Season passes, big IP, Asian influence: Sensor Tower’s Craig Chapple on the mobile trends for 2020

2019 has been another record year for mobile gaming. Sensor Tower Store Intelligence estimates previously predicted that user spending in games across the App Store and Google Play will hit over $62 billion globally this year. As we move into 2020, the mobile games market is predicted to reach $75 billion. While many of the current top tier games won’t exactly fade away, there are a few trends set to run into next year that will gradually impact on growth and the makeup of this industry.

Sub success

I previously wrote about how in-game subscriptions and season passes are helping some developers generate greater revenue. Examples include PUBG Mobile’s Royale Pass – helping user spending surpass $1.5 billion globally – to Clash of Clans’ Gold Pass, which sparked a 72 per cent month-on-month jump in the game’s revenue to $71 million during its first 30 days. Nintendo included a monthly $4.99 subscription into Mario Kart Tour and recently added two new subscription options in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. As developers find interesting ways to implement these systems in their games, it could even start to become a defacto business model for the top titles in certain categories.

Franchise fracas

2019 saw the mobile launches of two major flagship console franchises, Mario Kart Tour and Call of Duty: Mobile. Activision’s shooter, developed by Tencent, generated 172m downloads in its first two months and approximately $87m in player spending. Nintendo’s racer picked up close to 133m unique installs and more than $56m in its first 60 days.

In October, 10 of the top 30 mobile games were ones that began as PC and console franchises. In November, that figure fell to eight, but still shows the impact these IPs are having.

The success in recent years of Lineage 2 Revolution, Lineage M, Dragon Quest Walk, Roblox, and now Mario Kart Tour and Call of Duty will give publishers confidence that there are many routes to mobile. With games such as Diabo Immortal on the horizon, 2020 could see more console and PC publishers pick up a larger share of the market.

Asia’s increasing influence

The increasing influence of Asia’s mobile games market over the global industry is hardly new, but it will continue in 2020.

China’s big game licensing freeze will become a distant memory as the country’s new regulatory body catches up with its backlog. Sensor Tower Store Intelligence estimates forecast China’s mobile games market on iOS to be worth $13.6 billion in 2020. Chinese games companies are also looking the other way. Tencent’s international investments are well-documented, while rival NetEase has invested in studios including Bungie and Behaviour Interactive. Such ventures help ensure they aren’t beholden to changeable local market conditions. China’s giants are not the only big M&A players. South Korea’s Pearl Abyss and Hong Kong’s Animoca Brands have made moves this year, and other companies like Netmarble could follow suit. In a maturing market, these deals won’t come cheap.

Craig Chapple is mobile insights strategist, EMEA at mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower and was previously senior editor at

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