Direct spending on mobile games exceeded the combined spending total on home console, PC/Mac, and handheld console games by more than one third in 2017, up from a single-digit margin by the same measure in 2016.
Games also generated nearly 80% of total worldwide consumer spend for combined iOS and Google Play, while accounting for roughly 35% of worldwide downloads, according to a report by mobile app data and insights company App Annie and International Data Corporation (IDC).
"Mobile gaming's lead widened globally in 2017; mobile game spending was 2.3x PC gaming and 3.6x game consoles last year," said Danielle Levitas, SVP of Research at App Annie. "With billions of mobile devices in the world, apps are the mass market gaming platform for casual and serious gamers, enabling them to play whenever and wherever they want to."
The top two grossing games worldwide on both iOS and Google Play in 2017 featured live PvP gameplay, demonstrating that hardcore-leaning multiplayer elements aren't just possible on mobile devices, but have already proven popular. The ascent of titles like Honour of Kings (published by Tencent and known as Arena of Valor in Western markets), Lineage 2 Revolution (Netmarble), Fantasy Westward Journey (NetEase), and Lineage M (NCSOFT) to the top of the mobile grossing charts shows that live multiplayer games are an important trend in gaming that has clear esports implications. 2017 appears to have been the first year that three different live PvP titles took the top grossing slot on iOS, Google Play, and handheld game consoles (Pokemon Sun / Pokemon Moon, published by The Pokemon Company and Nintendo for Nintendo 3DS/2DS, was the top grossing handheld title last year, and features live PvP battles).
An IDC survey of U.S. gamers from 3Q 2017 showed that a lower share of smartphone and handheld console gamers played live PvP or co-op titles (34%) than did PC/Mac and home console gamers (over 44%), but this gap also narrowed relative to a similar survey from 3Q 2016. Live PvP or co-op gamers on smartphones and handheld consoles, the same 3Q 2017 survey showed, skewed younger and male compared to the balance of smartphone and handheld gamers that didn't play such games. Live PvP or co-op gamers in the U.S. were more likely to have spent money on a smartphone or handheld console game in 3Q 2017, moreover, and were more likely to play associated titles for at least five hours a week.
"Live multiplayer gaming on smartphones and tablets took a big step forward in 2017," said Lewis Ward, Research Director of G aming and AR/VR at IDC. "Although titles such as Clash Royale, ROBLOX, and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft have been popular in Western markets for some time, it's now clear that publishers from Asia-Pacific not only have an 'answer' to these titles, but upped the ante last year not just in scale but, arguably, in the sophistication of live PvP and co-op gameplay."
Rapid growth in a few key markets, most notably China, Japan, and South Korea, helped fuel mobile gaming's ascent in 2017. All regions saw an increase in mobile game spending last year, but over 60% of mobile game spending occurred in Asia-Pacific - and this region gained share of spending relative to 2016. With battle royale games like PUBG: Exhilarating Battlefield, and PUBG: Army Attack becoming increasingly popular on mobile devices, this live multiplayer gameplay mode should also impact on mobile gaming in 2018, particularly in Asia-Pacific.