Mobile game revenue and downloads surged in 2020 as the global COVID-19 pandemic saw consumers across the globe seeking new options for entertainment amid limited social activity. But those are just the headline stories. Sensor Tower’s State of Mobile Gaming 2021 report takes a closer look at which countries, regions, and genres experienced the most significant growth, how new trends like subscriptions are impacting player spending, and which markets stand to grow the most over the next few years.
Since 2017, the United States has steadily increased its position relative to other countries when it comes to consumer spending in mobile games, surpassing Japan in 2019 to become the world’s top market by this metric. The U.S. share of global consumer spending in games reached an all-time high last year of 28 percent. That was higher than Japan at 22 percent and China at 18 percent, with both countries seeing a reduction in global market share of mobile game revenue over the last four years. It should be noted, however, that Sensor Tower’s estimates for China include revenue for the App Store but not third-party Android marketplaces.
Countries outside of the top five have steadily gained market share over the last few years, suggesting that mobile game publishers have turned to less-tapped markets with higher growth potential.
When it comes to mobile game downloads, India has become the only country to gain more than 10 percent of global game installs since 2017, reaching 12 percent of all downloads, or 9.7 billion. It was followed by the U.S. with 7 percent of all downloads and Brazil with 6 percent.
Although 77 percent of mobile game revenue in 2020 was concentrated among the five largest markets, the top five countries by downloads combined for only 32 percent of installs. This demonstrates how getting users to spend in mobile games remains more challenging than new user adoption in most markets.
The global mobile games market is forecasted to reach $117 billion from player spending across the App Store and Google Play by 2023. Southeast Asia is predicted to be the fastest riser, with revenue growing by 88 percent between 2020 and 2023. Europe, meanwhile, is projected to see player spending rise by 76 percent over the same period.
While North America will see a similar increase in revenue compared to the global average, mature games markets like China and Japan will see significantly slower growth during the next three years–excluding the aforementioned Southeast Asia region.
Subscriptions have been a key driver of revenue in non-gaming apps and the business model is increasingly finding its way into games. In 2020, 29 percent of the top mobile titles by U.S. App Store revenue utilized a subscription, up from just nine percent in 2017.
Games adopting this monetization option include the likes of Roblox from Roblox Corporation, Clash of Clans from Supercell, and PUBG Mobile from Tencent. While subscriptions aren’t the top in-app purchase for most of these games, however, they provide a boost to the freemium model when implemented correctly.
For more analysis on how the mobile game industry looked in 2020 and Q1 2021, as well as a deeper dive into advertising trends and market forecasts, you can download the complete report in PDF form below: