We've already taken a look at the biggest mobile games industry trends of 2016, but what about 2017?
We gathered our experts to gaze into their crystal balls and asked:
What do you think will be the big mobile games industry trends in 2017?
The role of playing together will get even stronger and hopefully we’ll see new innovation there.
We will also see a continued trend with the IP based games. The days of poorly executed IP based games are long gone now as IP holders see the value of authentic, fans first approach and so we will see more great IP games out there.
User acquisition costs continues to rise as the mobile market matures. This means marketers will need to pay attention to finding the right marketing mix for their games.
Tighter collaboration in between development teams, live operations and marketing will be increasingly important in this competitive market.
It’s all about brands. And now everyone in media and games is competing with Snapchat, Instagram, Netflix, Facebook, Amazon Prime, Clash Royale and so on.
Mobile is the most competitive media platform in the world, and given unlimited consumer choices, it’s the brands that are going to cut through.
New marketing channels are going to have to evolve. The race to the top with advertising costs is already forcing innovation, and that may come to a head this year as players increasingly consume game content in new ways.
You can already see how YouTube, Twitch, and the rising role of influencers are already guiding development of new products, and large market cap giants like Amazon and Disney are making some serious plays.
When someone really hits the mark by combining eSports, mobile gaming and more traditional media, I think we’re going to see some big changes.
Games over messaging, both iMessage and Facebook Instant Games, will be big growth trend in the second half of 2017.Matthew Wiggins
I think games over messaging, both iMessage and Facebook Instant Games, will be big growth trend in the second half of 2017 - hence why we’ve just started MojiWorks.
We’re already seeing a bigger appetite for that from players than we expected, which that will only increase as the distribution channels evolve and visibility & awareness increase.
On the standard App Store I think there will be a reduction in the number of games with protracted development schedules and accordingly massive budgets prior to launch (although average costs will probably remain about where they are now) since that’s a high-risk strategy only appropriate for a small number of genres.
VR/AR won’t be a significant trend in 2017 - we’re several years away, at least, from hardware that will be desirable enough for widespread consumer adoption.
What I’m still waiting for is a mobile game that penetrates the eSports market. Games like Clash Royale have somewhat achieved that, but haven’t really managed to lay down a benchmark for how eSports on mobile devices works.
Secondly, we’ll naturally see multiple Pokemon GO clones, but I don’t have confidence that this genre will spawn a second success story of any significant scale.
I think we will see continued innovation in real-time social experiences on mobile.
People connecting in real-time is a powerful trend happening not just in games like Clash Royale or Agar.io, but also social networks (Houseparty, YouNow, Facebook live video).
There is a lot to explore here in 2017.
Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.
When looking at the market for next year I think we have to consider the impact we will gain as brand ads start to become more widespread.
I've started to see this happening more and more as we get close to Christmas and I believe its going to deliver a huge benefit to income for most games.
However, the winners will be developers who make the smartest implementations, designed to make the players' experience more fulfilling and where they further complement the IAP in their game. Teams like Futureplay, Seriously and Next Games have already led the way over the last year.
Then there is the elephant in the room. Apple. They are still not talking about VR, but there have been hints about AR... will that come to pass in 2017? I have honestly no idea but it wouldn't surprise me.
- More games for the Apple TV and Android TV.
- The industry will create new transmedia products to generate cross experiences (TV - Web - Mobile).
- We will also see companies incorporating games to generate more interaction with their users.
I think 2017 will see an enormous rise in the number of genres available, and the number of genres that present an opportunity for success.
As we’ve seen in the past few years, the variety of genres has just exploded exponentially, and I think that this trend will undoubtedly continue.
Brands will continue to dominate. Both traditional gaming IP’s finally figuring out the platform, as we’ve seen happen with Nintendo, as well as big mobile first brands further cementing their positions.
There will be a new billion-dollar franchise created on mobile around some concept that has synchronous multiplayer at its core.Simon Hade
Synchronous gaming will arrive in a big way. We’re already seeing this in China with full featured MOBAs doing well, and Clash Royale has inspired a new generation of followers in the West.
The technical challenges around this will force creativity and a lot of failures, but I think there will be a new billion-dollar franchise created on mobile around some concept that has synchronous multiplayer at its core.
We will still see a few huge development projects with big marketing campaigns that give the impression that the recipe for success on the platform is looking more like console, when that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The big established companies don’t have a monopoly on new ideas, and in some cases are at a disadvantage, so I think at the end of 2017 we’ll be talking about two maybe three new big genres or play patterns getting owned on mobile.
Most likely these will be taken by small nimble developers who have not yet had massive success.
There are some amazing possibilities with mobile VR and now there are a range of affordable, high-quality headsets out there I hope that mobile developers start really unlocking VR's potential.
Depending on how Super Mario Run does in the next few months we might also see a resurgence of premium titles on mobile, but to appeal to the masses I think they'll need both quality and a major IP attached.
Licensed IP mobile games will continue to be successful in 2017. We at Koukoi Games also decided to start working with licensed IPs in 2016 as we saw value in the business towards the upcoming years. 2017 will be interesting year for us in this business area while we’ll continue developing original IP mobile games same time.
Influencer marketing will become more valuable for developers and publishers in 2017. We’ll see some interesting combinations for advertising games more and more through popular influencers.
The use of the subscription-based monetisation model will rise more in 2017. We at Koukoi Games believe that it does not alone change that much the way how mobile games are monetise but combining it with in-app purchases and ads will make some of the games stand out from the crowd.
