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11 mobile games that have made more than $1 billion

11 mobile games that have made more than $1 billion

Mobile games have changed a lot over the years.

People still have their misgivings about the scene, but the quality of mobile games continues to rise, and with that, some serious money has been made.

A few mobile games have even got to make over $1 billion – some of them on an annual basis.

Money-makers

So we’ve decided to put together an ongoing list of games officially confirmed, or reported, to have crossed into the $1 billion bracket in lifetime revenues.

This list isn’t meant to diminish the quality of games that haven’t hit such a milestone. But rather it celebrates the success of titles that show mobile gaming is as big as any other creative entertainment sector.

It also shines a light on the types of games that have become the biggest revenue generators of their generation, and where they did it.

Think we've missed a game? Contact PocketGamer.biz Editor Craig Chapple at craig.chapple@steelmedia.co.uk and we'll look at getting it added.

Click on the link below to view the list.


Click here to view the list »
  • Pokemon GO

    Pokemon GO logo

    Developer: Niantic
    Based: San Francisco, USA
    Released: July 6th, 2016
    Genre: Location-based / Augmented reality
    Where it found success: Worldwide

    I’m sure if Niantic had called the pokemon in Google Maps April Fools’ Joke a $1 billion experiment, you wouldn’t have believed it.

    But after going independent and then turning the idea into a fully-fledged mobile game with Pokemon GO, and delivered location-based gaming and augmented reality experiences to the mainstream.

    In just seven months after release, the game reportedly generated more than $1 billion.

    The title was a cultural phenomenon, with tens of millions of avid fans taking to the streets to catch them all.

    It’s even resulted in various lawsuits and outright bans in certain places, such was its popularity.

    Pokemon GO is still going strong today and is a regular feature in the upper echelons of the top grossing charts around the world. Not just a fad, the various in-game events – though not always successful – and introduction of new pokemon have kept players coming back.

    It’s not the runaway success it was at release (it’s hard to top being one of the biggest game launches of all time), but don't be surprised to hear Pokemon GO has raked in a further hundreds of millions of dollars in future.

    Particularly given its revenue stream doesn’t just include in-app purchases, but also lucrative sponsored locations and paid-for real-world events.


  • Clash Royale

    Clash Royale logo

    Developer: Supercell
    Based: Helsinki, Finland
    Released: March 2nd, 2016
    Genre: MOBA / CCG
    Where it found success: Worldwide

    Supercell isn’t messing around when it comes to developing the biggest games around.

    Harnessing the Clash of Clans IP (a game also on this very exclusive list), it reportedly generated $1 billion in less than a year.

    The MOBA/card battler has revolutionised how mobile games can monetise, thanks to its innovative four chest system.

    It also condensed the essence of the hugely popular MOBA genre from PC and deftly brought it to mobile platforms. Its style has been copied by a number of other studios, but so far largely unsuccessfully.

    Not just that, Supercell has really led the way in real-time PvP on mobile, a trend that’s set to stay.

    It’s more proof, if you needed it, that Supercell is one of the best developers in the world when it comes to creating exciting, fun games that are innovative and can last.

    Much like Clash of Clans, you can expect to see Clash Royale at the top of the charts for years to come, particularly if it successfully breaks into the eSports scene (yet another area Supercell is taking the lead in on mobile).


  • Honor of Kings

    Honor of Kings logo

    Developer: Tencent
    Based: Shenzhen, China
    Released: November 26th, 2015
    Genre: MOBA
    Where it found success: China

    At the time of writing, Tencent’s MOBA Honor of Kings may just be the biggest game in the world.

    Taking cues from another massive hit for PC, Riot Games-developed League of Legends (which Tencent also owns), it’s attracted more than 200 million players and at last count reportedly had a peak of had around 70 million daily active users.

    These kind of numbers boggle the mind, particularly when much of its success comes solely from Tencent’s home country of China.

    The game has become so popular that the Chinese government has even intervened to hit back at the title, calling it ‘poison’.

    Not many games prompt the ire of the government that effectively force the developer to implement gameplay restriction for young players. Tencent has limited gameplay to one hour a day for children under 12. Those aged 12 to 18 will be restricted to two hours a day.

    On top of this, children under 12 will not be able to play the game after 9pm in China.

     

    It’s still not stopped the game from reportedly generating over $1 billion since its November 2015 beta release.

    It’s now being released across the world under a plethora of different names as Tencent doubles down on localised versions of the title.

