14 Mobile Gaming Trends and SplitMetrics’ Apple Search Ads Benchmarks in 2023
- Mobile Gaming Industry Statistics 2022
- Trending Mobile Games in 2022-23
- Mobile Gaming Market Trends in 2022-23
- Trend#1. Rise of New Markets
- Trend#2 AAA Gaming
- Trend#3. CTV as Part of the Marketing Mix
- Trend#4. Subscription-Based Mobile Games
- Trend#5. New Game Stores
- Trend#6. Frequent Use of Custom Product Pages
- Trend#7. AI-Generated Content
- Trend#8. Happiness Instead of Drama
- Trend#9. Viva Magenta
- Trend#10. Greater Seasonality Impact
- Trend#11. Deeper Understanding of Audience’s Preference in Creatives
- Trend#12. Colorful Screenshot Backgrounds
- Trend#13. Shorter Video Previews
- Trend#14. Streaming Services
- SplitMetrics’ Mobile Gaming Apple Search Ads Benchmarks
- The Bottom Line
If you saw the latest Merge Mansion commercials, you know that one of the biggest mobile gaming trends right now is to hire Pedro Pascal for an ad appearance.
Partially, at least.
Merge Mansion isn’t the only mobile game who went for an exquisite TV spot. In the end of 2022, Royal Match made headlines with its first broadcasted advertisement. The goal of the campaign was to expand the app’s audience and gain over two billion views.
So, what’s up with these mobile game publishers? Is the fight for user attention so fierce that you should utilize even upscale paid promotion opportunities to win?
The mobile gaming world has always been volatile, with new trends emerging in the blink of an eye — and yes, using CTV as a channel is one of them. Let’s get a closer look at what we can expect from the mobile gaming market in the near future.
Mobile Gaming Industry Statistics 2022
First, let’s examine the mobile gaming industry statistics from 2022.
As new challenges in the economy take place, the game market braces for the impact. Both major publishers and indie studios are now focusing on making profit instead of investing in growth. And they’re right to do so.
According to the State of Mobile Gaming 2023 Report by SensorTower, player spending has experienced a 14% decline from $22 billion in Q3 2021 to $18.9 billion in Q4 2022, but has managed to remain significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The good news is that adoption of mobile games remains on the same level. Over the past two years, there has been a consistent global download rate of approximately 13.8 billion per quarter. As you can see from the graph above, the App Store prevails over Google Play in terms of consumer spending, says the same report by SensorTower.
Despite the challenging environment, many forecasts predict that mobile games will keep growing in the coming years. According to Statista, the segment will experience an impressive revenue growth in 2023 — up to $315.90bn.
By 2027, the revenue is forecasted to culminate in a market volume of $419.70bn.
There’s no surprise at all. Even during the toughest times (and sometimes because of them), users will strive to play games to escape everyday life — as well as to connect with fellow gamers via mobile devices.
Trending Mobile Games in 2022-23
Despite experiencing a drop in downloads in 2022, hyper casual games continue to hold their crown as the most popular genre of them all.
However, hyper casual projects aren’t the only engaging games people are interested in. Arcade, simulation and puzzle genres are still popular with users, even with a slump in downloads.
It’s also worth noting that some game genres had a growth momentum in 2022. For instance, action mobile games enjoyed a 13% rise in downloads. The success was streamlined by Shoot’Em Up projects like Vampire Survivors.
Launched in December 2022, this game has already left its mark on the entertainment industry. Just look at its number of downloads provided by Appmagic:
The mobile version of Vampire Survivors has been downloaded over 5 million times since its release. As can be seen on the graph showing the daily installs of the mobile game, the peak was in December of last year, with over 200,000 downloads in a day. After that, there was a sharp decline.
However, Vampire Survivors is still going strong and boasts of a dedicated fan base. What’s more, it has become a critical darling in the gaming industry and even outshined famous video games. The mobile game developers even received a BAFTA award with Vampire Survivors being proclaimed as the best game of the year — outdoing such titans as Elden Ring and God of War: Ragnarok.
Sports also had an upward trend: these games had an 8% increase in installs over the course of 2022.
