With 2021 almost behind us, it’s time to turn our attention to mobile game market trends in 2022 and 2023.
Mobile gaming has exploded during the last couple of years. According to the latest data, there are 2.69 billion mobile game players globally. In addition, mobile games dominate the App Store revenue share (66%). We can expect these numbers to grow even further in 2022.
So, what are some mobile game market trends of 2022 you should know about?
Keep reading to find out!
AAA Mobile Gaming Experiences Are on the Rise
One of the events that had the biggest impact on the mobile gaming industry in 2020 was the release of miHoYo’s Genshin Impact. In the first month of its release, it was downloaded 15 million times and earned more than $150 million in revenue.
What makes this game stand out among other mobile games are the superior graphics, open-world gameplay, and gacha-style monetization. Furthermore, the game experience is exactly the same as on PC or consoles. In other words, miHoYo managed to bring incredible single-player mechanics from AAA PC and console games to the small screens.
Because of Genshin Impact’s success, we expect to see more AAA mobile gaming experiences in 2022 and years to come. Furthermore, we might see more Chinese developers dominating the market. Besides, miHoYo, Lilith Games is another example of a highly successful Chinese game studio that experienced wild success overseas.
IDFA Poses New Challenges for Developers
Apple’s change in the use of IDFA will continue to have a great impact on mobile game advertising. Targeted advertising has become much tougher, which has a direct impact on user acquisition and monetization.
The most important thing mobile game developers need to do is adjust to the new changes and expand their user acquisition strategies. Some developers might even explore offline channels.
Even though the changes rolled out in mid-2021, mobile game advertisers are still struggling to overcome IDFA challenges.
What’s certain is that in 2022, marketing creatives will become more important than ever before. This is what mobile game publishers should invest in and figure out how to make their ads stand out. Another piece of advice is to integrate data science and creative teams to achieve better results.
Hyper-Casual Games Continue to Rule the Top Charts
According to SensorTower’s Industry Trends report, hyper-casual titles have dominated the 2020 top charts. Furthermore, Among Us, a casual game, has been one of the most successful games in the previous year.
It seems that many people turned to casual games during the 2020 pandemic. According to SensorTower, “Adoption of the top 1,000 Hypercasual genre games grew 45 percent Y/Y in 2020.” Furthermore, hyper-casual games have surpassed 10 billion installs in 2020.
Most likely because these games are simple to play and allow people to have fun and relax during these tough times.
We expect this trend to continue throughout 2022as demand for hyper-casual games is still strong.
The Puzzle Game Genre Is Evolving Further
During the last few years, the puzzle game genre went through many changes. The latest mobile game market trend, which has been adopted by all top match-3 puzzle games, is adding different meta-layers to the core gameplay.
That’s the result of market saturation. Because it’s hard to get noticed in the match-3 subgenre and beat giants like Candy Crush, developers are adding new and exciting elements to their games.
Furthermore, this strategy allows developers to attract a broader audience. So instead of targeting only match-3 players, puzzle games with meta layers can attract gamers interested in design, fashion, or even storytelling games.
Core Titles Drive Consumer Spending
According to SensorTower’s Industry Trends report, core games were dominating the top charts in 2020 in terms of gross revenue.
On this list, we see core games like PUBG Mobile, Honour of Kings, Roblox, and Genshin Impact.
Core games rely primarily on in-app purchases and subscription monetization models. That has proven to be very successful. However, more and more developers of IAP games have also started adopting in-game ads. They not only serve as an additional revenue stream but can also boost in-app purchases.
Subscription-Based Monetization Brings the Big Bucks
Subscriptions have become very common among mobile games, especially among top-grossing games, according to SensorTower’s Industry Trends report.
We expect more and more games to offer subscriptions as a monetization model, which is why this is a mobile game market trend worth mentioning.
Some examples of subscriptions in mobile games are:
- Battle passes (e.g., Fortnite, PUBG Mobile)
- Booster subscriptions (e.g., Boom Beach)
- VIP access (e.g., Wheel of Fortune)
- “Remove ads” subscription (e.g., Sand Balls)
However, it’s important to note that subscriptions are usually an additional monetization model and are most commonly used alongside in-app purchases.
Even More Emphasis Is Put on Social Features
Gaming communities have always been very strong. However, mobile games were always one step behind PC and console games in terms of offering players a way to interact or connect.
Furthermore, because of the coronavirus pandemic, people started craving more human connection and social experiences, even if they’re virtual. That’s another reason for developers to invest in social features.
