Old games dominate the Google Play charts; let's fix that

by Phil Owen

Thanks to the Top New charts and the metric data Google provides, it's easy to get a sense for what new games are really making waves.

In the top 20 of the Top Paid list I found Asphalt 7: Heat, Draw Something, Cut the Rope, Where's My Water?, Where's My Perry?, Plants vs. Zombies, Minecraft: Pocket Edition, Fruit Ninja, Grand Theft Auto 3 and Angry Birds Space.

There were a few more recent games sprinkled in, like Temple Run: Oz, Toy Story: Smash It and Cubes vs. Spheres. But the top games charts are overwhelmingly populated by the same titles that were there last month, and the month before that, and the month before that. The Top New charts, I realized, we're not indicative of what are the true hits in Android gaming.

Where the disparity starts

Clear Vision 2, a sniper game which I included in Android Games of the Week last month, is number 4 on the Top New Paid chart. On the overall Top Paid chart, however, it comes in at only 32. So while that title is certainly no slouch, having been purchased more than 10,000 times by Google's numbers, it's not actually making the impact you would expect from something near the top of the new game charts.

The more you look down the new chart, the further down these titles fall when plugged into the overall chart. The no. 5 new game, Star Wars Pinball, is no. 45 in overall paid. The no. 7 new game, AVP Evolution, comes it at no. 67 on the overall chart. Meanwhile, Amazing Alex, Rovio's "bomb," still manages to hang out in the no. 59 spot.


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Granted, I should point out that the top three games in New Paid are also high on overall chart, as I mentioned above. But those games are from publishing juggernauts Disney and Activision, and this sort of occurrence is out of the ordinary.

I can't help but be bitter when I compare these two charts, and this comparison shows the difference between mobile gaming and the core gaming set that mainly uses consoles and the PC. A retail game, even a really popular one, will only rarely have a long tail and be financially viable more than a year from release. The core scene is all about the next big thing, and so players buy them at launch and then abandon them shortly thereafter.

But looking at the Top Paid Google Play chart, you'll see that gamers are still buying the games that other gamers bought a year or two ago. Fruit Ninja was released on Android in 2010  and is still the no. 9 game on Google Play! Plants vs. Zombies was first launched on computers nearly four years ago and it's no. 7.

A call to action

Mobile gamers, where is the love for the new stuff? Does it really take that much time for a game to sustain itself on the top charts? Is it that new smartphone owners only buy what’s popular, either through short bursts of research and word of mouth? There are probably half a dozen quality new games released on mobile each week, but we're still mostly only paying attention to the established names, ignoring most everything else, including games that are truly innovative.

Far be it for me to embrace the mindset of the home gamer and encourage everybody to only play new games, but some sort of middle ground would be welcome. I understand that mobile gaming can be overwhelming with all new releases coming out daily, but, come on, these are the cheapest pieces of entertainment you can buy. There's very little risk in experimenting if you can afford to buy a smartphone and pay your monthly service bill. You have five dollars you can blow each week on new games, and chances are you will have a good time with most of what you download.

The world is overflowing with new gameplay experiences in Google Play, and it's simply sad that the same ones get all the love all the time. If we don't embrace all there is to offer on our chosen platform, then we will be doomed to have only the same experiences handed to us over and over again. Play something new this week.