The growth momentum is likely to keep going strong in 2023 as the number of gamers is about to embrace a new trend. According to a report by Newzoo, the number of individuals interested in esports is projected to increase to 318 million by 2025, with digital and streaming being the two main revenue streams here. This tendency will definitely affect the whole mobile games industry, and we’ll see more exciting mobile esports projects — and, naturally, more downloads.
Speaking about installs, we can’t help but mention that Subway Surfers was the number one mobile game on both the App Store and Google Play.
The title is followed by popular games: Garena Free Fire, Stumble Guys, Roblox, and Ludo King.
Mobile Gaming Market Trends in 2022-23
We’ve found out what happened to games last year. Time to understand what the future of the mobile gaming market is going to bring.
Trend#1. Rise of New Markets
There’s no denying that the mobile gaming market is welcoming new players.
The news that Savvy Games Group acquired Scopely, the publisher that has top-grossing games like Star Trek Fleet Command and MARVEL Strike Force in the portfolio, set the mobile gaming industry on fire. This isn’t the first time Saudi Arabia is featured via publications about games.
KSA together with Israel and Kuwait witnessed the highest consumer spending in 2021 compared to the previous year and has national-level plans to invest $38 billion into the segment. What’s more, the Middle East and Latin America regions were the only ones observing an ongoing revenue increase in 2022, says Newzoo.
This is a sign that emerging markets are here to stay and, probably, win.
Trend#2 AAA Gaming
So, the question is — do you like The Elder Scrolls series?
The author of this article is a big fan. Now imagine the joy this fan experienced upon learning that Bethesda Games Studios published a new game, The Elder Scrolls: Blades, specifically for smartphones. Immersing yourself into Tamriel via a mobile phone is really a dream come true!
Launched in 2019, a free-to-play dungeon crawler hit 1 million downloads in the first week after the release. Since then, the game has been steadily gaining popularity. The Elder Scrolls: Blades isn’t the only mobile project by Bethesda. Previously, they published Fallout Shelter — a game that has over 120 million installs, which is a record for the studio.
Bethesda isn’t the only major publisher interested in conquering the mobile game market. Top gaming companies such as Electronic Arts and Ubisoft are actively expanding their mobile offerings to seize new opportunities. They aim at winning over smartphone users and also at encouraging other gamers to install mobile versions of their famous titles.
Household names, deep pockets, and well-loved franchises make these companies a formidable competitor to established mobile gaming companies. Big publishers also strive to create games that can be released on any device, so we’ll also see a lot of multiplatform releases in the coming years.
Trend#3. CTV as Part of the Marketing Mix
We started this article joking about Pedro Pascal shooting a mobile game ad — but in every joke there’s some insight. It really seems like CTV is on the rise, and it’s not only brand awareness that comes with these ads.
In 2016, App Annie was suggesting game publishers saw noteworthy improvements in rankings following the launch of TV campaigns. Now, in 2023, we’ve finally come to acknowledge CTV as part of the app marketing mix. More and more studios are experimenting with the channel aiming at growing their user bases. This has become possible due to the new CTV measurement and targeting options.
A stellar example of such an experiment is the launch of a TV ad by Royal Match. According to Appmagic’s data, the ongoing campaign has been successful, as evidenced by the game’s progress in the US download charts. It has risen from the 115th spot in November to the 62nd position in December, surpassing its earlier peak of 94 in March 2021.
Will we see more ads about mobile projects on TV? For sure. However, it’s worth noting that this channel needs investing, and not every publisher is able to allocate a huge portion of their budget to it. We recommend exploring the channel when you’re truly ready to scale.
Meanwhile, if you’re really interested in the trend, we have something special for you. During App Growth Week, Tatiana Hoffman, Product Lead at Adjust, shared insights into working with CTV and measuring its performance. Check out the recording here.
Trend#4. Subscription-Based Mobile Games
Nowadays it seems like everything revolves around subscriptions. Many non-gaming apps have chosen this popular monetization method because of its convenience, effectiveness and higher chances of user retention. It’s only natural the mobile gaming market doesn’t want to miss out on this opportunity.
Aside from traditional revenue models, such as in-app purchases and in-game advertising, mobile games are embracing the subscription-based system. As Peggy Anne Salz writes about the trend, “The market size was valued at USD 8.25 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8% from 2022 to 2030”.
