Why would the most popular game in the world snub Google Play?

Epic’s incredible success with Fortnite has left the publisher in a unique position to experiment. Fortnite – part of the Battle Royale series – has achieved widespread success on iOS, ranking as the #1 downloaded game in 119 countries and the #1 grossing game in 113 countries since launch. Across iOS and Google Play combined, Battle Royale mobile games have been downloaded over 600 million times globally and generated over $800 million in consumer spend to date (Aug 8, 2018).

However, Epic is playing a risky game. Its loyal user base exists on iOS, not Android. Instead of banking on its loyal mobile users migrating, it’s hoping the popularity of the mobile game, its virality alone, will encourage Android users to spend time searching outside of Google Play store to test the app.

Epic is playing a risky game. Its loyal user base exists on iOS, not Android. Instead of banking on its loyal mobile users migrating, it’s hoping the popularity of the mobile game, its virality alone, will encourage Android users to spend time searching outside of Google Play store to test the app.

Fortnite has a phenomenal global fan base on iOS. User acquisition is the fundamental stage of an app launch and often the hardest. App store discovery (ASO) is one of the toughest challenges in a crowded market – notwithstanding having to search through other stores depending on the device you have.

Google takes a revenue split in the Google Play store, but both customers and publishers get a lot in return. Google provides a wealth of services in the app store that support publishers’ growth in the app stores. The Google Play store provides a single, trusted location where users can discover apps and install them with very little friction. It makes the process extremely simple for the end user, which increases the likelihood of the app being downloaded or of a purchase being made.

While many in the industry are speculating whether this will become a trend, and whether Google Play will end up feeling the hit, the fact is that most gaming publishers won’t want to make their apps available outside of the app stores. Even if they’re losing 30% of revenue, they lose a lot of benefits in the process.

Publishers’ success would rely heavily upon the payment mechanism; customers are fickle with mobile apps, any friction can cause them to drop any interest at the swipe of a thumb. Manufacturers and telcos would rely much more heavily on carrier integration, so Google would likely see much more competition in the market.

The requirement for frictionless, secure transactions would encourage innovation / expansion of alternative payment methods. If these alternatives become more readily available, it could lead more publishers to question why they are relying on Google Play. However, any friction in the process will have huge impact. With such a saturated market, mobile gamers have little patience for new games that don’t wow within seconds of the first experience.

App Annie forecasts that Android users (including third-party Android in China) will download over 170 billion apps in 2018, equating to 85% of all downloads. That’s 87.04 billion on Google Play and 86.95 billion in Third Party Android in China.

Given the success Fortnite has achieved on iOS, the overall popularity of Battle Royale-style games, and the massive global footprint of Android downloads, we expect Fortnite to see strong demand from Android users.

Given the success Fortnite has achieved on iOS, the overall popularity of Battle Royale-style games, and the massive global footprint of Android downloads, we expect Fortnite to see strong demand from Android users. Google Play’s revenue cut may be painful for some, but for the overwhelming majority of publishers, they’re happy with the service they get in return – a standardised, secure, healthy ecosystem to launch their new apps.

A final point to end with, if publishers are migrating to other stores, then perhaps it’s an opportunity for more competition between the stores. In the same way that the fragmentation of media streaming services has decentralised entertainment options, giving consumers more choice, perhaps we will see the same happening in the app stores. Could we see much more choice between the app stores, with competitive revenue cuts and varying services to publishers?


Nic Beraudo, MD EMEA, App Annie

 

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