Portrait or Landscape? Check the Charts

Reviewing the iTunes charts to find the most popular app orientation.

Lately I've been brainstorming new game ideas and for a few of them the question of what orientation to design them around has come up. Does one kind of game orientation work better than the other? Is it genre dependent, game dependent, or is there a general consensus that one orientation is better than the other? Instead of just continually asking myself rhetorical questions I decided to try and find some data that would help me decide how to direct my games.

Question: Which Game Orientation is More Popular on the Appstore, Portrait or Landscape?

Definitions

Before we dive into how I set about answering this question let's first define what Portrait and Landscape mean.
Portrait Orientation: refers to an app that is used while your device is held vertically and can usually be played with one hand. Landscape Orientation: refers to an app that is used while your device is held horizontally and usually with both hands.

IncrediBlox

House of the Lost

I have always thought that puzzle and social games should be created in a portrait orientation as they have a more casual appeal and are likely to be played in shorter bursts. Conversely, landscape orientation is the domain of more engaging 'gamer' games who want the added view and control space that a widescreen game provides.
However, these are really just assumptions, and until now I have had no real evidence to confirm or deny my thoughts. To rectify this I decided to pick through the Top 100 Free, Paid, and Grossing app charts in the iTunes Appstore to see how many of the games in each chart are designed for portrait or landscape. The data from that little adventure is presented below.

Assumptions

Prior to conducting this experiment I believed the results would shake out as follows:
  1. Free Charts: There will be many more Portrait games in the Top 100 free charts because there will be a larger number of 'casual' games on the list.
  2. Paid Charts: There will be a larger number of Landscape games on the paid charts because 'gamers' are more likely to pay for a game upfront.
  3. Grossing Charts: The grossing chart will be more evenly split than the other two charts but Portrait games will have the advantage.

Methodology

  • To gather this data I used App Annie to display the Top 100 Free, Paid, and Grossing Charts from the iTunes Appstore on Friday Dec. 12, 2014.
  • For each game in each chart I categorized it as either a Portrait or Landscape game based on how its gameplay was displayed in the screenshots on the Appstore. If gameplay was shown in a Landscape Orientation it was labeled Landscape and if gameplay was shown in Portrait it was labeled Portrait.
  • There are some games that work in both orientations and if this was I case I still based my classification on how the gameplay was displayed in the Appstore screenshots. If the developer chose to display their gameplay in one orientation over the other I labeled the game as such.
  • There were a couple games that displayed both styles of gameplay in their screenshots and on both of those instances I labeled them as Landscape games.
  • Every chart position was recorded in only one classification, no game was labeled both Portrait and Landscape.
  • Results

    Orientation Free Paid Grossing
    Portrait 58 17 58
    Landscape 42 83 42

    Conclusion

    There you have it. Portrait games are more popular in the Free charts, although Landscape games are well represented. I expected the number of Landscape games in the Free chart to be smaller so that checked one of my biases right off the bat.

    Portrait games get destroyed in the Paid game charts, with more than 80% of Paid games presenting as Landscape. This is right in line with my thinking that someone who is going to pay for a game upfront is looking for the 'traditional' gaming experience and prefers Landscape.

    I missed on the Grossing charts however. I under-estimated how completely the Free chart directs the Grossing chart. There were only two Paid games on the Grossing chart at the time of this test, which means that Paid games have very little impact on determining the big winners, revenue wise, on the Appstore.

    So what can we take from this? To be honest, I'm not sure. I think there is a lot more detail that could be pulled from this data based on game genre. Are Portrait games more popular because they dominate a specific genre and that genre is more popular? Perhaps a comparison within specific game genres would give us better information in that regard.

    I would say that if you're working on a Paid game you should probably support Landscape orientation as it charts much better than Portrait. If you're working on a game that you hope will have a very large and ranged player base you should probably support Portrait as it does better in both the Free and Grossing charts.

    Let me know your thoughts on Twitter: @Readmore

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