Report: Mobile gaming on track to reach $100 billion in revenue in 2020

App Annie's new report breaks down a market that saw record earnings in 2019. The analytics firm talks to GameDaily about the big trends.

The already-booming mobile market reached new highs last year, according to a report from analytics group App Annie. The numbers estimate that mobile gaming managed to capture 60% of the global games market, and that spending was 35% higher than all other forms of gaming combined. 

“The most significant growth driver for the mobile sector overall is consumers’ accelerated mobile habits and preferences,” Amir Ghodrati, director of market insights at App Annie, told GameDaily. “App Annie’s latest findings show that in 2019 the average global user spent an average of 3.7 hours per day on mobile and worldwide app store consumer spend reached a record high of $120 billion.”

It’s the mobile platform’s democratization of gaming that has contributed to such unchecked growth over the last several years, according to Ghodrati. Device saturation effectively means that everyone has a games console in their pocket. In 2019, the mobile gaming market reached $86 billion in consumer spending, a figure that is on track to reach $100 billion in 2020.

The advent of 5G technology is set to play a part in this year’s growth, Ghodrati said, with telecommunications companies likely to move quickly in expanding test markets.

“Speed is often the main talking point around 5G, but it’s the low latency that excites gamers and publishers most,” Ghodrati said. “We continue to see increasing demand for multiplayer capabilities, highlighted by the popularity of games such as Call of Duty: Mobile and PUBG Mobile, which rely on improved wireless connections.”

Augmented reality also has the potential to benefit greatly from 5G. The location-based Pokémon GO, which itself had a tremendous 2019, needs to support a high number of concurrent players while maintaining respectable speeds and offline functionality. 5G, Ghodrati explained, will go a long way in streamlining AR experiences.

According to App Annie’s report, it was casual arcade games that saw the highest concentration of users in 2019; 48% of game downloads fell into this category, which Ghodrati describes as games that feature forgiving gameplay and encourage frequent but short sessions. Games like Candy Crush Saga and Mario Kart Tour fit here. Core titles, however, did generate more spending overall (see chart below).

One of the most notable trends of the last year or two is the adoption of new methods of monetization within mobile games. Subscription services and battle passes have become commonplace, and have seen great success in bolstering revenue numbers. Ghodrati expects this trajectory to continue into 2020.

“We expect that Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass will result in innovative new games for consumers and new revenue streams for publishers in 2020,” Ghodrati said. “It’s going to take some time for consumers to transition to the mindset of considering subscriptions for mobile games, and we expect that steady build to continue in 2020 as additional games are developed specifically for these subscription services. It’ll be interesting to see additional innovation in games that are able to monetize in emerging markets where the advertising and consumer spend numbers aren’t as high. This means focusing on the value of engagement more so than direct monetization.”

Looking forward, App Annie predicts that “auto battler” games will increase in popularity this year. This is the genre that Riot’s Teamfight Tactics and Valve’s Dota Underlords popularized. They make a good fit for mobile, Ghodrati said, thanks to a combination of relatively simple gameplay and the potential for deeper strategies.

“The rise of auto battlers calls attention to the fact that popular games are increasingly drawing on mechanics from multiple genres. Moving forward, publishers need to look beyond existing app store game classifications, and leverage data to create new games that grab consumers' attention.”

The mobile market is the most lucrative gaming sector in the world, and there’s no evidence that this won’t continue to be true in 2020. Device saturation, ease-of-use, and clever monetization models have resulted in an ideal revenue flow for mobile-focused publishers. Expect further innovation in this space as 5G starts rolling out.

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Sam, the Editor-in-Chief of GameDaily.biz, is a former freelance game reporter. He's been seen at IGN, PCGamesN, PCGamer, Unwinnable, and many more. When not writing about games, he is most likely taking care of his two dogs or pretending to know a lot about artisan coffee. Get in touch with Sam by emailing him at sam.desatoff@gamedaily.biz or follow him on Twitter.