With 2022 behind us, it’s time to turn our attention to mobile game market trends in 2023 and the years to come.
Statistics show that the mobile gaming market has experienced a slight decline in 2022 compared to the previous years. However, it remains highly profitable in 2023.
So, what are some mobile game market trends for 2023 you should know about?
Keep reading to find out!
Data source: Unity and SensorTower, a leading mobile intelligence provider.
1. More Players, Fewer Payers
In 2022, there were more mobile game players compared to 2021. However, players were not as willing to make an in-app purchase.
More specifically, the number of daily active users has increased in 2022 by 8% for median games.
The number of payers has declined in 2022 across the board. According to Unity, “depending on the market, 0.5% or fewer of daily active users are making purchases on a given day.”
That means less IAP revenue for publishers. Moreover, that can also mean many players are more willing to watch an ad than to pay.
A possible solution could be to utilize hybrid monetization that combines the in-app ads and purchase models.
2. The United States Remains the Number 1 Market for Mobile Games
Despite market fluctuations and some decline in player spend, the United States has kept its position as the leading mobile gaming market.
If we examine player spending for each quarter of 2020 – 2022, spending in the US was always above $5.5 billion.
From 2019 to Q1 2022, Japan was the second mobile game market in terms of gross revenue. However, because of a decline in revenue in Q2 2022, it was replaced by China, which was historically in third place.
Moreover, Japan experienced a 22% decline in player spending in 2022. In China it was down just 3%, making gaming revenues in this market quite stable.
South Korea and Taiwan are the fourth and fifth leading mobile game markets in revenue.
3. India Is the Largest Mobile Game Market in Terms of Downloads
Just like in previous years, India is still leading mobile game adoption and is the market with the most downloads. More specifically, India accounted for 17% of all mobile game downloads in 2022.
Other leading markets by mobile game downloads are Brazil, the United States, Indonesia, and Russia.
All of these markets were stable during the last two years. The only exception is the United States, which lost its second position in the second half of 2022.
4. Hyper Casual Games Are Experiencing a Decline in Downloads
When it comes to downloads, hyper casual games were dominating the top charts for many years, making them one of the biggest mobile game market trends.
In 2022, the hyper casual genre was number 1 with 12.3 billion downloads. Let me put that into perspective. The second genre in terms of downloads was arcade games with only 5.9 billion, which is half of the hyper casual games’ downloads.
However, if we compare the hyper casual downloads total from 2022 to to that of 2021, there was a 10% decline for this genre, which started in Q1 2022 and continued throughout 2022.
Moreover, while hyper casual downloads were up 60% YoY in 2020 and 15% in 2021, they were down 24% YoY in 2022.
So even though this genre is still the most downloaded, there has been a significant decline in downloads
Does that foreshadow the end of the hyper casual reign?
It’s too early to tell, as many different factors may have influenced this decline in downloads.
What’s certain is that a new type of hyper casual game is emerging and slowly taking over the market. I’m talking about hybrid casual games – one of the biggest mobile game market trends.
5. Hybrid Casual Is Replacing Hyper Casual
Put simply, hybrid casual games mix two or more different genres.
Most commonly, we see a simple and addictive hyper-casual core with engagement and monetization features (meta layers) from mid-core games. The most popular meta features include character collection, levels, social clans, and resource management.
The goal is to have a game that’s accessible like a hyper casual game, but that drives retention and offers monetization opportunities like a mid-core game.
Because developers can reap the benefits of both worlds, this genre is becoming increasingly popular. It’s slowly replacing traditional hyper casual games, which are known for suffering from low retention.
In 2022, there were 5.1 billion hybrid casual game downloads and this genre earned more than $1.4 billion in revenue.
SensorTower’s data also confirms that this new genre has better engagement than hyper casual games. If we look at average time spent per month and session duration metrics, hybrid casual games are superior, as you can see in the graph above.
6. Mid-Core Titles Continue to Drive Consumer Spending
Just like in previous years, mid-core games were dominating the top charts in 2022 in terms of player spending.
Leading this list, we see games like Honor of Kings, Genshin Impact, and PUBG Mobile.
