App Annie Index: Games – Smash Hit Lives Up to Its Name

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March saw a number of new releases claim the top ranks, including Smash Hit and 2048.

 

The App Annie Games Index brings you the hottest mobile gaming properties across both the iOS App Store and Google Play. To find out what’s happening with apps outside of games, please check our March 2014 Apps Index.

The information contained in this report was compiled from App Annie Intelligence, the top market data solution for the app store economy. To see how our industry-leading app store download and revenue estimates can help guide your critical business decisions, take a tour or request a demo today.

This Index report also uses App Annie’s exclusive DNA, providing unparalleled insights into the major players and trends in the app stores. App Annie DNA creates the only rankings that incorporate the complete set of companies’ subsidiaries and related publishing accounts. In addition, each game’s downloads and revenues are ranked using all versions of the game, regardless of platform compatibility, pricing or language. App Annie DNA is available in App Annie’s free Store Stats, and as part of App Annie Intelligence.

 

Tencent Becomes a Dominant Force on the iOS App Store

China’s influence on iOS App Store growth was highlighted in the Q1 2014 Market Index. In March, Tencent hit the #1 rank for game publishers by monthly iOS downloads. Combined with its #2 position for iOS downloads of apps outside of games in the March Apps Index, Tencent is the top publisher overall by monthly iOS downloads. Its growth in March was largely driven by newly released titles, particularly 雷霆战机  (Thunder Fighter). However, Tencent’s influence wasn’t limited to game downloads, with three titles appearing in the Top 10 games by monthly iOS revenue.

Brave Frontier Highlights the Benefits of Localization

Four different versions of Japanese publisher gumi’s RPG Brave Frontier launched within three months on Google Play in late 2013. A localized version was released for each of the Japanese, Korean, Chinese (published by Chukong), and English-speaking markets. In March, Brave Frontier reached the Top 10 games by monthly Google Play revenue, showing particularly strong growth in Japan and the United States. In doing so, it became one of very few titles to find considerable success in both Eastern and Western markets simultaneously. gumi’s CEO, Hironao Kunimitsu, spoke to App Annie about their success and ambitions for the game:

“Our success in the international markets really boils down to the hard work of our local offices and their staff, without it, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve the success we have. With regard to our future prospects, the iOS version of Brave Frontier was released to the Chinese mainland market on 30th of April this year, and the Android version is close behind so we’ll be begin our marketing push in the area soon.  Not to mention our European launch is close at hand too.  All this activity is aimed at making sure we hit the global Top 5!” – Hironao Kunimitsu, CEO of gumi

Smash Hit Breaks Into the Top Ranks

As Flappy Bird-mania subsided, Smash Hit led the way for new games released in March. The game combines elements of endless runners and first person shooters, and reached #1 for monthly iOS game downloads and #6 for monthly Google Play game downloads. Three other new releases – Frontline Commando 2, 2048, and 雷霆战机 (Thunder Fighter) – joined Smash Hit in the Top 10 downloaded iOS games in March.

 

Top Publishers by Monthly Game DownloadsiOS March 2014
  Publisher Rank Change
vs. Feb 2014
Headquarters Total Apps
(incl. non-games)
1 Tencent 3 China 157
2 Electronic Arts - United States 809
3 Gameloft 2 France 199
4 Mediocre 586 Sweden 8
5 King 1 United Kingdom 16
6 Glu 7 United States 77
7 Disney - United States 406
8 redBit 5 Italy 19
9 LINE 2 Japan 100
10 Rovio 1 Finland 37
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

The Q1 2014 Market Index noted that growth in the iOS App Store was primarily driven by China, with Tencent’s game apps playing an influential role. Illustrating this point, Tencent hit the #1 rank for iOS game publishers by monthly downloads after residing in the top five since September 2013. App Annie Intelligence shows that its continued gains in January were largely propelled by the release of new titles, the most prominent being 雷霆战机 (Thunder Fighter) – an aircraft-based shooter that incorporates card battle elements and stage-based gameplay. Tencent also released a version of 神魔之塔 (Tower of Saviors) for WeChat. App Annie’s DNA shows that other versions of the game, originally published by Mad Head, proved popular in markets such as Taiwan and Hong Kong, but made little impact in China. Tencent’s release of the game utilized the strength of the WeChat gaming platform to hit the top ranks in China when released at the start of March.

