According to Playfirst vice president of product management and marketing Becky Ann Hughes, having strong, recognizable characters is important to success on mobile platforms. The Apple App Store and Google Play are full of competing apps, but Hughes said "compelling characters" go a long way towards improving app discovery.
"We did an analysis of the App Store a while ago and we looked at all the icons in the store, and most of the top games have strong, cute, compelling characters in the icon and screenshots, which really compels people to click and download the app," Hughes told Polygon in an interview. "Having a brand and having recognizable characters is going to become more important than less important."
Hughes pointed to successful mobile titles like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga to prove her point.
"The character art in Clash of Clans has some real emotion, and Bookworm Heroes by PopCap is very character-driven. What we're starting to find is the top apps in the App Store really do have some strong, character-driven brands. Even Candy Crush Saga has a story and a progression model, and it's probably one of the most successful arcade games on the App Store right now," said Hughes.
Playfirst launched its latest title, Deep Sea Deli, for iOS today. The game heavily features a character called Narly the Narwhal, putting into practice everything that Playfirst found in its research.
"What we find is having those characters integrated into the core of the game mechanic is the first thing needed to be successful. The second thing is to make sure the characters are tied to the feedback mechanism in the game so they have some functional benefit to the game instead of just being tacked on," she added.