Trend#5. New Game Stores
In 2023 and beyond, we’re going to see new game stores appear. Being game-focused marketplaces, they will coexist with traditional mobile platforms like Google Play Store and the App Store.
The implementation of the EU’s Digital Markets Act is anticipated to occur in May 2023, with the goal of enabling users to install apps from alternate stores. Additionally, in February 2022, a bill was approved by a US Senate panel that seeks to regulate app marketplaces.
This development is significant for game publishers because independent game stores can offer lower fees and greater payment options — making the monetization of in-app purchases even more effective.
Trend#6. Frequent Use of Custom Product Pages
In December 2021, the App Store launched two fresh options for enhancing conversion rates — custom product pages and product page optimization. While this isn’t a new announcement, we’re observing an increase in leveraging custom product pages — which are a great UA tool.
With them mobile app and game developers can create up to 35 additional versions of their App Store product page to highlight specific features, updates, or promotional offers. This allows developers to create customized ad variations in Apple Search Ads search results campaigns, and to bring targeted advertising to a whole new level by:
- Testing different value propositions
- Running campaigns for various audience segments
- Optimizing ads across different regions
- Highlight and feature particular content
In the case of games, custom product pages enable you to segment your audience, for example, by psychological types such as Socializers, Explorers, Achievers, and Killers, and run campaigns that will appeal to their interests.
If you’re interested in harnessing the full power of custom product pages, make sure to take a look at our Playbook.
Trend#7. AI-Generated Content
Like it or not, AI is here to stay — and disrupt the ways development and creative teams are doing things. The mobile game industry is no exception.
A variety of AI tools will have a significant impact on game development and app marketing. Solutions like ChatGPT, for instance, can be used for this kind of activities:
- Brainstorming game’s features/gameplay/story
- Creating in-game assets
- Comparing your game against other apps
- Assisting you with coding
- Metadata optimization
- Keyword optimization
- Working with app store reviews
- Ad creation, and more.
We at SplitMetrics played around with some AI solutions to see them in action and even tried to generate our own icons for a non-existent game Ghost City with DALL·E 2. It took us some time to get the prompt right, bit the result was worth it:
It’s an exciting time to be alive. AI is going to simplify and speed up game production meaning that development costs are also about to be reduced.
Thinking big is thinking disruptive and there is nothing more disruptive than AI right now — even in mobile marketing. Regardless of how you feel about AI, it’s wise to know its strengths and weaknesses. Read about them in our article “Mobile Marketing Meets AI: New Possibilities with ChatGPT”.
Trend#8. Happiness Instead of Drama
When it comes to ASO, it’s hard to find a person who hasn’t seen all these creatives depicting characters in dramatic situations. Despite the popularity of such icons and screenshots, it seems like mobile gamers are getting fed up with them — at least in the case of puzzle games.
According to our ASO Report 2022, users are more likely to download your mobile game if its icon depicts a happy, smiling face.
To ensure the best possible results, come up with several icon concepts and check them out via A/B testing. SplitMetrics Optimize can be of great help here.
Trend#9. Viva Magenta
The color of the year — Viva Magenta — is trending, and it could potentially be a good fit for mobile game icons.
In crowded app stores, having a standout and memorable icon is crucial for attracting potential players. The bold and fearless nature of Viva Magenta communicates a sense of excitement and energy, which are qualities that are often associated with mobile gaming.
Incorporating a trending color like Viva Magenta could potentially improve an app’s visibility and attract more downloads. With its popularity in pop culture, the use of Viva Magenta also appeals to younger demographics, who are often key players in the mobile gaming industry.
Trend#10. Greater Seasonality Impact
When it comes to ASO and mobile gaming, there’s one thing app marketers should always keep in mind: seasonality. Why? Because the seasons can have a significant impact on user behavior, and understanding this can help you optimize your app’s visibility and downloads.
Essentially, you need to be aware of seasonal shifts in user behavior and adjust your ASO and marketing strategies accordingly. This could include updating your app’s creatives and metadata to reflect seasonal themes, creating special seasonal events within your game, or even adjusting your advertising budget to capitalize on peak seasons.
According to our research, a seasonal icon can increase your app’s conversion rates by 1.5-2%, making it a simple yet effective way to give your ASO strategy a boost.
