The most popular mobile game genres: Who plays what, when?

Mobile games consume a vast amount of our time. Verto Analytics data shows that mobile games only rank second (behind social media) in terms of time that U.S. adults (ages 18 and above) spend on devices. And while different titles surge in and out popularity (as shown by our latest Pokémon GO infographic), the amount of time that consumers spend playing mobile games remains relatively consistent. That equates to a whopping 1.15 billion hours that consumers spend each month playing mobile games.

But looking beyond specific titles, what are the most popular types of mobile games, as determined by number of monthly players? Verto Analytics looked at the gaming behaviors of American adults (ages 18 and above) to identify the top mobile game genres, who is playing them, and when they’re most likely to be played.

Puzzles Games Are the Most Popular Genre

Based on Verto’s data, puzzle games are the most popular type of game. Specifically, brain puzzles (a category that includes titles like Words With Friends, Sudoku, and Draw Something) is the genre that draws the most players, with nearly 38 million monthly unique users. Brain puzzles also rack up the highest user engagement, with a 40% stickiness rating (Verto’s method of comparing daily users to monthly users to quantify the most engaged users). In fact, Words With Friends held a longstanding position as #1 game in our rankings until Pokémon Go was released in July.

The second most popular genre is matching puzzles (a category that includes titles like Bejeweled and Candy Crush), with nearly 30 million monthly unique users. Matching puzzles also eat up the largest portion of player time: users spent more than seven and a half hours per month playing these games, and rack up an average session duration time of more than eight minutes, more than double the average session length of brain puzzles. However, matching puzzle games aren’t as engaging as brain puzzle games, as proven by the genre’s 35% stickiness rating.

And for the Pokémon GO fans out there, Augmented Reality (AR) games are the third most popular genre with nearly 29 million monthly unique users, although games in this category lag in terms of the amount of time that users spend playing them each month, as well as individual session times. However, AR gameplay is dominated by smartphones: more than 95% of players use a smartphone to play either some or all of their AR sessions.

Who Plays What, and When?

Verto also analyzed user demographics and behavior for the top three mobile game genres: each game genre produced distinct patterns of user behavior and appeals to a different target audience.

First, we looked at daily usage patterns of the top three game genres. Verto data reveals that brain puzzle games are played throughout the day, although usage peaks at around 9pm. Matching puzzle games are primarily played after 6pm, whereas AR games (and specifically Pokémon GO) is most active between 3pm and 6pm.

We also looked at the demographic characteristics for players of each game genre. While AR gamers tend to be younger (more than 60% are under the age of 35) and male, players of both puzzle genres actually are older and female. The majority of brain puzzle gamers are female and above the age of 35, whereas matching puzzle games draw an even more distinct core audience: women, and especially those between the ages of 35-65.

While these demographics may alter the stereotypical image of a gamer, they’re no surprise to Verto: our earlier analysis of the mobile gaming population as a whole revealed that women comprise an increasing proportion of mobile games players, especially in genres like puzzle games.

Interested in our insights on mobile gamers and their behaviors? Download our report, Leveling Up Your Mobile Game: Using Audience Measurement Data to Boost User Acquisition and Engagement, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.