2021 Mobile Gaming Trends

Mobile Gaming Trends

The gaming industry exploded in 2020, growing 19.6% to over $174 billion, according to global gaming statistics from Newzoo. They further estimate it will top $217 billion by 2023, and much of this expansion is from mobile gaming. Mobile game revenues accounted for 49% of the global market in 2020. In a category that’s flourishing and maturing, what does the future look like? Let’s look at the most critical mobile gaming trends for the year ahead.

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IDFA Hinders Attribution, Leading to Lower iOS Spend and Emergence of Alternative Channels

We all know about the imminent changes to IDFA (identification for advertisers). The mobile gaming industry has significant, well-founded reasons for concern. Developers worry about how it will handicap their user acquisition (UA) and monetization efforts. They’ll no longer be able to target effectively or attribute with precision. 

The problem is that there are so many unknowns. Apple hasn’t even updated the industry on when it’s going to happen. Further, the alternatives they’ve suggested aren’t sitting well with developers. 

Like any industry preparing for disruption, mobile gaming will likely spend less on iOS app marketing. They may reallocate this to Android and other digital channels. How will Apple respond if this happens across the board? Their intention with IDFA changes is to protect user privacy, but ultimately, they need revenue from mobile gaming companies. 

Expect this mobile gaming trend to result in shifting marketing tactics. They may seek to diversify their media mix further and adopt other marketing strategies, such as content marketing.

The Genshin Impact Effect

Genshin Impact was one of the most popular mobile games in 2020. What makes it unique is that it attracted players from triple-A consoles and PCs to mobile. The game has broad appeal—it’s not just for the Chinese market. It also has a unique blend of mechanics, creating a very immersive experience. That experience was once only possible for games on consoles or PCs. 

With this mobile game’s success, other developers are taking notes and will try to replicate what Genshin Impact accomplished.

The Expansion of IP-Based Mobile Games

IP-based games often have an existing fan base since they are related to existing franchises and characters. Development time is typically much shorter as well because developers aren’t starting from scratch. 

Thus, they are extremely attractive. China has been using this model consistently, and it’s been very lucrative. The IP-based games from China focus on non-gaming IP, looking to literature, TV, and movies.

IP-based game mechanics are evolving as well. Developers elevated the segment with more sophisticated games and a more engaging experience. A good example is Marvel: Contest of Champions, which had a high-revenue year in 2020.

The outlook for 2021 includes an already launched Avatar game and an Aliens game in development.

Gamers Are Watchers and Players

The market for watching gamers is heating up. One study found that 71% of millennial gamers view this type of content. Another revealed that 18 to 25-year-olds would rather watch gamers than traditional sports. This segment probably benefited from the pandemic because it isn’t dependent on in-person crowds. All professional sports experienced some type of shutdown and challenges, disrupting the fan experience. 

More gamers now aspire to be professionals. They have high regard for the skills of the top performers. With this new perspective, how might it impact developers? Will they now consider the gamer experience and those watching? It will be interesting to see the impact of this in the future.

Mobile Games Become Social Networks

With most of the world in isolation due to the pandemic, people are seeking new ways to connect with others virtually. Mobile gaming happens to be an excellent channel for this, and many gamers agree it’s a way to stay connected. 

These mobile gaming trends are evident by looking at the data. Bunch, an app that includes video chat for multi-player games, increased its user base 50X since March 2020. The company also raised $20M in Series A funding.

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Image: Bunch

Another example of the trend is Pokerface, an app that brings video chat and Texas Hold‘em together. The app saw strong numbers on iOS and Android. 

The success of these two mobile games will continue into 2021 because the pandemic’s far from over. People consider their mobile phone an extension of themselves and will look for unique and fun ways to engage with friends through apps.

How Will These Mobile Gaming Trends Impact You?

All these trends are reflective of the industry’s past, current, and future. They are reactions to the prevalence of technology in the world, as well as a global pandemic. Mobile gaming faces significant challenges around UA and monetization. Our mobile gaming experts can help—see what we can offer by downloading our eBook, A Complete Guide to AdAction Solutions.