Return Path Data Shows Dropoff in In-App Purchases

As monetizing online games becomes more difficult, companies are spending millions on advertising to win over paying customers. However, their efforts seem only to have a temporary positive effect. We recently delved into our panel of consumers to identify order trends in some of the most popular games available in the iTunes store. We found that in-app purchases for 2012’s breakout hit, Candy Crush, have continued to decline. Meanwhile, even the most popular competing games haven’t seen similar success to that once experienced by Candy Crush.

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In order to better visualize in-app purchase trends among games that have recently risen in popularity, we removed Candy Crush from the graph and still saw generally flat or declining growth. Notable, if temporary, increases were generated by Clash of Clans and Game of War, whose respective parent companies, Supercell and Machine Zone, launched multimillion dollar ad campaigns in late 2014 featuring celebrities Liam Neeson and Kate Upton.

Whatever effect those campaigns had on new player acquisition, they don’t appear to have helped either company to generate a surge of in-app orders, at least early in 2015. In fact no game in the group saw sustained, rapid increases during the past year. If the past few quarters are any indication, online game developers won’t have an easy time equaling the in-game revenue levels of Candy Crush and popular forebearers whose success looks downright legendary by comparison.

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* To eliminate the influence of panel growth on this analysis, this sample includes only US consumers who were active in the Return Path panel during the entire span from December 2013 through March 2015.

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