Mobile games developers face a challenge kick-starting the app category, as research by Verto Analytics showed the time spent on the apps is stagnating.

While the company revealed mobile games remain the second-largest category of mobile apps in terms of time spent, surpassed only by social media apps, the proportion of time consumers spent on gaming apps stood at 12 per cent of a total of 20.7 hours per month in July, flat compared to the same month in 2016.

Verto Analytics noted the overall number of mobile gamers “and the competitive landscape” have stabilised, resulting in a flattening out in the amount of time spent. The trend creates “a challenge for game publishers with new releases” hoping to make a splash in an already crowded market which is dominated by a few key players.

Smaller gaming companies will be hurt more because they lack the capital and scale to compete with larger publishers which have “marketing power behind them”.

Verto Analytics observed investor interest in mobile games may be waning: “While it remains an important app category in terms of user numbers and engagement, the changes in consumer behaviour around games align with the decline we’ve seen in the multibillion-dollar deals and mergers of the past.”

The company said consumer interest in games may be decreasing as attention shifts elsewhere, such as to entertainment apps. This category, which includes YouTube, Spotify, and Netflix, accounted for about 11 per cent of the amount of time people spent online in July, following a bump in user numbers between November 2016 and February 2017.

“Video and music entertainment apps, like streaming media services, should look to native advertising experiences to attract new users and help brands engage with the consumer,” the company said.

On the up side, though, Match 3-type games (where players attempt to match a number of tiles) enjoyed an increase in user numbers from around 24 million users in July 2016 to more than 30 million in 2017.

Augmented reality (AR) and role-playing games were boosted by Pokemon Go, with the genres claiming about 14 million monthly users in July 2017.

Mobile multitasking
Between July 2016 and July 2017, the number of US consumers who engaged with more than four apps per mobile device session on a daily basis increased by 10 per cent, from 121 million to 143 million.

The prevalence of multitasking means it is now more important for advertisers to map the consumer mobile journey, including details on which apps they launch and in what order, Verto Analytics said.

“With endless options for communication, entertainment, and content consumption, it’s no surprise that consumer behaviour is changing on a daily, even hourly, basis,” said Hannu Verkasalo, CEO of Verto Analytics.

“As we move into 2018, the rise of consumer-targeted artificial intelligence, new and improved channels for content, and the frequency of multitasking will have a significant influence on the way consumers interact, or don’t interact, with their devices. Publishers, brand and advertisers alike must understand this fluctuating consumer behaviour to maintain a healthy user base and know where to invest,” he added.