mobile gaming

The Growth of Mobile Gaming

21 April 2021
Carrier Billing

Mobile Gaming Market Overview 2020 to 2021

Mobile is taking over. App Annie’s the State of Mobile Gaming 2021 report shows that mobile games are levelling up:

  • 36% of all mobile app downloads in 2020 were games – out of 218 billion downloads in total, that equates to 80 billion downloads.
  • From 2019-2020, users increased their hours spent playing mobile games by 35% to 296 billion hours.
  • In 2020, for every dollar spent on iOS and Google Play, 70 cents were spent on games with consumers spending $100billion of the total $143bn app spend on games.
  • In Q1 2021 alone, over $32 billion was spent on mobile apps across Google Play and the iOS store, with gaming being the most influential category across the overall app market.
  • In 2021, App Annie estimates that mobile gamers will spend over $120 billion – a 20% increase on the previous year and “50% bigger than the console, PC, Mac, and handheld sectors combined”.

Factors Driving Mobile Gaming Growth

Core VS Casual Games

With COVID-19 causing global lockdowns throughout the past year, mobile users have quite literally had a lot more time on their hands – to look for new ways to entertain and to search for, download, play, or even revisit mobile games.

Casual games like CandyCrush are no-obligation, ‘Pick Up and Play’ games, usually available as a free download and monetised by ads. Casual games make up 78% of all mobile game downloads as well as generating 23% of total revenue. The success of casual game ‘Among Us’ can be attributed to key influencers adopting the game on gaming TV channel Twitch in July 2020, followed by a spike of almost 295 million monthly active users in October, and becoming the #1 game by YOY download growth in Argentina, Canada, US, Mexico, Australia, South Korea and the UK.

Core games however, often involve a higher level of commitment from players, with increased user session times (55% of all time spent on mobile games). Monetisation through in-app purchases linked to core gameplay generates 66% of total mobile gaming revenue – and this is from titles that make up just a fifth of all mobile game downloads. So how do app developers gain and maintain this amount of player interest?

  • 2020’s #1 core game in terms of consumer spend was Tencent’s ‘Honour of Kings’, leveraging “strategic gameplay mechanics like leaderboards and social assets and monetisation features like battle pass and consumables to drive stickiness, and ultimately revenue.”
  • During the height of lockdown restrictions, Pokémon GO US developer Niantic adapted quickly, giving players new ways to collect Pokémon without having to travel.
  • Core game Roblox “topped the ‘breakout games’ chart for playing hours in Germany, Russia, UK, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and US”. Players can not only socialise and choose to play ‘games-within-a-game’, but can also create their own games and receive a cut of any profits. Roblox estimated that in 2020, players collectively earned $250 million.

Mobile Search

Mobile games are often searched for on mobile, as well as purchased, downloaded and played on mobile – an easy, convenient and user-friendly process.

While it won’t be ‘Game Over’ for desktop any time soon, even Google Search (with over 90% market share) is moving to Mobile first – meaning that Google will “use the mobile version of the content of a website for ranking purposes”.

Mobile Games Advertising

Lexi Sydow, Senior Market Insights Manager at App Annie stated that mobile games in 2020 were strongly monetised by advertising, with Fullscreen and rewarded ads contributing “80% of gaming revenue on MoPub’s Exchange” as well as seeing “user engagement with game ads reach the highest levels seen yet with impressions per daily active users up 51% year over year on ironSource’s ad mediation platform.”

Mobile Game Features and Technology

Aside from the benefit of mobile gaming being readily available whenever and wherever gamers want to play, it is important to take into consideration factors like personalised app features, apps that work offline, Cloud Gaming and 5G, and user interface/experience – all can impact game success.

For gaming developers, the question may well be App VS Browser – and it’s important to decide what you want from your game in terms of user experience, app complexity and processing power, before making the decision.

  • Mobile Apps – Greater personalisation and exclusive mobile device features are available, apps work faster than website and have no visual limitations (unlike websites).
  • Mobile Browser – Games can offer fast and easily accessible entertainment without the need for commitment in terms of app downloads.

Carrier Billing – Unlocking Endless Possibilities for Mobile Games

More consumers than ever before are gamers. Their portable gaming consoles are their mobile phones, unlocking a whole new world of endless possibilities, entertainment and new ways of connecting with each other.

Give the gamers what they want. Adapting to ever-changing customer preferences, keeping up with technology and innovative new features, finding new ways and channels of promotion, as well as adopting the right monetisation strategy is key to success in the mobile gaming market.

Carrier billing can drive revenues for mobile games by giving users the option to charge subscriptions, one-off payments or in-game purchases conveniently to their mobile phone bill. Contact SLA Digital today to find out more about unlocking simple, seamless and secure payment solutions in global markets.


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