    It’s known as Arena of Valor in the West (previously Strike of Kings) and Penta Storm in South Korea. It’s also been known as Realm of Valor and King of Glory.


  • Mobile Strike

    Mobile Strike logo

    Developer: MZ
    Based: Palo Alto, USA
    Released: July 11th, 2015
    Genre: 4X Strategy
    Where it found success: Worldwide

    How do you follow up a massive hit like Game of War? Swap fantasy for a real-world war theme and slap Arnold Schwarzenegger on the marketing and voila – you’ve got your next $1 billion game.

    Obviously it’s not that simple, but MZ, with its huge marketing budget, makes it look easy.

    Not cannibalising Game of War, Mobile Strike has proven an equally successful addition to MZ’s portfolio. And much like Game of War, you’re unlikely to miss it from the incessant advertising.

    But it’s worked – MZ’s big Super Bowl ad was the most watched ad on YouTube in 2016 with over 100 million views.

    Another Mobile Strike ad from 2015? Well at the time of writing, that has over 197 million views.

    The title has fallen away slightly in the top grossing charts after MZ seemingly pulled the plug on marketing for the game.

    But by falling away, we mean it’s regularly a top 10 grosser, occasionally slipping into the top 20 on the US App Store.


  • Summoners War

    Summoners War logo

    Developer: Com2Us
    Based: Seoul, South Korea
    Released: June 12th 2014
    Genre: Strategy / RPG
    Where it found success: Worldwide

    Summoners War is unique in that it’s a game developed in South Korea but has found most of its success internationally - though it's no slouch at home either.

    It’s generated more than $890 million overseas, still leaving a cool $100 million+ from earnings in its home region.

    Despite being three years old (it was released in June 2014), Summoners War appears to be increasingly more popular with each passing month.

    Com2us aims to capitalise on its success by developing a new MMO based on the IP and publishing the title as an eSport. To that end, the developer is running a Summoners War World Arena Championship through the second half of 2017.

    Not content with just the gaming space though, there are plans afoot for cartoons, a movie and merchandise all based around the IP.

    Its easy to see the game itself making another $1 billion, and with other projects in the works, Summoners War is very much about to become a multi-billion dollar franchise.


  • Monster Strike

    Monster Strike logo

    Developer: Mixi
    Based: Tokyo, Japan
    Released: August 8th, 2013
    Genre: Physics strategy / Puzzle / RPG
    Where it found success: Japan

    One things for sure: Japan likes its dragons.

    Following quickly on from Puzzle & Dragons, Mixi’s Monster Strike became Japan’s number one top grosser in 2014 and has continued to generate millions of dollars a day since.

    In August 2015, it was reported the game was earning some $4.2 million a day.

    Much like Puzzle & Dragons, nearly all of Monster Strike’s success came from Japan as it struggled to find engaged users elsewhere in the world.

    But unlike GungHo, Mixi’s revenues actually grew in 2017 after it managed to grow the userbase of Monster Strike, even hitting a record number of players.

    Mixi’s managed to grow the franchise to create merchandising around the brand, as well as release an anime based on the IP. It’s also running eSports tournaments and lotteries for the game.

    The IP has shown remarkable resilience and longevity and, even if Monster Strike fades over time, the franchise looks like it might just live on for a long time yet. Perhaps in another billion-dollar mobile game?


  • Game of War: Fire Age

    Game of War: Fire Age logo

    Developer: MZ
    Based: Palo Alto, USA
    Released: July 25th, 2013
    Genre: 4X Strategy
    Where it found success: Worldwide

    MZ cuts a somewhat controversial figure in the games industry. It’s at times brutal monetisation practices and complex game design aren’t for everyone, as it focuses on the spenders in its titles and building close-knit communities.

    But there’s a lot to be learned from MZ who have proven masters of creating high revenue generating games.

    It all kicked off with Game of War: Fire Age in July 2013, which has laid down the foundations in game design, technology and marketing techniques for its latter titles Mobile Strike (also on this list) and Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire (perhaps a $1 billion contender in the future).

    You may have come across Game of War in the past from any game that used advertising, including playable ads – though that’s something MZ may be pulling back from when it comes to this title.

    You may also recognise those infamous Kate Upton ads on TV. MZ has certainly never been shy about ploughing many millions of dollars into its user acquisition campaigns and attaching a well-known face to the marketing.

    It’s all helped spur Game of War on to well over $1 billion in lifetime revenues - it's been the number one top grossing game in 111 countries, according to App Annie.

