Most people have a few games on their smartphones and tablets. Simple games to while away time commuting or between classes, first-person shooters that put anything Nintendo's DS can offer to shame, or anything in between. With around 200,000 games available on the Google Play store, it's hard to imagine not finding something entertaining, regardless of your level of interest in gaming.
The problem with this much, choice, though, is twofold:
For users, finding games that aren't just well-rated but that you like and, in many cases, that your friends are playing so that you aren't playing with people you don't know from Prague.
For developers, getting users to find your game through the noise.
But does anyone really care? These are just games we're talking about, right?
Well, yes and no. I saw one of the first television commercials specifically advertising a kids' game app the other day. It wasn't a port of a game for a Nintendo handheld or some add-on for the PS3. It was just a native app. It wasn't educational, either. It was a genuine game meant to be played by tweens on a handheld and the commercial had all the production polish of a Call of Duty advertisement.
Gaming is big business and there is an incredible amount of money to be made by independent developers and major distributors alike. The availability of compelling games is actually a reasonable indicator of the health of a platform. The growing trend towards convergence of all of our entertainment devices onto one single handheld i ushering this into place.
However, it hardly makes sense to build an app that nobody will be able to find amid hundreds of thousands of other games. And for consumers, a robust marketplace of compelling, interesting, new games will increasingly become a deciding factor when selecting a mobile device. So the stakes are actually quite high for Google (and Apple) as they fight for market dominance. Even for consumers, one can only play Bad Piggies so many times before they start itching for something else to occupy their thumbs while they wait in a line somewhere.
This is where Applorer comes in. I had a chance to talk with the CEO of Stream Media, Applorer's producer about their very nifty app last week. Chua Zi Yong spoke with me from Singapore about the very real challenges that small developers are facing (i.e., the ones that can't afford to advertise their apps on Nickelodeon) reaching a critical mass of users that can provide real financial returns. It's the prospect of these financial returns that will drive continued innovation in handheld gaming. Keep in mind that gaming was also a key factor in PC processor and GPU innovation in the early days of widespread computer adoption.
Let's start with what Applorer is, first. This promotional video does a good job covering the highlights:
So essentially, Applorer is a social platform for game discovery. What are your friends playing? Do they like the games? Then give them a shot and hook directly to the Play Store from Applorer.
The value here for developers is that Applorer is learning in a very Google-esque fashion what sorts of games individuals like. Then, through partnerships with developers, it can begin providing featured and recommended games via Applorer that are highly targeted at the gamers most likely to be interested in them. Zi explained that many developers were seeing cost per install (CPI) for apps featured and advertised through non-targeted methods of $3-4. Since most apps don't even come close to this in terms of price (and many are free and/or ad-supported), this is hardly a sustainable business model. Applorer's targeted approach to recommended and featured apps can bring the CPI down drastically for developers.
For me, I'm not a serious gamer, whether on consoles, PCs, phones, tablets, or otherwise. But I'm always looking for fun distractions. Increasingly, first-person shooters have been grabbing my attention. And, not surprisingly, I've found some great new FPS apps through Applorer, along with more of the puzzles and word games I tend to play with friends and family. And although the user reviews in the Play Store are usually helpful in sifting through countless redundant and often low-quality apps, a recommendation from a friend who shares my interests carries much more weight.
I tend to download a lot of apps, try them briefly, hate them, and then uninstall them (or just forget about them until I can't even find the apps I actually use anymore). Interestingly, though, the apps I've installed as a result of Applorer are all still on my phone and tablet and I play them all. I'm sure the amount of noise will increase on Applorer as the userbase increases commensurately, but so far, Google hasn't done much in the way of personalized recommendations that make sense for games in the Play Store and certainly hasn't added robust social features like those in Applorer ("3 of your friends +1'd this app" doesn't count as robust). To be honest, Applorer would be a great acquisition for Google since the app's social engines and hooks into Android are really quite slick.
Now if we could just get Stream Media to create versions of Applorer for other categories of apps (or if Google just bought them and integrated their engines throughout the Play Store), we'd be a lot further ahead in terms of finding the 10-20 apps out of the 600,000 in the Play Store that we'd actually use and love.