Other publishers making significant gains in March were also boosted by newly released titles. Mediocre’s Smash Hit proved worthy of its title, landing the publisher in the top five for monthly iOS game downloads. Glu also returned to the Top 10 in March, following the release of Frontline Commando 2 in early March.

 

Top Publishers by Monthly Game DownloadsGoogle Play March 2014
  Publisher Rank Change
vs. Feb 2014
Headquarters Total Apps
(incl. non-games)
1 King - United Kingdom 22
2 Gameloft - France 87
3 Rovio 1 Finland 23
4 Electronic Arts 2 United States 147
5 LINE 3 Japan 289
6 Tiny Piece 3 China 121
7 Kiloo 2 Denmark 2
8 Outfit 7 7 Cyprus 29
9 Glu 1 United States 109
10 Disney 2 United States 151
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

Outfit 7 has held a prominent position in both the Games Index and Apps Index recently, thanks largely to the success of its Talking Tom franchise. The gains made on Google Play in March demonstrate the publisher’s strength outside of this franchise, as the release of Groove Racer contributed to its rise. Groove Racer has been available on the iOS App Store since June 2013, but only came to Google Play in mid-March 2014. The title performed particularly strongly in the Russian market.

 

image03 - Groove Racer Chart

Outfit 7’s Groove Racer climbed the ranks in Russia after its March release on Google Play.

 

LINE announced that its LINE GAME series surpassed 300 million cumulative downloads during March. Its success continued throughout March, with the release of LINE Rangers helping move LINE into the top five game publishers by Google Play downloads. As noted in the February Games Index, Thailand and Taiwan are becoming increasingly important markets for LINE’s gaming efforts. The release of LINE Rangers illustrated this further, as the game reached the top ranks in both these markets.

 

Top Publishers by Monthly Game RevenueiOS March 2014
  Publisher Rank Change
vs. Feb 2014
Headquarters Total Apps
(incl. non-games)
1 Supercell - Finland 3
2 King - United Kingdom 16
3 GungHo Online - Japan 51
4 Tencent - China 157
5 Electronic Arts - United States 809
6 Machine Zone - United States 11
7 GREE - Japan 101
8 Kabam 2 United States 16
9 Storm8 - United States 50
10 LINE 2 Japan 100
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

The Top 10 game publishers by monthly iOS revenue remained relatively stable in March, with only Kabam seeing rank gains. App Annie Intelligence reveals that this rise was driven by the addition of RPG Castle Age and crime MMO Underworld Empire to Kabam’s game lineup. Both these games were incorporated into Kabam’s portfolio following its acquisition of Phoenix Age in March.

Although not affecting the rankings notably in March, publishers in the top five made important moves recently to cement their positions for the future. Supercell released combat strategy game Boom Beach worldwide in late March. As with Supercell’s other titles, it remained iOS only at launch, but has made a strong start in most markets worldwide. King and Tencent will also hope to enhance their positions with a recently announced deal to bring Candy Crush Saga to a wider audience in China using the WeChat platform.


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Top Publishers by Monthly Game RevenueGoogle Play March 2014
  Publisher Rank Change
vs. Feb 2014
Headquarters Total Apps
(incl. non-games)
1 GungHo Online - Japan 35
2 King - United Kingdom 22
3 Supercell - Finland 2
4 LINE - Japan 289
5 CJ Group 1 South Korea 192
6 COLOPL 1 Japan 181
7 SundayToz - South Korea 4
8 GREE 1 Japan 134
9 Electronic Arts 1 United States 147
10 GAMEVIL 2 South Korea 222
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

GAMEVIL joined the Top 10 game publishers by monthly Google Play revenue in March, driven primarily by fantasy adventure game 별이되어라! (Dragon Blaze) for Kakao. The title rose rapidly in the rankings in South Korea after its release in mid-February, and remained in the top ranks throughout March. Although Dragon Blaze is currently limited to South Korea, GAMEVIL announced a Q3 2014 worldwide release at Game Developers Conference 2014.