    And while Game of War may be reaching the end of its life, it’s still making bank for MZ.


  • Disney Tsum Tsum

    Disney Tsum Tsum logo

    Developer: Line Corporation
    Based: Tokyo, Japan
    Released: 2013
    Genre: Puzzle
    Where it found success: Japan

    Disney Tsum Tsum’s performance has been remarkable since its 2013 release.

    It’s rarely slipped out of the top 10 grossing charts in Japan, though it’s perhaps not been as big a title elsewhere in the world.

    But it's still been able to hit a significant milestone. On April 11th 2017 it surpassed $1 billion in lifetime revenues.

    And just after that, on April 29th 2017, it hit 70 million downloads.

    According to Line, the title has been played 165.4 billion times since it was launched in Japan in 2013 and later worldwide in July 2014.

    Disney has also benefitted hugely from the Tsum Tsum brand. Combined game and merchandise sales are said to have reached a combined $2 billion.


  • Candy Crush Saga

    Candy Crush Saga logo

    Developer: King
    Based: London, UK
    Released: November 14th, 2012 (April 12th, 2012 on browser)
    Genre: Match-three
    Where it found success: Worldwide

    If you know one mobile game, it’s probably Candy Crush Saga.

    If you’ve played one mobile game, it’s probably Candy Crush Saga, too.

    The title perfected the match-three genre for mobile devices and has become not just a hugely successful game (and franchise), but a cultural phenomenon.

    There’s a reason there’s now a Candy Crush game show in the US that is attracting four million+ viewers.

     

    The title has only dropped out of the US App Store top 10 grossing charts twice in over four years, and while its sequels have been highly lucrative themselves, they’ve never quite managed to match the original.

    Back in September 2016, it was reported that an average of 18 billion games in Candy Crush Saga were being played every month. It’s easily surpassed one trillion game plays since it was launched on Facebook in 2012.

    The title's multi-billion-dollar success (as well as the rest of its hugely popular titles) is a key reason why Activision Blizzard swooped in to buy King for $5.9 billion in November 2015.


  • Clash of Clans

    Clash of Clans logo

    Developer: Supercell
    Based: Helsinki, Finland
    Game released: August 2nd, 2012
    Genre: Strategy
    Where it found success: Worldwide

    There’s only one Supercell. And it should come as no surprise that the Finnish developer is on the list of mobile’s biggest revenue generators.

    Clash of Clans was released five years ago on August 2nd 2012 and to this day it remains one of the highest grossing games period, not just on mobile. It’s thought to be raking in $1 billion a year, making it a multi-billion-dollar game.

    Supercell hasn’t simply rested on its laurels with the game – despite having a comparatively (to other developers) tiny team working on the title.

    It recently released a major ‘Builder Base’ update which introduced some major changes, including simultaneous PvP gameplay.

    Clash of Clans is the pinnacle of the build-and-battle strategy genre on mobile, perfecting the design and monetisation that’s led it to become such a force in gaming.

    You can find out more about how the team has kept the game going so strong after five years in our interview with the title’s Senior Server Engineer Jonas Collaros.

    We'll be discussing Finnish successes like this at Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki 2017 on September 19th to 20th as part of our Finnish Success track.


  • Puzzle & Dragons

    Puzzle & Dragons logo

    Developer: GungHo
    Based: Tokyo, Japan
    Released: February 20th, 2012
    Genre: Match-three / RPG
    Where it found success: Japan

    GungHo’s match-three monster-battling RPG Puzzle & Dragons will be remembered as one of the most significant mobile games of all time.

    Released in Japan in February 2012, it was the first game to, officially at least, cross the $1 billion sales milestone.

    It showed just how popular mobile games can be and has its blend of match-three, RPG mechanics, collectibles and gacha monetisation have been hugely influential on that Japanese mobile games market.

    What’s even more impressive (depending on how you look at it), is most of this revenue came from just Japan, where the title has been most successful by far.

    To date the game has achieved 46 million downloads in Japan alone. For some perspective, in 2016 Japan’s total population was said to stand at around 127 million.

    It’s fared less well in North America, but it has still surpassed 11 million downloads in the region.

    Revenues from Puzzle & Dragons have been on the decline in recent times, but years after launch it’s still no slouch.


Senior Editor

Craig Chapple is Senior Editor of PocketGamer.biz. He was previously Deputy Editor at Develop and Online Editor at Nintendo of Europe.

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