Report: Mobile gaming generated $89.6 billion in 2021 (Sensor Tower)

Growth in the mobile gaming sector slowed a bit this year, but it remains the largest and most lucrative market.

This week, mobile analytics group Sensor Tower published a report examining revenues in the mobile sector for 2021, and the data points to a 20% increase in global app spending. According to the report, mobile app revenues reached $133 billion this year, with $89.6 billion--or roughly 67.4%--of that total coming from the gaming segment. 

This represents a 12.6% increase in mobile game spend when compared to last year, a figure that actually falls short of gains observed over the last couple years. In this way, the growth can be seen as a sort of return to normalcy following the irregularity of pandemic-era growth.

“Player spending in mobile games continues to climb year-over-year,” Stephanie Chan, mobile insights strategist at Sensor Tower, told GameDaily. “However, this has normalized somewhat after the enormous surge in 2020 due to the onset of the pandemic. The year-over-year growth we're seeing in spending this year trails the 26% year-over-year growth in 2020 and the 17% year-over-year growth in 2019.”

While gaming represents more than 67% of all mobile revenue in 2021, the segment’s share of total consumer spending has actually shrunk when compared to recent years, even while mobile gaming revenue continues to rise year-over-year. Chan attributes this phenomenon partly to the growth of subscriptions and in-app purchase in the non-gaming segment. Another factor is the strong growth of the entertainment category amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“However, these two categories in particular aren't so far removed from one another as they might first appear, especially as we see entertainment companies such as Netflix's big push into the mobile gaming space,” Chan explained. 

Looking at the top-grossing mobile games of the year reveals a familiar stable of market leaders. PUBG Mobile, Honor of Kings, and Genshin Impact have led the way this year in terms of revenue, with stalwarts like Pokémon Go, Candy Crush Saga, and Roblox also appearing in the top 10.

In all, Chan said that Sensor Tower expected a dip in market share for the mobile gaming segment, and that’s exactly what has happened. The COVID-19 pandemic set an unrealistically high bar for subsequent reports, and it appears that we’re starting to see a return to regular growth patterns. The mobile space remains the largest and most lucrative segment of gaming, so a slow in overall growth is largely inconsequential. It will be interesting to monitor these growth patterns as 2022 data collection gets underway.

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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  sdesatoff@rektglobal.com or follow him on Twitter.