagree. After all, while not an instant hit, its now-market leader was launched back in 2013 – before Glu's hit.

However, there can be little doubt that appetite for these kinds of titles is only increasing, with Pixelberry's Choices: Stories You Play also tearing up the grossing charts since its 2016 release.

But just how big is this growing sector? We took to App Annie's grossing charts to find out.

Chapter one

Episode has built its growth around two pillars: the ability for players to write and publish their own interactive stories, and licensed stories based around the likes of Mean Girls and Demi Lovato.

But in the story of its life on the App Store, only now is it reaching the climax. On January 3rd 2018, Episode hit its current all-time peak of seventh in the US iPhone grossing charts.

As of February 21st, Episode sat at 38th in the US iPhone grossing charts. It's spent a mere three days outside the top 50 in 2018 so far.

It's been performing better than ever before in the UK, too, with the game hitting a current peak of third on the UK iPhone grossing charts on December 31st 2017.

Overall, Episode has been a top 10 grosser in 110 countries.

The plot thickens

But inevitably, it wasn't too long before Episode's format attracted the attention of other developers.

By 2016, Pocket Gems was posting some impressive numbers – including that its Demi Lovato story had generated $13 million – while Pixelberry Studios launched a direct competitor in Choices: Stories You Play.

Pixelberry was already known for narrative-based mobile games, launching High School Story in 2013 and Hollywood U: Rising Stars the year after.

But with Choices, it brought together a number of different stories with different themes in the same app – the same approach taken by Episode.

As of February 21st, Choices: Stories You Play was 21st in the US iPhone grossing charts. It's performed even better than Episode in 2018 so far, having dropped no lower than 36th.

And like Episode, it's currently enjoying its best period. It entered the top 10 on the US iPhone grossing charts for the first time on January 11th, while its peak positions in Australia, Canada and the UK have all also come in 2018.


Lesser-known titles have run with the formula, too.

Nanobit's My Story: Choose Your Own Path also came out in 2016 and has found some success. It ranks at 241st in the US iPhone grossing charts as of February 21st.

It too appears to have benefited from the increased interest in narrative games in recent months, having languished at 942nd in the chart as recently as November 28th 2017.

On January 13th 2018, it entered the top 100 US grossing and hit its current peak of 98th.

In February 2017, Japanese studio Voltage launched the romance-specific title Lovestruck Choose Your Romance. Curiously, it also enjoyed its best ever day on January 13th 2018, rising to 44th in the US iPhone grossing charts.

While the cause of this is unclear – perhaps a themed App Store promotion – that does represent a fairly significant spike for a game that has generally recorded grossing positions somewhere in the 500s throughout 2018.

2017 also saw the release of Chapters: Interactive Stories by China's ChineseAll, which appears to be on a more consistent rise.

From 367th in the US iPhone grossing charts at the end of 2017 to 158th as of February 21st, it's certainly heading in the right direction.

Indeed, its highest grossing positions in the US (141st, February 20th) and the UK (101st, February 17th) have only just been recorded. With its current trajectory, further growth would not be unexpected.

Not an ending

With all its competitors strengthening, one can look at the timing of Ludia's launch of What's Your Story? – January 25th 2018 – in one of two ways.

Is this an opportune moment, or a tough entry point to a market that's more crowded and competitive than ever before? So far, the latter seems closer to the truth.

While there remains plenty of time to deal with teething problems, What's Your Story? has been on begun life with a consistent decline since launch. On February 21st, it hit 674th in the US iPhone grossing charts.

Its current grossing peak was 151st on January 29th, just four days after the game's launch. However, as proved by the games above, the story may not end there and could in fact be just the beginning.