Growing a thriving business and finding success in the ever-growing mobile game market is harder than ever before. To help you out, I’ve summarized the most significant mobile gaming trends for 2023 and beyond.
You’ll learn how to:
- Stand out among thousands of other mobile games
- Provide users with a high-quality game experience
- Target the right group(s) of players
- Choose the right marketing and monetization strategies
- Thrive in the booming mobile game market
1. Hybrid Casual Games Are Taking Over
For many years, hyper casual games have ruled the charts. This is still true – hyper casual was the number 1 genre in 2022 in terms of downloads.
This is a clear indicator that hyper casual games have superior user acquisition. However, what they often lack is the ability to retain players long-term. That, in turn, limits monetization opportunities.
To combat that, developers have started to mix and match various genres. The result was a new version of casual games we call hybrid casual games.
This genre is the biggest mobile gaming trend right now.
Hybrid casual games are characterized by an easy-to-understand hyper casual core and mid-core and casual meta features or meta layers. This product model proved to boost user engagement and retention, and aided hybrid monetization strategies.
According to SensorTower’s research, in 2022, hybrid casual games were downloaded more than 5.1 billion times and reached $1.4 billion in revenue. Moreover, both downloads and revenues have grown compared to previous years.
This is a strong indicator that this product model is getting more and more popular. Plus, it’s beating traditional hyper casual games in essential engagement metrics like average time spent and session duration.
Learn more about this gaming genre in my article on hybrid casual games.
2. Character Collection is the Number 1 Meta Layer
Most leading games are embracing meta layers, i.e. additional game features and content used to increase engagement, retention, and monetization.
It’s certainly one of the biggest mobile gaming trends.
There are many different meta layers developers can include in their games. The one that proved to be the most effective is character collection.
According to research by SensorTower, character collection was the most dominant meta feature in 2022 among leading games.
The three top-grossing games of 2022, Honor of Kings, PUBG Mobile, and Genshin Impact all use this meta layer and base their monetization strategies around it.
70% of top games utilize it and it’s particularly popular with mid-core games (88% of top mid-core games rely on this feature).
3. Live Ops Becomes an Essential Monetization Feature
Next up on our list of top mobile gaming trends are Live Ops and particularly in-game events. Developers who are looking to boost user retention should take note of this feature – it’s one of the biggest mobile gaming trends.
SensorTower’s research shows that games that release events periodically saw an increase in both engagement and retention – two essential mobile game KPIs. Usually, that translates to an increase in revenue.
For example, the card game Marvel Snap saw excellent results with this approach. As you can see in the graph above, the game saw a significant surge in revenue for each event that was released.
Remember to plan for Live Ops early on. Unity’s research shows that more than 30% of developers are implementing Live Ops solutions within the first week of development.
4. Streaming Platforms Enter the Mobile Gaming Market
In 2022, Netflix was the first streaming platform to move into mobile gaming. We predict more will follow in 2023 and beyond.
The question is, how successful will Netflix (and other streaming platforms) be in the mobile gaming world? So far, the games that Netflix released (more than 50 games) were not particularly successful, compared to games on app stores.
For example, Netflix’s most popular game Stranger Things: 1984, based on the critically acclaimed show, got only 4 million downloads in 2022.
That means Netflix is yet to create a truly successful game. 2023 will be the make-or-break year for the streaming giant when it comes to gaming.
5. Roguelike Games Are Becoming More Popular
Another type of casual game is getting more popular among gamers – roguelike games.
Historically, roguelike games had a modest player group as many players found them too complicated. That started to slowly change when casual roguelike games like Survivor.io started appearing on the market.
According to research by SocialPeta, key features that a casual roguelike game should have are:
- Simple controls (reducing the number of controls)
- Simple construction formulas (players can follow formulas for matching weapons or gear)
- Mature design of growth feedback (should emphasize upgrade time)
While this genre has not yet reached the mainstream, it has the potential to become big in 2023. If you’re looking to stand out among other games, this genre is worth exploring.
6. AI Tools Will Aid Game Development
Generative AI models have been the talk of the town since late 2022 when Chat GPT entered the zeitgeist.
These new technology advancements will certainly affect the mobile gaming market. Considering such AI tools can already generate images, visual art, and text, it’s easy to see how that would be useful for game development, which requires tons of assets.
As these technologies become more widespread and more advanced, we expect to see accelerated game development powered by AI.
Another possible use of AI tools could be for populating virtual worlds. Metaverse-like games are getting more popular, but creating enough content and experiences in these virtual worlds is a challenge.
AI technology could make this process much simpler and quicker.
7. Economic Pressures Will Drive Innovation
We live in challenging times – global recession, inflation, and market instability. These affect how users engage with games as well as how games are made.
For example, even though there were more players overall, 2022 had a decrease in the number of paying players, according to Unity.
Game studios will have to rethink how to make their business sustainable and come up with innovative strategies to retain and monetize players.
Mobile Gaming Trends: Conclusion
Even in times of economic turbulence, the mobile game market is growing and evolving. To navigate it successfully, game developers need to adjust to any market changes and push innovations forward.
If you need any help, feel free to reach out.