The use of the subscription-based monetisation model will rise more in 2017.Antti Kananen
It will be very interesting to see how developers and publishers will apply subscription-based monetisation techniques in their games during 2017 and what are the best combinations.
VR and AR will be produced more in 2017 and we’ll see developers and publishers widening their design for the games through these technologies. We, however, might not yet face any “industry-changing” games from these areas but most surely we’ll be able to see some designs, which will lead towards bringing VR and AR games more known for the greater audience.
We all also know that it will take still time for the market to mature more but most definitely developers will invest more into VR and AR in 2017.
Mega hits that are able to avoid the Shark Fin. While we saw mega hits in 2016, most of them could not provide long engagement for the players for months or years. I, however, believe that in 2017, we’ll actually see some games becoming mega hits that can actually avoid the Shark Fin phenomenon. As the level of competition rises, mobile games are becoming mature enough to start being healthy for a long time.
Experiences beyond mobile platform and multi-platform experiences. Games, game brands, gaming experiences that aren’t just focused towards mobile platforms. Games that can be played with mobile and other platforms. We’ll notice at least these kind of products being in development more and more. This trend will definitely continue also in 2018.
M&As around the industry will continue. We’ll see some successful companies acquiring new business in through M&A activities, which shows us that the industry is maturing more and more.
Mobile eSports will rise. We'll see tournaments and leagues taking more mobile games in and propably the spectator sports will rise same time within eSports fans.
I believe 2017 will not see a lot of change on the top of the top grossing charts, but there are many contestants with potential to close the gap to the leaders.
Mobile VR have plenty of room to grow, but I don't think it will get mainstream as AR did with Pokemon GO since technology is not as accessible yet.
As the Chief Game Analyst - Japan at GameRefinery Taija Kanerva is living her dream. Her interest and enthusiasm for digital games and Japanese culture started early in her childhood and later became the focus of her formal education.
Her Master’s thesis (2015) for University of Helsinki compares Japanese and Western games and gaming cultures. She has held positions at Rovio and Ubisoft before joining GameRefinery in 2016.
The trend of recurring and non-recurring live events is constantly on the rise, and limited time events will most certainly be a prominent part of mobile games in 2017.
Limited time events will most certainly be a prominent part of mobile games in 2017.Taija Kanerva
Some developers have already claimed that they are an effective - if not the most powerful - way to monetise. This is - of course - given that they are implemented in the right way.
While gachas have already become a big monetisation mechanic here in the West as well, GameRefinery’s data shows that they are steadily growing in importance, and will most likely keep doing so in 2017. I also believe that there will be more variability in how they are utilised in the most successful games.
It’s also been interesting to see how the popular Asian mechanic of collecting different items and/or characters, and eventually improving and evolving them in various ways has started to appear in Western games. This is probably something that will be a more visible part of the mobile game landscape in 2017.
- VR will stay quite small. The investments will cool off, and startups in the area will struggle.
- Super Mario Run was the last hurrah of the premium model. It will now quickly fall down the charts, and no other premium game will take the top spot in 2017. Old school gamers and pundits want to believe in the model while the mobile market seems to reject it. Just look at the reviews in the press (positive) vs. the reviews on the App Store (catastrophe!).
- More location-based games come to market - they fail.
- More synch PvP games come to market - some get on the top 100 grossing list.
- Companies keep consolidating, big ones eating up middle-sized and small players.
- Production budgets for games keep rising.
That we will be surprised again! :-)
Definitely the hype of VR and AR. However, many investors who jumped too quickly into VR and AR will realise that they cannot afford to keep their studios alive for another three years.
Small VR-studios will die (or go back to mobile games), and studios with +100M investment will show us interesting stuff in 2019.
"To see the future, look to the past."
We'll push back against the money machine that currently drives creativity and start to bring original concepts back to the tableBen Murch
If that's the case, then we'll get a whole load of copycat Pokemon clones, offering us collections of Thundercats (actually I'd probably play that), or Micro Machines, or semi-precious gemstones... you get the idea.
These will be aggressively pushed into our lives by new forms of advertising, sold by an ever-growing cavalcade of pushers, probably ex-estate agents who've been fired because no-one's buying houses anymore as we've spent our remaining pennies on one last desperate grab for more Pikachus...
Actually, I'm pretty hopeful for 2017. At some point the tide will turn. We'll push back against the money machine that currently drives creativity and start to bring original concepts back to the table.
Interesting ideas and mechanics stemming the idea that mobile games should play second fiddle to the big dogs of console and PC. We've had some gems this year that will inspire teams in 2017. Reigns springs to mind. Nintendo appear to be heading down the right track with Mario. Gameplay first.
Veli-Pekka is CEO and founder of Critical Force Entertainment Ltd, a Finnish startup game studio established in 2012. He is a former studio manager of Supercell North, as well as a lecturer and head of Kajak Game Development Lab.
Veli-Pekka is also co-founder of NMP Games Ltd.
I would say, that mobile AR will be one of the biggest trends in 2017. Pokemon GO was the start and it made AR gaming familiar for the big masses.
Actually I was already waiting for another successful AR game coming out in the end of this year, but it seems not to happen. It will be seen during next year, if mobile AR gaming breakthrough will happen.
Secondly I am really looking forward to seeing mobile eSports growing rapidly in 2017. There are already many mobile game companies developing competitive core games.
Amazon has done it’s first “casual mobile eSports” tournament, which has got good feedback. Also investors have started to realise that mobile eSports will be the next big thing.