How mobile game developers should combat their biggest competitor: Boredom

When people picture the summer months, they probably imagine long walks on the beach, swimming or cooking on a barbecue. Before too long, though, playing a mobile game could be added to that list.

According to a recent report from market research firm Strategy Analytics, more time is spent playing mobile games outside of the home in the average week. This may be worth keeping in mind for developers who have typically conceived of their target customers huddled with their mobile game while sitting on a couch, in bed or while waiting for an elevator. The report also suggested devs need to better understand the common motivations that shape player behavior -- including the decision to abandon a mobile game or delete it from their smartphone entirely. Strategy Analytics boiled these factors down to four things: daily incentives for accessing and playing the game, game incentives for viewing advertisements, daily timeouts for game play and frequent game updates. Here's what the report's authors' said:

"Boredom and completing a game are two primary reasons consumers delete mobile games. Daily timeouts for game play could prevent overuse and game deletion brought on by boredom, while frequent game updates are also more likely to keep users more interested and less likely to delete a game."

In other words, people want to stay challenged, and no ending is a happy ending, at least from the perspective of a mobile game developer that wants to build a real business. Strategy Analytics said that mobile ad incentives could even be triggered if a consumer has stopped playing a game. While that may help with monetization, though, it won't address the larger issue of keeping players engaged over the long term. 

As with traditional console and PC games, mobile games need to strike that difficult balance between being accessible enough for people to take part -- which may be why simpler, casual gaming has taken off in recent years -- with being difficult enough that a single session won't do. If boredom is the enemy of mobile game developers, it may be best for them to think of the entertainment value they provide as a sort of utility, and keep in mind what Larry Page has said about Google's ambitions:

"We want to build technology that everybody loves using, and that affects everyone. We want to create beautiful, intuitive services and technologies that are so incredibly useful that people use them twice a day, like they use a toothbrush. There aren't that many things people use twice a day."

A lot of developers are probably hoping for at least one session on their mobile games from each user per day, but twice a day might be a better bellwether for how effectively they've created a valuable playing experience. Ad incentives and updates might be a stop-gap measure, but the only true antidote to boredom is uniquely compelling content -- a mobile game that's so fun you'll want to play it as often as you brush your teeth. --Shane