Another South Korean company, CJ Group, moved up in the Google Play publisher revenue rankings in March. This coincides with news of Tencent’s $500 million investment for a 28% stake of CJ Games (a division of CJ Group). The investment will strengthen the content available on Tencent’s WeChat gaming platform, and also further extend its influence outside of China. This also represents a significant shift for Korea game companies, who have generally used Qihoo 360 to take content to China. However, CJ Group are now working directly with Tencent to bring their games to the WeChat platform.

 

Top Game Apps by Monthly DownloadsiOS March 2014
  Game Rank Change
vs. Feb 2014
Publisher Headquarters Subcategory
1 Smash Hit N/A* Mediocre Sweden Action, Arcade
2 Farm Heroes Saga 3 King United Kingdom Arcade, Puzzle
3 Flappy Wings 5 Green Chili Germany Action, Arcade
4 Frontline Commando 2 N/A* Glu United States Action, Adventure
5 2048 N/A* Ketchapp Studio France Board, Puzzle
6 Candy Crush Saga 3 King United Kingdom Arcade, Puzzle
7 Frozen Free Fall 2** Disney United States Family, Puzzle
8 雷霆战机 (Thunder Fighter) N/A* Tencent China Strategy, Arcade
9 Unroll Me 5 Turbo Chilli Australia Family, Board
10 Clash of Clans 1 Supercell Finland Strategy, Action
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

* Rank change from February to March 2014 is not available as the game was released in March 2014
** Rank change is approximate because of updates to unified app attribution

 

Although gains for Flappy Wings indicate that Flappy Bird-mania had not completely diminished in March, it was primarily new content that made a big impact in monthly iOS game downloads. Leading the charge was Mediocre’s Smash Hit, which provides a unique combination of elements from the endless runner and first person shooter genres. It also utilizes an “other worldly” environment, a feature that has proved popular in mobile games recently, particularly with the release of Monument Valley. Smash Hit was launched in early March, and featured on the iOS home page extensively throughout the month. The game performed particularly strongly in the United States, China, and United Kingdom.

Glu’s third person shooter Frontline Commando 2 also proved a hit, particularly in China. Like Smash Hit, it also featured on the iOS home page extensively in March following its release early in the month. Numeric puzzle game 2048 followed a different path to success, as it gained considerable attention while only featuring on the iOS home page of a few, generally smaller, markets in March. However, it still gained considerable traction in both the United States and China.

The final newly released game to reach the Top 10 in March was Tencent’s 雷霆战机 (Thunder Fighter). The aircraft-based shooter hit #1 for downloads in China on release, and stayed there for the remainder of the month. Despite a release date in late March, 雷霆战机 (Thunder Fighter) still received enough downloads to reach the worldwide Top 10. This highlights the growing influence of China and Tencent’s WeChat platform on the worldwide iOS gaming market, as highlighted in the Q1 2014 Market Index.

 

Top Game Apps by Monthly DownloadsGoogle Play March 2014
  Game Rank Change
vs. Feb 2014
Publisher Headquarters Subcategory
1 Candy Crush Saga 1 King United Kingdom Casual
2 Subway Surfers 1 Kiloo Denmark Arcade
3 Farm Heroes Saga 3 King United Kingdom Casual
4 Pou 1 Zakeh Lebanon Casual
5 My Talking Tom 4 Outfit 7 Cyprus Casual
6 Smash Hit N/A* Mediocre Sweden Arcade
7 Temple Run 2 - Imangi United States Action
8 Hill Climb Racing - Fingersoft Finland Racing
9 Clumsy Bird 5 Candy Mobile United States Action
10 Despicable Me - Gameloft France Casual
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

* Rank change from February to March 2014 is not available as the game was released in March 2014

 

Smash Hit also featured prominently in Google Play downloads in March. The game featured on the Google Play home page throughout March, though generally less extensively than on the iOS home page. However, it grew steadily in the United States, eventually hitting the #1 rank for Google Play game downloads.

