Where My Players At?

If you wade through the sea of apps in either Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store you will find an abundance of games in all shapes and sizes. There may seem to be unlimited iterations of action games, trivia games, word search games, card games and so on. Unfortunately, what you won’t find within that wealth of games is a multitude of high quality mobile games specifically targeting African Americans.

One can easily hypothesize a multitude of reasons for the small number of African American game apps. For example, it could be the dearth of African American app development companies, the relatively small number of African American developers or the high cost of app development. Why all those reasons may be true, the one reason that may supersede them all is the fact that African Americans are a minority.

African Americans make up just over 13%* of the U.S. population. Every businessperson knows there usually is significantly greater potential to make money with a product that appeals to 100% of the population as opposed to a product that appeals to just 13%. Sure there may be exceptions to this rule but it can be a significant gamble to find out.

Player Pool

13% of the U.S. population equates to about 43.8 million African American men, women and children. LFTW’s fist app, Black Star Word Search, falls into the puzzle game category and puzzle games appeal predominately to female players. So, for the sake simplicity, one can immediately cut the potential pool of players in half from 43.8 million down to 21.9 million.

The pool shrinks again once age is accounted for. For example, Black Star Word Search isn’t a children’s game and nor do we expect a large cohort of players over the age of 75. A super conservative approach would be to assume the app will appeal primarily to women between the ages of 25 and 54. That age group is about 41% of the African American female population, which further reduces the potential pool of players down from 21.9 million to about 9 million.

Smart Phones

Not all of the 9 million women in our pool will own a smart phone. According to the Pew Research Center approximately 78% of African Americans use smart phones. So now Black Star Word Search’s potential audience has dropped from a pool of 9 million down to about 7 million.

Of those that use smart phones, only about 16% Apple’s iPhone. So if you make an app just for the iPhone your potential pool of players shrinks to about 1.2 million.  

Developer’s Choice

Unfortunately, this math is most likely the driving factor as to why there is such a small number of quality African American game apps. Most game apps are free and rely on advertising to earn income. Each display ad equates to minute fractions of a penny, so apps require tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of daily players just to cover development and maintenance costs, let alone profits. Whether the app development company is owned by African Americans or otherwise, investing tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars and months (or years) in development may not be a wise financial decision when your potential pool of players is so relatively small.

For example, not all 7 million women in the potential pool of players will play Black Star Word Search. Will it be 1% of the pool? Or perhaps ½% is more realistic? It could be that ½ of ½% would be the best case scenario. Either way you slice it the potential number players is most likely only going to be in the thousands – the single digit thousands at that. For most major app development companies that small volume of players is a rounding error, and creating an app specifically for such a small group is simply not worth the investment in time, effort and money.

*US Census Bureau

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