Looking for Mario

Apps are bigger than hollywood.  Perhaps not an entirely fair comparison, as apps are broader than entertainment- they are social, utility and everything else under the sun, but with millions of apps in the stores, they cover a lot of ground.


Despite the size and variety of the app store offering the majority of app store revenues come from a single genre of apps. Games. 

“Where the profits are concentrated makes for interesting reading. 84.9% of the 700 top grossing apps were games, and 81% of the top grossing apps originate from just fifty companies.”


What’s interesting, is on mobile, even with all the color, sound and whiz bang of games, great characters don’t play a central role. 

Consider the most recognizable IP to come out of the mobile gaming revolutions. It’s the red bird and his friends… and we don’t even know their names. 


Mobile is fundamentally a different experience. It is certainly broad, ever present, always on – but rarely deep.  

Finding the time to build a meaningful relationship with consumers is hard.

Narrative arcs are hard. 

Empathy is hard.

Creating impactful characters is hard.

So what’s a game developer to do?

As this massive medium of mobile apps shapes our culture, defines our daily lives and becomes part of our inner mechanics we are missing the iconic characters to personify the journey. 

We don’t have our Mickey of movies, our Mario of consoles. And we’re not going to get them.


In mobile, the age of great characters to hang a game on has passed. As the new royalty of consumer entertainment ascend their throne, they need new tools to keep the empire growing. Meaningful characters don’t make the cut. They need to connect with consumers in more personal ways.

Instead of making characters everyone could relate to, developers learned they could increase ARPU and MAU with no character at all.

Consider the top ten grossing apps of 2014. At this point, we all know they are mostly free games (90%). What surprises is that only one of those nine have character you could even name- and that’s the ultra-mega-brand-celebrity-demi-force-of-god Kim Kardashian. Put another way, the only nameable character in the elite pool of the new entertainment field that has dwarfed Hollywood, is a real(ish) person.

So what does this all mean? 

Characters are dead. We live in a post-icon mobile gaming age. To make games matter we have to make them personal. We need new ways to make our experiences connect with consumers. We need the era of brilliant personalization – We need Deferred Deep Links. (Also known as Onboarding Links.)

Deferred Deep Links allow a new players experience to be tailored to her, it allows a developer to connect the dots with meaningful experiences for a new user. With every little piece of the user experience subject to A/B testing and optimization, deferred deep links make it easy to make an app feel personal for a new user therefore dramatically boosting retention and engagement rates.