 

image08 - Smash Hit Chart

Smash Hit gathered momentum in the United States to reach the top ranks by the middle of March.

 

The Q1 Market Index saw Russia and Brazil move into the top three countries for quarterly Google Play downloads. My Talking Tom found particular success in these two rapidly growing markets, pushing it into the top five games by monthly downloads in March. Farm Heroes Saga also saw gains in rapidly growing markets, growing strongly in Brazil and Mexico. The gains for Farm Heroes Saga in March gave publisher King two of the top three games by monthly Google Play downloads.

 

Top Game Apps by Monthly RevenueiOS March 2014
  Game Rank Change
vs. Feb 2014
Publisher Headquarters Subcategory
1 Clash of Clans - Supercell Finland Strategy, Action
2 Candy Crush Saga - King United Kingdom Arcade, Puzzle
3 パズル&ドラゴンズ (Puzzle & Dragons) - GungHo Online Japan Puzzle, Role Playing
4 Game of War – Fire Age - Machine Zone United States Role Playing, Strategy
5 Hay Day - Supercell Finland Simulation, Family
6 Farm Heroes Saga 1 King United Kingdom Arcade, Puzzle
7 全民飞机大战 (Massive Plane Warz) 2 Tencent China Arcade, Action
8 天天飞车 (Flying Carz) 7 Tencent China Racing, Action
9 Pet Rescue Saga 1 King United Kingdom Puzzle, Arcade
10 天天酷跑 (GunZ Dash) 4 Tencent China Action, Adventure
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

The iOS monthly game revenue rankings further reveal the increasing influence of Tencent on the worldwide charts. As shown in the Q1 Market Index, China is currently driving revenue growth in the iOS App Store, and Tencent is the leading component of this growth. WeChat games have successfully expanded social gaming in China, and introduced a payment top-up system that encourages multiple transactions per user. In March, three titles for its WeChat platform appeared in the Top 10 iOS games by monthly revenue – 全民飞机大战 (Massive Plane Warz), 天天飞车 (Flying Carz), and天天酷跑 (GunZ Dash). As iOS revenue continues to grow in China, it is likely that Tencent will continue to have a growing presence in the top charts. 天天飞车 (Flying Carz) saw the largest rank gains in March, experiencing gains following an update in late March that introduced a new online multiplayer Grand Prix mode, among other new features.


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Top Game Apps by Monthly RevenueGoogle Play February 2014
  App Rank Change
vs. Feb 2014
Publisher Headquarters Subcategory
1 パズル&ドラゴンズ (Puzzle & Dragons) - GungHo Online Japan Puzzle
2 Clash of Clans - Supercell Finland Strategy
3 Candy Crush Saga - King United Kingdom Casual
4 애니팡 (Anipang) 2 1 SundayToz South Korea Puzzle
5 Hay Day 3 Supercell Finland Family
6 Pokopang 2 LINE/NHN Entertainment Japan/South Korea Puzzle
7 魔法使いと黒猫のウィズ (The World of Mystic Wiz) 1 COLOPL Japan Role Playing
8 Farm Heroes Saga 1 King United Kingdom Casual
9 몬스터 길들이기 (Monster Taming) for Kakao 2 CJ Group South Korea Role Playing
10 Brave Frontier 1 gumi/Chukong Japan/China Role Playing/Action
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

On Google Play, Brave Frontier entered the Top 10 games by monthly Google Play revenue for the first time in March. The game has a number of variations, localized specifically for different markets. These have been aggregated for the Index rankings using App Annie DNA. Brave Frontier’s growth in March was largely driven by the English language version in the United States, and ブレイブフロンティア, the Japanese version, but has reached the top grossing ranks across much of Southeast Asia.