Currently, roughly two-thirds of the top 50 mobile games have at least one social feature (App Annie). Some popular social features in mobile games include:
- in-game chat
- social media connection
- co-op modes
- PvP modes
According to Facebook, “Four in ten (38%) new gamers in the U.S. said they prefer chatting with others when playing games compared to three in ten (29%) existing gamers in the U.S. who said the same.”
We now see many mobile games expanding and improving their social features, especially in games from Asia. However, there are some great western examples as well, like Call of Duty: Mobile that has hangout rooms, and Roblox where players can enjoy shows.
PocketGamer has called the evolution of social experiences in mobile games “mobile social 2.0”.
Keep in mind that hangout rooms are not just a great place where players can interact – this can also be a great monetization opportunity because these rooms are often the place to show off their avatar, skins, and gear. Plus, it’s a great way to improve user retention.
More and More Gamers Are Watching Instead of Playing
One of the biggest mobile game market trends in 2022 will be mobile esports. In 2020, there were almost half a billion esports viewers. (Newzoo) The pandemic had a big impact on this. We expect that number to rise in 2022, as the popularity of watching games is increasing.
According to Nielsen, “71% of Millennial gamers watch gaming video content, or online videos about games, on platforms like YouTube and Twitch.”
Furthermore, for 18-25-year-olds, watching gamers play is more popular than watching traditional sports. (Limelight)
Another interesting fact is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a U.S. representative, played Among Us for charity and more than 400k people watched the stream.
But what does this mean for developers?
Well, mobile game developers need to rethink how they develop their games. More specifically, they need to consider Twitch integration, as this is the primary streaming channel.
This will make it easier for gamers to play and stream their games. This, of course, results in amazing free promotion, as well as paid promotion opportunities. People who watch other gamers play might get interested in a particular game and download it themselves. And as we know, gamers value the opinions and recommendations of other players and gaming influencers.
Mergers and Acquisitions Will Continue
Over the last couple of years, we’re seeing more mergers and acquisitions among mobile gaming companies.
According to Newzoo, the number of gaming companies that signed such deals increased in 2021.
Some of the most notable acquisitions that happened in 2020 and 2021 are those by Zynga and Embracer group.
The mobile gaming giant Zynga acquired two big Turkey-based developers: Peak Games ($1.8 billion) and Rollic Games (80% for $180 million). In 2020, they also announced they will acquire a Chinese studio – StarLark ($315 million).
Moreover, Embracer Group acquired a total of seven studios in 2021. Out of those studios, the most noteworthy names are Demiurge Studios and CrazyLabs. All in all, the company is planning to spend $2 billion on M&A by the start of 2022.
As you can see, most of these deals are mobile gaming giants eating up mid-sized studios. We expect that this trend will continue in 2022.
Wondering why so many gaming companies are doing this?
Since IDFA devaluation made acquiring users via ad networks much more difficult, game publishers are looking for alternative ways to find users. The thing is, M&A open up the possibility for game publishers to create mega user bases. If they achieve this goal, they can find more players within their own portfolio – by using cross-promotion.
Blockchain Gaming Is Taking Over
While blockchain gaming still hasn’t hit mobile in a big way, as most of these games are desktop games, this is bound to happen any day now. Furthermore, the mere existence of blockchain games, regardless of their platform, is disrupting the mobile game market.
Blockchain games bring forth the concepts of ownership and earning while playing games. The so-called play-to-earn games reward players for playing and participating in the game’s ecosystem. Furthermore, game items are owned by players, even game land in some cases. More and more mobile games are adopting this system and many publishers are coming out with blockchain games.
This is completely different from traditional mobile games where the game publishers would own everything in the game, even items players purchased. Furthermore, players never got a say in how a mobile game develops, which is another advancement blockchain gaming brings, as the goal is total decentralization.
One of the main obstacles to blockchain technologies becoming mainstream in the mobile gaming world is the fact that many, if not most, mobile gamers don’t know much about it and are wary of anything blockchain related. Furthermore, many are opposing the idea of bringing together gaming and earning – they want to play games for fun, not to earn money.
However, despite these challenges, gaming as a whole is moving towards a blockchain future, and publishers should take notice and make sure to take advantage of this new trend.
Final Thoughts on Mobile Game Market Trends
According to Newzoo, there will be more than 3.07 billion mobile gamers across the globe by the end of 2023. It’s safe to say that the mobile gaming market is booming and will continue to do so. It will be interesting to see what this year brings us and how it will shape the mobile gaming industry.
What are your thoughts on mobile game market trends? How will mobile gaming change in 2022? Let me know in the comments below.