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The iPhone ain’t a games platform if the best-selling game of all time only reached 4% of the audience

By on January 20, 2010
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Bolt Interactive has just announced some impressive numbers for Pocket God.

Pocket God screenshot

The game has sold 2 million units since its launch in January 2009. That’s pretty impressive sales, even for a title that costs only $0.99.

But there’s a great big cloud to this silver lining.

Pocket God is probably the best-selling iPhone game now. (Not necessarily the highest grossing, though, given the wide variety of price points in the App Store).

But its penetration rate is abysmal.

In the console market, a breakout game, one that has gone so mainstream that it feels as if everyone has played it, has a 15-20% penetration. So, for example, with the Xbox 360 having an installed base of 39 million units, a breakout game would sell between five and eight million units. That’s the kind of numbers that only games like Grand Theft Auto or Modern Warfare 2 can achieve.

In contrast, Pocket God has a penetration rate of 4% (2 million sales divided by an estimated 50 million iPhones and iPod Touches). This is not to detract from Bolt Interactive’s success – I think they’ve done an awesome job – but to point out that, despite all the hype, the iPhone is still not primarily a gaming platform.

Which we all need to remember when thinking about installed bases and forecasting unit sales.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve:
  • I'd agree with 'the iPhone is still not PRIMARILY a gaming platform' (my emphasis) but the title is a little disingenuous – the iPhone is clearly a games platform, in the same way the PC is. That games are not it's primary market for apps (as a general purpose device, it doesn't need one) is a strength for the platform, not a weakness, since that's is one of the reasons the install base has become so large.

    Totally agree though that no developer, game or app, should be expecting big attach rate percentages.

  • I agree that a lot of the advantage is that small firms/dev teams benefit. But it means that while the installed base is a pre-requisite for success, it's not a good guide to sales numbers for forecasting purposes (whereas the installed base of a console *is* a good guide)

  • Toby Barnes

    But this is the point of mobile/iphone.
    Lots of smaller devs making lots of smallish hits.
    Toby Barnes