 

image11 - Brave Frontier Picture

Brave Frontier found particular success in Japan and the United States with localized versions.

 

Supercell’s Hay Day continued to climb, entering the top five games by monthly revenue in March. As a result, four of the top five games by monthly revenue are now consistent between iOS and Google Play. The one exception on Google Play was 애니팡 (Anipang) 2, which continued to perform well in South Korea in March. The success of the franchise has paid off for publisher SundayToz, which received a $112 million dollar investment from hardcore online game publisher Smilegate for a 20% stake, to help take the game to a wider audience.

 

For those of you who also are looking for an update on top apps other than games, please check out the March 2014 Apps Index.

 

Notes:

  • The publisher and app rankings reported in the App Annie Index are based on the download and revenue estimates available through App Annie Intelligence.  The daily rank history charts and the home page feature app data are available to all users through App Annie’s app tracker solution, Store Stats.
  • While the Games Index covers games, the Apps Index provides app tracking on everything but games.  Note that the Top Publishers rankings in the Games Index are based solely on the publishers’ games downloads and revenue, while the Top Publishers rankings in the Apps Index are based on the publishers’ downloads and revenue from apps excluding games.
  • On March 19, 2014, Google Play changed and extended the game subcategories available to game publishers. For March 2014, Google Play games are reported with their new subcategories as at the end of the month.
  • Through August 2013, publisher rankings in the App Annie Games Index and Apps Index were based on apps that ranked in the Top 1,000.  Effective with September data, publisher rankings are based on publishers’ full set of apps.
  • Through September 2013, similar versions of the same app with different names (e.g., NYTimes and NYTimes for iPad) were ranked separately. Effective with October data, similar versions of the same app with different names are unified (e.g., NYTimes and NYTimes for iPad are now aggregated and ranked as a single NYTimes unified app).
  • In the first month in which an app becomes unified, its rank change in the Index will compare the unified app that month vs. its highest-ranking individual app in the month prior.  As a result, rank changes for newly unified apps may overstate ranking increases from February 2014 to March 2014.
  • In the iOS App Store, an app can be categorized under a Primary Category as well as an optional Secondary Category.  If an app has a Primary Category of Games and a Secondary Category of Entertainment, it is a candidate to be included in this Games Index.  If the app’s Primary Category is Entertainment and its Secondary Category is Games, then it will not be included in this Games Index; it is a candidate for the Apps Index.
  • Note that the ranking approach used in the App Annie Index differs from that used in the iOS App Store.  In the latter, app rankings for a given category will include all apps whose Primary Category or Secondary Category matches that given category.  So an app can appear in the rankings for more than one category within the iOS App Store or in App Annie Store Stats rankings.
  • In Google Play, an app can be categorized under only one category, so there is no double-categorization.
  • Occasionally, a publisher may decide to shift an existing app from one category to another category.  In these cases, the App Annie Index will rank that app based on its categorization in the subsequent month.  Given that the App Annie Index now has a Games report and an Apps report, the only scenario where an app’s recategorization could shift it from one Index to another is if its category changes from Games to a category other than Games or vice versa.
  • In the App Annie Index, all apps and publishers are reported under their parent publishers, where available; for example, the Plants vs. Zombies™ 2 app is reported under its parent publisher Electronic Arts, rather than its direct publisher PopCap. Note that if you view the Electronic Arts parent publisher page on Store Stats, you will see the publishers that roll under the parent publisher Electronic Arts, including PopCap. The Plants vs. Zombies™ 2 app will be listed under the PopCap publisher page.
  • App Annie Index revenue rankings are based on revenue that the iOS App Store and Google Play earned from paid downloads and in-app purchases.  They do not include revenue earned from in-app advertising.
  • Any non-App Annie trademarks or images used in this report are the property of their respective owners.  App Annie claims no rights in those trademarks.

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