Report: Mobile games generated $20.9 billion in Q3 2020 (Sensor Tower)

Analyst Craig Chapple talks to GameDaily about the quarter's biggest mobile trends, including India's game bans and the surprise rise of Among Us.

This week, mobile analytics group Sensor Tower released its quarterly report examining trends in consumer spending on mobile apps. The report includes mobile gaming, a segment that generated $20.9 billion in revenue over the last three months, denoting a 26.7% increase over the same period last year. As expected, as with the greater games industry, the COVID-19 pandemic boosted mobile revenue a great deal at the outset, but the numbers have remained strong in the ensuing months.

“That player spending remains so strong is a hugely positive sign for the mobile games industry, and shows that, as much of the world lifted lockdown restrictions, revenue remained above previous expectations prior to the pandemic,” Craig Chapple, mobile insights strategist at Sensor Tower, told GameDaily. “Mobile was already a popular platform, but it seems more people than ever are turning to their smartphones for entertainment.”

Even before the pandemic, player spending on mobile games was expected to rise in 2020, Chapple said. But lockdowns have propelled the sector to new heights. In a report from June, analytics provider Newzoo predicted that video games will generate upwards of $159 billion this year, with $63.6 billion coming from the mobile segment alone.

“It’s clear that the pandemic and lockdowns have had a significant impact on the mobile games market, resulting in a sharper increase in downloads and player spending this year than previously expected, as people stuck at home looked for entertainment and ways to connect with others,” Chapple explained. 

As usual, it was Tencent’s Honor of Kings that snagged the global top-grossing spot on Sensor Tower’s charts for the quarter. The MOBA was followed by perennial hits PUBG Mobile, Pokémon Go, Coin Master, and Roblox.

In terms of downloads--that is, games that didn’t necessarily gross piles of cash, but were downloaded the most--it was breakout hit Among Us that earned the top position. The party/deduction game has been enjoying a period of incredible popularity on the heels of increased influencer attention. Chapple said that this level of success for a two-year-old game is almost unheard up in the mobile sector.

Among Us’ rise to the top is unique,” he said. “It’s achieved sudden success thanks in large part to the power of influencers and, seemingly, word of mouth. To date, it’s accumulated 128.7 million installs on mobile, with nearly 80% of those downloads generated in August and September 2020.” 

While Among Us’ delayed popularity is singular, there are a few other mobile games that have enjoyed a resurgence in downloads years after the fact. As an example, Chapple pointed to 2016’s Gardenscapes by Playrix, which had an impressive second quarter this year; it was downloaded 79.7 million times during that period. Another noteworthy example is Clash of Clans, which, in January, saw year-over-year growth in revenue for the first time since 2015.

During the last quarter, the Asian mobile market saw a significant shakeup as the Indian government banned a number of Chinese-owned mobile apps, including some very lucrative games. When asked about the potential impact on the overall mobile landscape, Chapple said that while the global market was unlikely to see a noticeable shift, the Indian market is a different story.

“The ban of PUBG Mobile could have a noticeable impact within India’s mobile games market, as it was the country’s top grossing game,” he explained. “It was hailed as a breakthrough in getting players to spend money in their mobile games, and India’s growing games developers will now be hoping to attract those consumers to their own titles.”

Moving forward, Chapple said that Sensor Tower expects spending to continue to rise throughout the remainder of the year and into the next, but the increase is unlikely to be as substantial as it was this quarter.

“Our current forecast for mobile games revenue is that, while we expect overall player spending will increase each year, don’t expect the sharp rises we saw in 2020 to continue in 2021,” he said. “Of course, exactly what happens to the sector will depend on how the world’s economies fare in the years ahead.”

The mobile sector is historically the most lucrative segment in games, a fact highlighted by Sensor Tower’s new report. While the impact of COVID-19 is likely to lessen in the coming months, there’s no reason to believe that mobile gaming will not continue to be the most profitable area in the business.

For more stories like this one delivered straight to your inbox, please subscribe to the GameDailyBiz Digest!

Editor-in-Chief

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.