The mobile gaming market has grown significantly over the past years, ever since Pokemon Go was launched. Back in 2016, revenues from mobile games surpassed the revenues obtained from PC games. In 2020 global mobile game revenue is expected to reach $165.9 billion with 5 biggest markets including the US, China, South Korea, Japan, and Germany. Furthermore, by 2021 mobile gaming is estimated to represent almost 60% of the global gaming market.

Last year’s mobile gaming trends were represented by console-quality games, augmented reality, and the rise of a new genre known as hyper-casual. Apps that belong to the casual genre were definitely at the top of app stores' rankings in previous years. However, with 2020 well underway, game developers are trying to figure out the mobile gaming trends for the future. Interestingly enough, a lot of these blogs are writing about pretty same themes. Let’s take a look at some of the games' trends that will define the mobile gaming market in 2020.

in app mobile advertising growth

If you are a big fan of the hyper-casual genre, then you will be happy to know that it is here to stay and we can safely add it to the list of game trends of 2020. Hyper-casual games are very lightweight which makes them suitable for most of the mobile phones. Such games have very basic mechanics and provide instant gameplay. Some big names in the hyper-casual genre are games such as Terrainium, Hole.io, Skiddy Car and many others. Hyper-casual apps require very little time for app development and production. Besides, they offer a simple interface without any tutorials required. 

Mobile games industry analysis shows that an increasing number of gaming companies are currently entering the hyper-casual gaming area. Some companies intend to do it independently, while others focus on acquiring smaller competitors. The competition for the acquisition of new users of casual games will be fierce. Game developers who do not have the money to stay competitive will have to transit to publishing deals or sell their business in order to stay competitive.

AR will be a trend according to mobile gaming data

In 2018 Google unveiled the ARCore platform for a mobile game development that builds apps on Android. The ARCore platform uses the phone’s camera to take virtual objects and place them in the real world regardless of the surface or surroundings. Google is not the only big name to enter the AR arena. Apple is currently launching its ARKit, the biggest AR platform in the world. According to Mozenix, by 2022 the value of the AR market is going to surpass $170 billion. Virtual reality is also one of the mobile gaming industry trends since it offers an unprecedented level of user engagement. 

There were some big-time AR game releases in 2019, such as Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, which made $300.000 in just the first 24 hours. In 2020 this trend is only strengthening with new releases, such as Stranger Things by Netflix. Each year this area gets more and more promising - according to Statista, global consumer spend on VR/AR apps and content is going to reach almost $6.5 billion in 2020 and over $8 billion in 2021. So in the next few years, the market is going to grow, especially considering the continuation of global 5G adoption which can work as a fuel for further growth of AR and VR gaming.

Keep in mind that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Augmented reality is now the best way to provide users with a “wow” factor, and many brands are counting on AR to stay relevant on the market. All of the board games, toys, and even coloring books that were popular in the last decade are now finding new life thanks to AR. A phone and a mobile app is everything that we need to play games and enjoy all of these things.

Mobile gaming trends infographics

One of the evident trends in mobile gaming that we see today is that publishers are not too thrilled about the commission fee (30%), that both Google and Apple are charging them with. There was a fascinating turn of events with the gaming company, Epic Games, that took their legendary game, Fortnite, off the Google Play Store. The company decided to create its own store and let the users download this game without having to pay any kickbacks to Google.

Even though Fortnite is the only game that can be currently downloaded from this store, we can expect the other publishers to follow the practice since it charges them only with a 12% commission. The rise of a new marketplace scheme could be one of the most interesting future trends for app games since it opens up a world of opportunities for the publishers. Also, it makes it easier to attract both game developers and users.

In the meantime, both Google and Apple have been working on gaming subscription services which resulted in launching Google Stadia and Apple Arcade respectively. Apple Arcade features a huge library of games available for iOS, Mac and Apple TV. In contrast, Google Stadia works as a cloud gaming platform that enables gaming experience in real-time on any device that uses Google Chrome including mobile devices. Instead of having to use Google Play and App Store, users will now be able to get their favorite games via those platforms directly. Both services were rolled out in fall 2019 and showed a full potential to define game trends in the years to come.

Since every developer is looking for the opportunity to make money off their game, they find new ways to monetize an app apart from charging the fees for downloading. One of the alternative monetization strategies is using mobile ad formats, including interstitials, video ad formats, and rewarded ad units.

Rewarded video

The rewarded video is an especially promising format. In fact, according to a recent study, users prefer rewarded video ads, so the engagement rate for this format is very high and usually stays at level 92%. The opt-in rate reaches 79% which is almost impossible to accomplish by any other ad formats. This ad unit is so memorable because the user always watches the ad video till the end in order to get an in-game reward afterward. This way, advertisers who use rewarded ads always receive impeccable completion rates.

Rewarded video ads

Offer Walls

The age-old offer wall is not going anywhere since it is a very useful tool to monetize users who are not willing to spend money on apps. An offer wall is a page that appears in front of users while app browsing experience. It usually offers them various rewards if they spend some money or complete an action. Offer walls are also starting to be used in non-gaming apps like messengers and dating applications. Such a non-disruptive opt-in format helps to boost engagement and increase retention while providing both publishers and developers with a good payout.

mobile game trends

All of the mobile gaming trends that were mentioned above show that the industry continues to grow. All kinds of new technologies are being created to engage the users and immerse them into the gameplay.

Keep in mind, that monetization does not have to be solely focused on in-app purchases or advertising. Whenever users download game apps, they leave valuable information such as name, age, email address, phone number, and other details which make a treasure trove of information for the digital industry. All of this information can reveal a lot of insights that businesses can turn into millions of dollars. In this quest, mobile app developers could be the biggest winners within the game industry. They have access to tons of information, and even though the data monetization is still one of the emerging mobile gaming trends, it could be a very effective mobile monetization platform for publishers and app developers.

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Written by
Iryna Sieliutina, Head of Content Strategy of SmartyAds
April 2020