Mobile Gaming

Mobile Gaming in 2023: Still Cooling Down After a Red-Hot Run, the $107B Category Wasn’t Without Success Stories

Donny Kristianto

Mobile gaming experienced challenges again in 2023, with consumer spend declining for the second straight year. Still, there were signs of a turnaround and positive growth looks to be on the horizon as we enter 2024.

Read on for the most important insights from the mobile gaming space during 2023 in our overview of data.ai’s new State of Mobile Gaming 2024 report.

The mobile gaming market has experienced some turbulence in recent years, first with rapid growth at the start of the pandemic and then headwinds including inflation, economic uncertainty and new privacy rules. According to our State of Mobile Gaming 2024 report, global consumer spend in mobile games declined for the second straight year to $107.3 billion in 2023, while their downloads fell for the first time to nearly 88 billion.

Still, there were some positive signs that strong growth could be around the corner. The 2% year-over-year decline in consumer spend in 2023 was an improvement over the 5% decline between 2021 and 2022. Many markets showed signs of bouncing back, including the US (YoY growth was roughly even in 2023 compared to 2022 following a decline), the UK (+9%) and South Korea (+21%). In fact, half of the top 10 markets (and 65% of the top 20 markets) saw positive YoY growth in 2023, revealing how mobile game makers can find growth opportunities if they target the right markets.

Despite the market challenges, individual titles are still finding ways to break through. Seven titles exceeded $1 billion in consumer spend in 2023, one more than in 2022, with Gardenscapes reaching this milestone for the first time. Meanwhile, launches like Monopoly GO and Honkai: Star Rail captured almost instant success. 

On the downloads side, 15 games reached 100 million first-time installs, a decline from 20 games reaching this threshold in 2023. The fastest risers compared to 2022 were Block Blast Adventure Master, Royal Match and Monopoly GO.

Established Games Led the Way: Fewer New Releases, Yet Unexpected Hits Emerged

Is it harder than ever to break into the market as a new game? New data suggests that it is. In the United States, only 13.3% of the top 1,000 games by downloads were newly launched in 2023, the lowest rate in any of the past five years. This compares to nearly 30% of the top 1,000 games in 2020. Top new games in the US in 2023 included Monopoly GO, Gacha Life 2 and Honkai: Star Rail.

However, the struggle for newly released games may be a bit misleading. This change is largely driven by the drop-off in the Hypercasual games market (games that are more pick-up-and-play with a short shelf life). Only 54 new Hypercasual games reached the top 1,000 games by US downloads in 2023, down from 97 in 2022 and well below their peak of 210 in 2020. Excluding Hypercasual, the number of new games to reach the top 1,000 increased from 55 in 2022 to 79 in 2023, the highest total since 2020.

Looking at the top 1,000 games by consumer spend in the US, the number of new titles increased slightly in 2023 compared to 2022, reversing a three-year downward trend. The average US consumer spend from these new games was $16 million, well above the average from previous years. Monopoly GO helped drag up this average with more than $680 million in US consumer spend in 2023.

Top Subgenres Share Some Common Features – But Lead in Different Markets

The top subgenres by consumer spend in 2023 were the same as in 2022: 4X March Battle (Strategy), MMORPG, Team Battle (RPG) and Slots (Casino). The key markets for these games vary, however. The top subgenres in the US were Slots and 4X March Battle, while MMORPG and Team Battle led the way in South Korea and Japan, respectively. These four subgenres alone combined for more than a third of global consumer spending in mobile games during 2023.

Mobile game monetization was still well-distributed, with nine different subgenres represented across the top 20. Some of those ranked outside the top four may provide the most opportunity for growth for new titles. The fastest-growing subgenres in 2023 included Luck Battle (Party), M-3 (Match), Merge (Match), Idle RPG and Simulation Sports.

The top four subgenres by downloads were also the same as 2022, with Hypercasual subgenres taking the top three spots. Similar to consumer spend, some emerging subgenres appear to be better sources of new growth. Downloads for each of the top five subgenres declined year-over-year, while other subgenres like Simulation Sports, Simulation Racing and 4X March Battle were able to achieve positive growth in 2023. If Hypercasual games and other ad-monetizing games continue to struggle, look for some other subgenres with new monetization strategies to fill this void.

Access More Mobile Gaming Insights in the Full Report

Download our State of Mobile Gaming 2024 report to ensure you’re equipped with the latest insights on the industry’s most important and emerging trends. Prepare for 2024 and beyond based on the same data trusted by mobile gaming’s top brands, breakout successes and innovators.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: 

data.ai is a mobile market estimate service provider. data.ai is not registered in any investment advisory capacity in any jurisdiction globally, and does not offer any legal, financial, investment or business advice. Nothing contained in this communication, or in any data.ai products, services, communications, or other offerings, should be construed as an offer, recommendation, or solicitation to buy or sell any security or investment, or to make any investment decisions. Any reference to past or potential performance is not, and should not, be construed as a recommendation or as a guarantee of any specific outcome. You should always consult your own professional legal, financial, investment and business advisors. Additionally, by providing the information herein, data.ai does not make any representations or warranties and does not undertake any legal or contractual obligations whatsoever. No liability may accrue to data.ai as a result of providing this information to you.

February 21, 2024

Mobile Gaming
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