Mobile Gaming Goes Mainstream in 2020

The popularity of the mobile gaming industry has been on the increase for years. Prior to this new decade, mobile games were the leading app categories in both the Google Play and Apple App Store, with millions of gamers across the globe downloading free to play and freemium titles onto their devices.

The success of the mobile gaming sector up to and including 2019 even had experts predicting that it would soon become the future of the gaming industry. In 2020, that prediction has come true, as mobile gaming has emerged as the largest sector in the global gaming industry.

Mobile gaming by the numbers in 2020

According to Newzoo, the mobile gaming industry will generate revenues of over $77 billion by the end of 2020, increasing to at least $100 billion the year after. Already accounting for over 50% of the global games market, the segment is also on track to achieve a global reach of 4.2 billion users this year – representing a 6.7% year on year increase.

Apple’s AppStore alone will generate $38.8 billion in mobile gaming revenues, with Google Play hitting $27.8 billion. The remainder of the market will be split between third-party Android app stores, including ones operating in China, where Google Play is currently banned.

Game downloads have been peaking on and off throughout the year, particularly in Q2 2020, which represented increases of 44.4% year on year and 12.2% quarter on quarter. The highest month in the year to date for global downloads was April, when 5.5 billion gaming apps were downloaded across all app stores.

In May, the top 200 mobile games accounted for around $1.5 billion of total user spending for the month in the US, and engagement spiked significantly in the Middle East, Latin America, and APAC regions.

In 2020, over half of all US smartphone users are now ‘Committed Gamers’. Research from AdColony has found that mobile users between the wide age range of 18-54 play games on their phones daily, with the number of male vs. female gamers varying only by a fraction – 78.7% vs. 78% respectively.

Despite mobile being the most cost-effective medium for gameplay, with cheap handsets, free to play apps, and affordable mobile data packages ramping up its popularity in developing regions, in the US, it’s the consumers earning an above-average income that make up the largest share of mobile gamers – 82% of this group play once a month at least, and 65% play at least once a day.

Gaming verticals have also seen increases across the board

Since mobile game downloads first began to spike in March 2020, mobile gaming verticals across the board have seen growth in viewership, average playtime, and viewer share. Hypercasual, simulation, lifestyle, puzzle, battle royale, iGaming, and arcade games alike have received a boost, with five of the top-grossing apps being: Fortnite, Gardenscapes, Coin Master, Candy Crush Saga, and Roblox.

Trends shaping the future of mobile gaming

2020 has also seen certain segments of the market go through rapid development, with new trends emerging in the iGaming and mobile eSports that could further shape mobile gaming as an industry.

Mobile as a medium has had an interesting effect on iGaming (real money casino gaming, poker, and sports betting) apps. While poker apps and mobile casinos still rank highly in total app store downloads, so-called play money social games are on the rise.

A counter to real money platforms, social casino apps offer gamers all the thrill and excitement of playing a casino game without needing to spend any money. As a result, games such as the highly-rated big fish casino app have become a favourite with mobile gamers – this game alone has been downloaded over 10,000,000 times since its release – which is inspiring established iGaming brands to take their new releases in a more social direction.

And far as mobile eSports goes, it’s the developing markets that could wield the biggest influence.

In India, the second-largest mobile market in the world, the focus of mobile gamers is shifting away from hyper-casual to competitive eSports titles like Call of Duty: Mobile and Free Fire. These so-called “lite” games have low requirements, making them the perfect games for the low-end handsets that are so prolific in the region.

As the market grows, Indian gamers are much more likely to engage with these titles than they are the likes of Fortnite Mobile, which could inspire game developers and publishers to take a different route for mobile eSports on a global scale.