Critical Acclaim and Commercial Success in Mobile Free-to-Play Games


  • Kati Alha
  • Elina Koskinen
  • Janne Paavilainen
  • Juho Hamari


free-to-play, mobile games, metascore, reviews, grossing, sales


Critical acclaim is considered to be one of the main predictors of profitability of game products. Major game publishers face tremendous hurdles in order to fare well in different forums that review and rate their products. However, little evidence exists on the relationship between ratings and profitability beyond anecdotal assumptions. In this study we investigate the relationship between critical acclaim and commercial success in mobile free-to-play games via a mixed-method study. First we look at the correlation of reviews and profitability, and then present an exploratory qualitative inquiry, analyzing games with high Metascores and games with high grossing. The results reveal that the relationship between review ratings and profitability is even more problematic in mobile free-to-play games than in many other game categories. Games with high Metascores differ substantially from the top-grossing games, being closer to traditional single-player games than typical free-to-play games, with little emphasis on monetization mechanics.





@Conference{digra763, title ="Critical Acclaim and Commercial Success in Mobile Free-to-Play Games", year = "2016", author = "Alha, Kati and Koskinen, Elina and Paavilainen, Janne and Hamari, Juho", publisher = "DiGRA", address = "Tampere", howpublished = "\url{}", booktitle = "Proceedings of DiGRA/FDG 2016 Conference"}