2017 Mobile Gaming Trends and What To Expect in 2018

Note: This post is an excerpt from our latest report, Consumer Behavior in 2018: Trends to Watch. Interested in learning more? Click here to download the full report.

2016 was a banner year for mobile gaming companies: Tencent and Activision/Blizzard made multibillion-dollar deals to acquire stakes in Supercell and King (respectively), two industry powerhouses. And the phenomenal rise of Pokémon GO led to renewed interest in augmented reality (AR) gaming as a viable genre.

In comparison, 2017 was relatively quiet in terms of both investment and new hit titles, as the mobile gaming ecosystem stabilized; according to Verto Analytics data, the list of top-ranking mobile games remained unchanged in 2017, and user growth slowed; between July 2016 and July 2017, mobile gaming properties gained about 12 million users, an increase of 10%. The same games (Words With Friends, Pokémon GO, and Candy Crush Saga) have maintained a near-iron grip on the top spots in Verto’s leaderboard.

Mobile Games Genre Growth: AR is a Winner

Despite being maligned as a mere fad, Pokémon GO has shown staying power; it held a consistent position in our rankings for the top five most popular mobile games in 2017. In fact, the popularity of Pokémon GO appears to be positively influencing the AR game genre as a whole: the genre enjoyed a spike in popularity (as measured by monthly unique user numbers) when the game first debuted in July 2016. And, although it suffered a sharp decline over the next 12 months, the AR and role-playing games (RPG) genre subsequently regained some of its user numbers, and claimed about 14 million monthly users in July 2017, which puts it on par with the perennially-popular “Solitaire” genre.

Unsurprisingly, the other two most popular game genres reflect the top-ranking games: “Match 3” games (which includes the Candy Crush franchise) and “Word/Quiz” games (such as Words With Friends) have both increased their monthly user numbers over the past 12 months, although the “Match 3” genre has made significantly larger gains, from about 24 million monthly users in July 2016 up to just over 30 million as of July 2017.

Mobile gaming has been a constant presence in the headlines the past two years, buoyed by multibillion-dollar deals with superstar start-ups like Supercell and King, the incredible hype surrounding titles like Pokémon GO, and the mere fact that mobile games rank second only to social media and communications apps in terms of consumer time spent. But are we shifting away from a games ecosystem that supports one breakaway hit per year?

Interested in learning more about our data on mobile games? Download a full copy of our report, Consumer Behavior in 2018: Trends to Watch.