Riding the Mobile Wave: How the ESRB's Voyage into the World of Apps is Paying Dividends


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This case study follows ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) through their journey from a mobile website to creating mobile applications for their growing customer base. They now have available, an iPhone and Android app. The case study also takes a peek into how they decided to create native apps and the quality assurance testing process.

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Riding the Mobile Wave: How the ESRB's Voyage into the World of Apps is Paying Dividends

  1. 1. Riding the Mobile Wave: How the ESRB’s Voyage into the World of Apps is Paying Dividends plications for both the In 2008, the ESRB began of- iPhone and Android, fering a supplemental source with another round of of information called “rating development currently summaries,” which provide a underway on a Windows brief but detailed description Phone 7 app. The pur- of exactly the types of content pose of this whitepaper parents would want to know is to give readers an inside about when choosing a game look at the development for their child, including specific process for native apps and examples. why it’s important to the ESRB to reach consumers via In order to make these rating native apps no matter what summaries available at the store device they use. – where the purchase decision is often made – ESRB created a mobile website that included a “Working with PointAbout searchable database of ESRB’s and its team of mobile de- entire library of rated games, velopers provided access to including rating summaries for expertise that we don’t have those titles that had them. The internally.” site served the needs of parents, who are the primary purchasersThe The ESRB rating system consists of video and computer games.Entertainment Software Rat- of two parts: age ratings, whiching Board (ESRB) is a non-profit appear on the front of a game’s Testing the Native App Watersregulatory agency that assigns package, indicate a game’s age-the age and content ratings for appropriateness, and contentthousands of video and com- descriptors, found on the back, The ESRB decided to take itsputer games every year. identify content in a game that mobile initiatives a step further either triggered the rating or in the fall of 2009. Randy Walker,PointAbout has worked with may just be of interest or concern the ESRB’s Vice President of Mar-the ESRB to develop native ap- to a consumer. keting, discovered the PointA- bout team when he was looking Contact PointAbout at 202.391.0347, info@pointabout.com or visit www.pointabout.com for more information.
  2. 2. CNET and a number of other media outlets. The ESRB team found the app’s user retention to be high, and the number of rating searches conducted via the app indicated that provid- ing consumers with useful information when they were at the point-of-purchase was a valuable tool. “We measure consumer engagement with the ratings through various metrics, two of which are rating searches and rating summary views,” said Eliot Mizrachi, the ESRB’s Direc- tor of Communications. “Ourfor a way to augment the ESRB’s rating information for specific mobile strategy supports both ofmobile website with a native iP- games and keywords. The app these measures, which increasedhone app. The iPhone had made also provided the ability for the overall by 20 percent and 103significant inroads with consum- user to filter their queries such percent, respectively, in 2010.”ers since its 2007 release, and theESRB wanted to capitalize on the “Create a customer-focusedspeed and performance offered All Signs Point to Android offering that provides value,by native iPhone apps. engage talented people to While the ESRB’s iPhone appThe ESRB’s original iPhone app develop it and be prepared drove significant traffic to itsaimed to give parents an even to execute marketing and ratings and rating summaries,quicker, easier-to-use resource communication plans to Android use among the generalthan the mobile website. PointA- drive awareness, downloads public skyrocketed. The surge inbout and the ESRB collaborated and use while measuring popularity of a second mobileto develop an app that would al- against goals to determine operating system prompted thelow consumers to find out on the success or challenge.” ESRB to develop a native app forfly whether a video game would Android.be appropriate for their children. that the ESRB database only The agency also wanted toThe original iPhone app featured returns results within a platform release an updated version ofa search tool and access to the or age appropriate ranking. The its iPhone app that would haveESRB’s expansive library of game user is offered maximum cus- the same functionality as its first-ratings. tomizability in the execution of generation Android app. their searchesThe app gathered content by The most notable feature ofmaking web service calls to the Version 1 of the ESRB search app both the Android and updatedESRB’s server to download the received favorable reviews from iPhone app is the photo recogni- Contact PointAbout at 202.391.0347, info@pointabout.com or visit www.pointabout.com for more information.
  3. 3. tion functionality, which gives which then gets sent via web ratings database. The web ser-consumers the ability to take service to ESRB. The web service vice calls are highly refined anda picture of a game’s cover and call returns rating results using happen rapidly, allowing for aimmediately retrieve its ESRB a proprietary image-matching quick image send and searchrating information, including the service developed by IQ Engines regardless of the grade of userrating summary. that looks up the title on ESRB’s connection on their device.“The app’s search function and “The app’s search func- PointAbout’s QA team testedability to access an Android or tion and ability to access various versions of the app builtiPhone’s camera roll makes it a with calls to different third-party an Android or iPhone’ssnap to use,” said Kevin Lenane, vendors for image recognitionPointAbout’s Director of Mobile camera roll makes it a in order to evaluate the bestStrategy. “You could find the snap to use. You could offering. Testers measured time-same information by searching find the same informa- response and image-matchingESRB’s website, but the app tion by searching ESRB’s results based on different con-enables easy access to rating website, but the app nection types such as WiFi andsummaries right in the stores, enables easy access to 3G.where parents often need this rating summaries right ininformation most.” the stores, where parents PointAbout and the ESRB often need this informa- analyzed the test reports andThe camera search feature makes found that the image recogni- tion most.”use of the iOS and Android cam- tion services from IQ Enginesera APIs. The user takes a picture, were markedly better than the Contact PointAbout at 202.391.0347, info@pointabout.com or visit www.pointabout.com for more information.
  4. 4. competition. “Not only did the forecast of doubling app down- For other companies consider-test results show which service loads and mobile rating searches ing mobile applications, Walkerprovider produced faster, more in 2011.” recommends keeping it simple.accurate results, it helped our “Don’t forget the basics,” he said.developers improve the per- Based on the success of its origi- “Create a customer-focusedformance of the application by nal iPhone app, the ESRB didn’t offering that provides value, en-fine tuning the image sizes,” said think twice before deciding gage talented people to developPerry Miranda, PointAbout’s to return to PointAbout for its it and be prepared to executeDirector of QA. second round of apps. “Working marketing and communication with PointAbout and its team plans to drive awareness and Launching the Apps of mobile developers provided downloads.” access to expertise that we don’t have internally,” concludedWhat better time to launch a Walker.” I am sure we would notretail-related app than over the have achieved the same level ofholidays? The first ESRB app was success without their involve-released in December 2009. The ment.”ESRB debuted its Android appand new iPhone app in Decem-ber 2010, bolstered by anotherbatch of favorable reviews.“We launched those apps lastyear during the holiday shop-ping season,” added Walker,“which provided an opportunityto generate 335 million impres-sions through earned and paidmedia supporting the apps andour message encouraging par-ents to check the ratings.”The apps doubled the number ofdownloads over the same periodfrom the previous year, yielding a150% increase in rating searches,according to Walker. “Both ofthese metrics indicate greaterengagement with parents andconsumers and supports our Contact PointAbout at 202.391.0347, info@pointabout.com or visit www.pointabout.com for more information.