It’s no wonder RPG and strategy are the leading two genres in terms of worldwide gross revenue, surpassing $20 billion and $16 billion in 2022 respectively.
Core games rely primarily on in-app purchases and subscription monetization models. These have 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.
This approach is called hybrid monetization and it’s another of the leading mobile game market trends that’s here to stay.
7. Live Ops Drive Spending in Games
When it comes to retention and monetization, Live Ops is one of the biggest mobile game market trends.
If we look at the top 10 games in terms of revenue, all of them have Live Ops, which include all updates, improvements, and events developers make while the game is live. More than 90% of leading mobile games use this approach, particularly RPG, strategy, and action games.
This tells us Live Ops is essential for maximizing user retention and boosting monetization.
Other monetization features we find in top-grossing games are starter packs and loot boxes.
80% of games utilize starter packs as one of their monetization features. Games that use loot boxes generate 73% of total worldwide mobile game revenue.
8. Meta Layers Drive Player Engagement
To boost user acquisition, retention, engagement, and spending, developers began adding various meta-layers to their games.
As a result of that, we saw novel approaches like meta layer monetization – one of the mobile game market trends that utilizes additional game content for IAP monetization.
There are many meta layers developers can choose from and which they will add to their game depends on many different factors, primarily the game’s genre and core gameplay.
The meta feature that’s present in most top-grossing games is character collection. It’s particularly popular with mid-core games – 88% of them.
Social clans are the second most prevalent meta layer and work exceptionally well with character collection. SensorTower’s research showed that “72 percent of the top games with this combination see players spend an average of over 3 hours per month”.
9. More Streaming Platforms Will Enter the Mobile Games Market
As you probably know, subscriptions have been a popular monetization method for a while now. However, a new type of subscription monetization is evolving – external game subscriptions.
We see this with Netflix – a new player in the mobile gaming market. Netflix’s games are only available to users who are subscribed to its streaming platform, making them exclusive access games.
What’s interesting about this approach is that developers for Netflix games don’t have to worry about monetization features. Instead, they can focus on game content and provide users with the most engaging experience.
While Netflix’s offering of games is modest, it’s growing, and it generated more than 24 million downloads in 2022.
Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass operate on a similar subscription model – players need to subscribe to these platforms to get access to various games.
These platforms offer mostly puzzle, arcade, and simulation games.
In 2023, we expect to see more streaming platforms like Netflix enter the mobile gaming market. Not only that, but we expect to see more developers create and sell games to platforms like Netflix, as that’s a safe option and a surefire way to earn.
10. Blockchain Games Are on the Decline
Finally, let’s talk about blockchain games and their future in 2023 and beyond.
When it comes to mobile blockchain games, their downloads peaked in Q2 2022, reaching 46 million on both Google Play and Apple App Store. Since then, mobile blockchain game downloads and revenue have been declining.
The monthly active users for blockchain games on mobile have also declined in H2 2022 across major markets for these games (the US, Brazil, Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia).
However, keep in mind that SensorTower’s research focused exclusively on crypto games on mobile, not other platforms.
Moreover, this market is very young, so there’s still a chance that blockchain games will evolve into a huge and profitable market.
Mobile Game Market Trends: A Summary
Here’s a quick summary of the most important mobile game market trends:
- While there were more mobile gamers in 2022 than in 2021, the number of payers has reduced. Publishers will have to work even harder to monetize players.
- The United States has kept its position as the leading mobile game market in terms of revenue, while India remains at the top in terms of downloads.
- Hybrid casual games are a new and improved version of traditional hyper-casual games, which saw a decline in downloads in 2022. However, hyper casual games remained in the lead in terms of downloads, even though their downloads decreased.
- Mid-core games earned the most revenue – the same was true for previous years.
- Developers who want to increase user retention, engagement, and revenue should implement live ops. We also recommend adding meta features to games.
- External subscriptions and exclusive access games are also among current mobile game market trends and big platforms like Netflix are pioneering this approach.
- Blockchain games on mobile saw a decline in downloads and users in the second half of 2022.
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