Blog How to top the mobile arcade game charts...

How to top the mobile arcade game charts in four steps


Despite the re-emergence of retro vinyl records, typewriters, and instant cameras, modern technology is here to stay. The widespread adoption of smartphones has undeniably paved the way from classic arcade gaming to mobile arcade games. In fact, the digital form of the beloved classic continues to grow in popularity. Our data shows that between 2021 and 2022, installs of mobile arcade games have remained consistent while the average session length increased by 17% year-on-year (YoY) and sessions per user per day increased by 4% YoY.

What is an arcade game?

iOS and Android app stores place such a high importance on games that gaming apps have their own tab on both stores’ home pages. In fact, Apple’s App Store has even titled its monthly gaming subscription with access to over 200 apps ‘Apple Arcade’. From app store game pages, users can browse thousands of gaming apps across categories such as action, puzzle, sports, word, and more. So what sets arcade games apart from these other categories?

Mobile arcade games are games that are either inspired by or replicas of original game machines in traditional arcades. Think Tetris, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Mortal Kombat, and Space Invaders. Typically, they don’t require much strategy or thought to succeed in the gameplay. The strategy is instead focused on executing perfect timing. The games are short, the actions are quick and repetitive, and the player usually builds upon one primary skill by playing the game over time.

What stands out among the best arcade games?

With so many apps available, what stands out among the top-performing apps? The best arcade games for android, as well as the best arcade games for iOS, have the following “recipe” in common:

Straight-forward core gameplay

Arcade games are typically what non-gamers gravitate towards while they stand at the bus stop or sit in a waiting room. The foundation of your game should be simple, easy to play, and quick to complete. Remember that classic arcade games were limited to 8-bit designs and restricted color palettes. This is your opportunity to hook potential users with a feeling of nostalgia. Replicate the classic look and feel with saturated colors and bold, uncomplicated graphics. Crossy Road is a great example of a modern developer adopting the classic Frogger interface into a wildly successful modern app.

Mobile arcade game example

Strategic meta layers

While classic arcade games were quite simplistic, to survive in the current competitive app market it’s critical that developers adopt a hybrid-casual approach if they want to succeed. After developing a successful user acquisition (UA) strategy, it’s time to turn your attention to retention. Keeping your users interested, engaged, and coming back after the first day is critical to developing a profitable monetization strategy.

The secret ingredient? Meta layers. After an initial hook, this is what will create a daily habit, enticing your users to come back to your app time after time. Add a leaderboard, decoration or dress-up elements, or multi-player mode to encourage word of mouth. PAC-MAN Party Royale is the perfect example of taking a classic arcade game (Pac-Man) and introducing enticing meta layers like its dressing room to customize your Pac-Man and leaderboard with friends.

PAC-MAN Party Royale mobile arcada game example

Methodical monetization

With UA and retention strategies well underway, it’s time to build strong monetization. This could be a freemium model, where users pay to upgrade to an enhanced version of the game, in-app ads, or in-app purchases such as upgrades, rewards, additional lives, and more. Of course, a combination of these methods can be used as well.

Tetris has led the way with in-app purchases in its modernized version of the classic game. Between levels, users are served in-app ads. Through gameplay, players earn in-game currency which can be redeemed for rewards. Users can also purchase additional coins to supplement what they earn through playing.

Classic Tetris and modern Tetris

Cyclical optimizations

More important than any other step is testing, learning, and optimizing. At all times, you should be A/B testing what works best for your audience – both for your marketing campaigns and the user experience within your app. These learnings can make or break the profitability of an app.

Adjust’s Datascape is the ultimate one-stop shop for mobile marketing analytics. View all of your in-app and campaign data in one place. Visualize cross-channel performance, set rules for automatic budget optimization, and create custom reports that allow you to drill into the root of what works – and what doesn’t. Make changes quickly and measure the resulting impact, ensuring your strategy is calculated rather than hypothetical.

Learn more about how Datascape can elevate both your app and marketing campaigns' analytics and optimizations with ease.

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