For the past several years, the top mobile games were slow to change. But that is now changing; Eric Seufert, Rovio’s former VP of Acquisition, predicts that “2018 will see a fundamental shift” in mobile’s top charts.
Mobile charts once dominated by mid-market casual games and midcore battle or strategy games are now see-sawing between super-casual games like Love Balls, in which players draw a path to connect two balls, and hardcore games such as Fortnite, a battle royale in real-time.
These big changes are exciting for developers. Every change offers a fresh opportunity to break in with a new hit. Here are several growing trends.
Battle royale: Next-level gaming on smartphones
Some mobile developers have spent years predicting a definitive hardcore mobile title on mobile akin to Dark Souls or Elder Scrolls. Others remain skeptical, unable to imagine PC-style games using a smartphone’s small screen and imprecise controls. But a growing number of players in developing markets don’t see the same issues, skipping over PC and console and moving directly to mobile.
Those developing market users now contribute to the success of Fortnite and PUBG. Both games also migrated part of their considerable PC audiences to mobile. Fortnite has been downloaded 9 million times on the App Store since its release only last month. PUBG Mobile rocketed to the top spot on the free charts in 17 countries just 24 hours after release.
While these games are burning up on both platforms right now, some still say that battle royale on mobile might be a flash in the pan and that Fortnite and PUBG have yet to prove they can make a sustainable mobile game after the hype has died down. However, it’s undeniable that hardcore, synchronously-played games have been growing on the platform; titles like Rules of Survival and Bullet Force did reasonably well even before the battle royale craze.
Casual games: now shorter and sweeter
Over the years, quite a few mobile game developers have become experts at pruning games to the bare (but still fun) minimum. The latest wave of these games on mobile includes super casual games with single-mechanic gameplay, often supported entirely by ads. For instance, in Rise Up, all the player must dois clear the way for a balloon as it floats up.
Looking at the charts, you’ll notice the prominence of one name: Voodoo. This publisher, which is based in France alongside its older peer Ketchapp, has dozens of minimalist casual games in the top free charts. The model works because, while such games rise and fall in the rankings quickly, they’re faster and easier to develop than mid-market casual genres like match-3 or runner games.
The download numbers can be impressive too. Rise Up, from indie developer Serkan Ozyilmaz, was downloaded over a million times last month. Love Balls, from little known Chinese developer Super Tapx, currently sits on the number two spot, despite polarized reviews.
Interactive stories: Chapter one
Narrative-based games have become some of the most resilient on the charts. Choices: Stories You Play, a game from a studio formed by ex-EA employees, has been on the charts for two years. Episode-Choose Your Story has been on even longer. One of the relatively recent entries, My Story: Choose Your Own Path, has been bobbing up and down the charts for a year.
These strong performances are attracting new developers into the space. A pair of developers from EA and Scopely, for instance, are teaming up to form Ordinal Games, a Shanghai/LA-based studio which plans to make interactive RPG-story games.
All of these genres are good news for mobile; they show that the top charts are defrosting. While publishers such as King and Supercell still seem invincible, they’re now sharing space with studios from emerging markets like Brazil’s TFG Co and Turkey’s Peak Games. Forward-thinking developers can still find a space for themselves.