Trend#11. Deeper Understanding of Audience’s Preference in Creatives
When carrying out A/B tests for different games, we’ve stumbled upon a curious fact. When it comes to creatives, there’s a difference in preferences among male and female players.
For instance, women tend to react when seeing a single female character on a mobile game icon.
The same rule applies to screenshots: female gamers like to see women as protagonists:
Men, on the other hand, prefer to see a group of heroes on app icons:
In case of screenshots, the mobile gaming male audience wants to know what the gameplay is going to be like, so your best shot here is to showcase the project’s mechanics:
Storytelling elements, at the same time, are popular among all segments of the mobile gamers.
Trend#12. Colorful Screenshot Backgrounds
According to our ASO benchmarks, screenshots are the one element that regular gamers tend to engage with. For this reason, it’s a sound idea to test their concepts.
Pay special attention to the background. Our research shows that colorful backgrounds show better results than a one-colored setting. This is especially true for puzzle and hyper casual games.
Trend#13. Shorter Video Previews
Another popular mobile gaming trend is to cut video previews short.
The video app preview is a crucial element on the product page that potential players often view before deciding whether or not to install your mobile game. It’s important to note that the maximum allowed length for video previews on the App Store is 30 seconds, whereas Google Play suggests videos ranging from 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
We highly recommend shortening your video by half to optimize its effectiveness. Our A/B experiments have shown that users are less likely to watch longer previews, often losing interest and wandering away. Therefore, it’s best to keep the video length to a minimum of 30 seconds.
Experiment with video preview to check this trend out. Cutting down even a few seconds can be great for your conversion rate.
Trend#14. Streaming Services
It seems like streaming services are starting to take an interest in the mobile games market. Udonis gives an example of Netflix that’s actively exploring games, including mobile ones, as an investment.
The media company developed a mobile game based on one of their major TV shows — Stranger Things. The project performed well, however, not too well — in 2022, it scored about 4 million mobile game downloads. While the results may be a bit disappointing for Nextflix, there’s no doubt that the streaming service will keep developing games to cover the mobile gaming market as much as possible.
There is another curious trend regarding streaming services. This time it’s not about creating games — it’s about watching games.
According to Stream Hatchet, mobile games resulted in 157 million hours watched on the main live streaming platforms including Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming in September 2022. The top three mobile games were Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Garena Free Fire, and PUBG Mobile.
Despite mobile games representing a small fraction of the total live streaming viewership — 6.7% of the overall live streaming market, they represent a distinctive subset of the games played in this platform. With the increasing popularity of streaming games, one can say streaming is one of the tools that can be employed for user acquisition outreach.
SplitMetrics’ Mobile Gaming Apple Search Ads Benchmarks
Aside from general trends, it’s necessary to be aware of what’s going on in the user acquisition domain. Apple Search Ads, for instance, is a top-notch channel for getting highly-motivated users, so checking on its benchmarks and cost trends is always a wise choice.
At SplitMetrics, we regularly publish Apple Search Ads Benchmarks Reports to make sure you have a clear understanding of how campaigns are performing across various app categories and regions.
Mobile gaming isn’t an exception. Take a look at the infographic illustrating the latest benchmarks for the category below:
For more information about the mobile gaming market state in terms of Apple Search Ads campaigns, download the latest Apple Search Ads Benchmarks Report created by our team.
Our latest report offers a comprehensive analysis of the average CPT, CPA, TTR, and CR for search results campaigns on the platform. It breaks down this data not only by overall performance, but also by categories and markets, so that you can gain a granular understanding of how your campaigns are performing across different segments. With this level of detail at your fingertips, you’ll be able to optimize your Apple Search Ads campaigns like never before.
Download the latest Apple Search Ads Search Results Benchmarks Report
The Bottom Line
Out of all mobile apps, games are the most versatile and exciting category.
There’s always new worlds to explore, new mechanics to master, and new characters to collect. Mobile games respond to different needs, from passing free time to overcoming challenges.
Understanding these needs and embracing current trends is a vital step to success in a pretty dynamic environment. By doing so, developers and app marketers can create mobile games that appeal to a diverse audience — and even mold mainstream pop culture.
After all, there’s nothing sweeter than making an impact.