If there was one industry that emerged from 2020 as the most successful it is undeniably the global gaming industry. Gaming has now firmly entrenched itself into the daily habits of global consumers, and, amongst the video gaming trends and next-gen gaming consoles that overwhelmed consumers last year, mobile gaming quickly set itself apart as the most popular and lucrative gaming market.  

At the end of 2020, Newzoo estimated that the year’s mobile gaming revenue had grown to as much as $76.7 billion – a significant 12% increase on 2019’s profits. In comparison, the global movie industry generated $42.5 billion in 2019, while the global music industry pulled in $20.2 billion.  

Mobile gaming, then, has become more popular with the world’s consumers than both watching movies and listening to their favourite recording artists.  

So, now that 2020 has finally drawn to a close, what’s ahead for mobile gaming in 2021?  

1. Trending Mobile Game Verticals 

The mobile gaming industry underwent huge growth during 2020, with user engagement and revenues at an all-time high across many gaming verticals. Driven by the rise in popularity of unique mobile gaming experiences, including Android-optimized mobile poker platforms, Battle Royale tournaments, and sandbox games, these verticals quickly cemented mobile as the future of the gaming industry.  

In 2021, hypercasual games will continue to trend as the genre is still one of the most talked-about in the mobile gaming sector. New game releases will adopt richer mechanics to deliver a premium mobile gaming experience, and we will even see IP games get in on the hypercasual trend.  

2. Social Gaming will Grow in Popularity  

As developers across the board continually search for new ways to find and retain gamers due to the immense saturation of app stores, social gaming and engagement will become a major trend in mobile gaming in 2021. 

We’re expecting to see all manner of games incorporate social mechanics, push notifications, and synced activity feeds to foster a new level of social engagement.  

Bunch, for example, secured significant investment from gaming powerhouses EA and Ubisoft at the close of 2020 for its app that will enable gamers to hold group video chats as they compete in multiplayer games.  

Additionally, native games on social platforms like Snapchat will increase their market share. Snap Games marked the first in a new partnership between the platform and Farmville’s Zynga, so we can expect more platforms to follow suit over the next 12 months.  

3. Free-to-Play Games will go Mainstream  

While there have been a few notable games worthy of flagship devices published in recent years, 2021 looks to be the year when AAA games become mainstream on the mobile platform.  

MiHoYo’s Genshin Impact had a tremendously successful 2020, setting the template for other publishes to follow. The Chinese game studio released this high-end app for hardcore gamers and it became a runaway success across mobile, console, and PC. With its chart-topping downloads and installs, and records-setting revenues, Genshin is the most successful IP from a Chinese publisher.  

As for its impact on the mobile gaming market, the free to play segment will transform significantly. Genshin was the first AAA RPG mobile game to prove that FTP games can be a lucrative business model for powerhouse publishers. And it likely won’t be long before Tencent, Activision, and Supercell follow suit.  

4. Monetization efforts will be Gameified 

In-game ads have long been used by developers across the whole spectrum of mobile gaming genres to support IAP (In-App Purchases) and monetization. Gamers may have tolerated these interruptions until now, but as increased competition forces developers to increase the number and duration of ads they run, it’s time for IAP efforts to add value to the gaming experience.  

In 2021, we’re expecting developers to reach new levels of creativity when it comes to the ad units they run in games. This will encompass units like reward videos, offerwalls that directly add value to a game, and more streamlined and seamless placement that won’t detract from gameplay.