Mobile Game Development Trends in 2022: Challenges and Innovations

Mobile Game Development Trends in 2022: Challenges and Innovations

The mobile gaming industry witnessed various developments in 2022, ranging from the rise of roguelite and minigame mechanics to the increasing popularity of IP-based and mid-core games. However, amidst all the innovation, one constant challenge persisted for mobile game developers—the user acquisition (UA) and monetization obstacles resulting from Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policies.

Apple’s ATT policies, implemented in April 2021, significantly impacted the mobile market by altering privacy and data collection practices on iOS. With the requirement to obtain user consent for tracking, developers faced difficulties in targeting suitable devices for advertising. Consequently, new games entering the market struggled to scale up and acquire users effectively. According to NewZoo research, the mobile market experienced a 6.4% year-on-year shrinkage due to these challenges.

Marvel Snap

To overcome these hurdles, many game developers turned to well-known intellectual properties (IPs) and franchises to capture players’ attention. Games like Marvel Snap and Diablo Immortal, leveraging popular IPs, emerged as some of the most popular titles in 2022. Additionally, existing games incorporated new mechanics, such as creative minigames and competitive live events, to engage their player base and maintain their interest.

Furthermore, numerous major titles aimed to bypass in-app purchases and evade Apple’s 30% commission charge by driving players to separate web stores. For instance, Game of Thrones: Conquest introduced an exclusive web store currency, providing players with better deals on in-game items.

The influence of IP-based mobile games continued to grow throughout the year. Newzoo’s report highlighted that nearly all the new iOS games that achieved significant growth in 2022 were based on existing franchises. Players who have a liking for a particular IP or universe were 2.84 times more likely to download a game associated with it. Even games not directly based on IPs incorporated well-known ideas on a smaller scale to attract players familiar with those concepts.

Marvel Snap, for example, introduced a battle pass monetization model, where players progress by earning XP and credits to upgrade their cards. Each battle pass season included season missions and daily missions, granting additional season points for faster progression. This game successfully relied on the strength of the Marvel brand, avoiding the typical gacha mechanics for monetization.

Minigames emerged as a prominent trend in mobile games, providing developers with an opportunity to cover multiple genres and enhance user acquisition. Developers like BingChuan Network incorporated creative minigames within their titles to attract players. For instance, X-Hero’s ‘Save the Doge’ minigame gained immense popularity and became a permanent mode within the main game. While this approach boosted daily revenue, the revenue per download decreased due to weaker player conversion rates.

Competitive elements became more common in mobile games, even in genres traditionally less focused on competition. Games like Royal Match introduced leaderboard-based events, where players’ scores determined their rankings and subsequent rewards. The inclusion of competitive features not only engaged players but also drove monetization, particularly for those striving to secure higher positions on the leaderboards.

In light of Apple’s commission charges, mobile game studios explored out-of-app monetization methods. Games like Game of Thrones: Conquest and Clash of Clans offered better deals and additional currencies through their web stores. Although primarily adopted by larger developers, this approach required significant resources and its revenue impact remains uncertain. However, it appeals to dedicated players who are likely to spend more and seek greater benefits.

Looking ahead, the mobile gaming industry is expected to further evolve. Apple’s potential allowance of third-party app stores on its platforms, in compliance with new digital market laws, may introduce new dynamics. Developers will continue to navigate the challenges of UA and monetization, while innovation and adaptation.

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