Learn about the biggest changes in mobile game development – and how you can use them to help your game win.
With 2022 looming just over the horizon, we want to help you start planning for your next phase of mobile game development. Understanding the latest trends in mobile gaming will help you make the right decisions about what types of games to develop, the audiences you’ll target, and which marketing and monetization strategies to adopt.
That’s why we created our latest e-book, The mobile gaming trends you need to know for 2022 and beyond. This free download pairs insights gleaned from the Unity team’s years of experience helping customers with the latest market research to provide a snapshot of the mobile gaming market, including several industry-defining trends:
For now though, let’s dive into three of the top trends we encountered while researching and writing this e-book.
If you’re developing mobile games, rest assured that you’ll be busy in a growing market for some time. And regardless of how many developers are scrambling for a piece of the pie, there will be plenty of dessert for all. According to Statista research, nearly four billion smartphones will be in people’s pockets and purses in 2021, and nearly 1.8 billion people have downloaded games for their smartphones. By 2025, it’s estimated that this number will have exploded to more than 2.2 billion.
Critical factors that studios should account for in their strategic planning include:
The practical takeaway from these statistics is that regardless of which demographic, genre, or geographical region you’re targeting, cross-platform development is obvious low-hanging fruit.
What can make cross-platform development challenging is not so much the different code bases, but rather the need to optimize your game for an ever-increasing variety of devices, all with different hardware capabilities. While there’ve been fewer than 10 primary iPhone models, there are thousands of different Android-based smartphones with varying performance capabilities.
71% of the top 1,000 mobile games in 2020 were created using the Unity platform. Unity is the mobile gaming industry leader, for a reason: It includes a robust ecosystem of tools to help make beautiful games that run well across any mobile platform, as well as services to help developers grow, engage, and monetize their player base to run a sustainable business.
Unity resources to support mobile developers include:
Here’s the headline: Gamers are playing longer and spending more than ever. For mobile gaming from 2016 through 2020, 75th-percentile player retention at day 30 grew by 7.1%. In-app purchase conversion rates rose by 7.7%. Mobile gamers spent more money, more often. And since 2020, mobile ad revenues are up more than 8%.
But the competition is also thicker than ever, and the studios that profit most from these improvements are the ones that plan and take a disciplined approach to monitoring genre trends and monetization techniques.
The hyper-casual genre continues to dominate download charts, and according to Adjust’s Hyper casual gaming in 2020 report, it’s likely to continue growing to a nearly $100B market by 2022. Traditionally, hyper-casual gaming is defined by puzzle, word, and card games, plus a seemingly infinite number of variants that are lightweight and instantly understood for easy play. However, many define hyper-casual as any game that’s free to play (F2P) and that makes most of its money from ad monetization rather than conversions.
The top downloads in 2020 are a good clue to how genres are likely to shake out in the next few years: mostly hyper-casual, but with clear inroads from mid-cores, especially as bandwidth and device performance improve. The #1 and #3 top downloads were battle royales, while the rest were hyper-casual, with the exception of a virtual pet app.
Any F2P game requires skillful follow-up for monetization, and in-app purchases (IAP) and rewarded ads will continue to be the primary approaches. Ads will also generate consistent monetization results for nearly all mobile gaming categories. Rewarded ads, content that gamers have chosen to watch in exchange for a game advantage of some sort, have the highest effective cost per thousand impressions (eCPM) and return significantly better click-through rates (CTRs) than banner ads.
The gaming industry is like any other: The keys to success are developing robust plans and aligning your tech stack accordingly. Gaming is a mature industry, relatively speaking, and you can leverage a wealth of best practices to keep your key performance indicators on the uptick.
These best practices include using AI-enabled analytics that provide player insights quickly, so your team can more deeply understand trends and rapidly iterate and update. Optimizing ad placements and in-app purchase configurations, preferably with a tool tightly integrated into the development platform, is another essential best practice for driving revenue.
The social element is an important way to drive a successful and long-lasting gaming experience. The ability to play with others and enjoy full communications without network lags can make any game more immersive and sticky. The proliferation of 5G promises to bring the kinds of immersive and highly-competitive multiplayer game experiences that people expect from consoles and PCs to mobile gaming as well. And because a 5G network enables more CPU-intensive processing in the cloud rather than on devices, even lower-end units will be able to join in.
According to a recent report from the Entertainment Software Association, more than half of frequent gamers play online with others an average of seven hours a week, and 55% reported using social gaming to stay connected during the pandemic. The growth sophistication in multiplayer gaming has been a continuous trend for years, and multiplayer games can be astonishingly complex social environments. For some, it’s all about winning and accomplishing goals. For others, simple human interaction is ample reward. But everyone is there because engaging multiplayer environments have turned gaming into an interpersonal playground.
Developing a multiplayer isn’t easy. Nailing server orchestration with highly volatile bandwidth requirements and complex technology stacks is a tremendous challenge. Offering a seamless, reliable environment with good matchmaking – balancing player skills, attributes, and network considerations – is also key.
Outsourcing backend tasks like server orchestration and matchmaking frees up your team to create thoughtful and tailored approaches to the multiplayer experience. For example, creative developers can optimize asynchronous turn-based, real-time PVE/PVP gameplay, integrate share-to-social features, and find new ways to use ghost objects and characters. You can focus on designing delightful gameplay rather than troubleshooting esoteric networking issues.
Unity provides key game-server hosting solutions for operating and optimizing multiplayer games:
Understanding technology and market trends can inform how you assess your current practices and look for better ways to run your studio. We cover twice as many trends in a lot more detail in the full e-book, so we encourage you to download the full trend report for free today to get all the latest insights to help you get ahead of the competition and stay there.
Mobile gaming is growing faster than ever, technologies are improving device performance across the board, and the Unity development platform is providing the most complete solution for making beautiful, highly performant mobile games. Unity is the preferred platform of successful mobile game developers, powering more than 70% of the top 1,000 mobile games worldwide.
Our team is always here to help you take on the right tools and services to make sure you’re supported throughout your game development journey, from concept to commercialization. If you’re ready to get going, you can access Unity Pro today or talk to one of our experts to learn how we can help you take your game to the next level.