Roughly 20 per cent of the 106 million people in the Philippines, or 21 million people, are mobile gamers.
The rate of mobile gamers is lower than many countries, probably because of the lower disposable income and archipelago geography which makes it difficult to obtain smartphones and data packages.
However, the number of mobile gamers is set to grow at a fast rate over the next five years as infrastructure improves and the cost for hardware and data plans decline.
Once that happens, naturally mobile games revenue will also grow rapidly.
Battle Royale games dominate
The most popular game (based on data from the App Store and Google Play) in the Philippines during the month of April was Rules of Survival from NetEase. The game was the top grossing title and ranked third on the download charts.
Rules of Survival, which launched in November 2017, is a product of the battle royale boom that started in 2017 with the release of Playerunknown's Battlegrounds on PC.
Games publishers have been quick to identify a strong opportunity in the mobile games market for the battle royale genre and this has led to many companies including NetEase, Tencent and Garena entering the space.
PUBG Mobile from Tencent also performed strongly during the month, charting sixth on the download charts. PUBG Mobile has yet to make an appearance on the top grossing chart as the company has only just started to monetise it.
Rules of Survival began monetising by selling cosmetic items back in January 2018 and since then has seen an increase in revenue each month.
Garena’s Free Fire, another battle royale game, was 15th on the download charts. We know that gamers download Garena titles directly from the Garena app store too, so the App Store and Google Play rankings do not tell the whole story for these titles (and the direct downloads may be significant, but Garena does not report them).
However, it’s fair to say that the game is not generating high revenues in the Philippines when compared to Rules of Survival.
MOBA game Mobile Legends extends it lead through esports
Mobile Legends was the most downloaded game during April and ranked third for revenues. Mobile Legends is a five-versus-five MOBA game that is heavily inspired by titles such as League of Legends. The game first launched in Malaysia back in September 2016 and its popularity continues to rise.
Moonton competes against Garena’s Arena of Valor in the Philippines and across Southeast Asia, and is competitive because it provides gamers with timely updates, gameplay innovations and strong marketing.
Another factor behind the success of the game is esports. Mobile Legends has a professional esports league in the Philippines called the Mobile Legends Professional League Philippines (MPL Philippines).
The league recently started a weekly tournament with a $100,000 prize pool. The finals are set to take place in late June.
Other popular genres
MMOs, RPGs and strategy games are popular genres in the Philippines mobile games market, primarily due to these genres being popular with PC gamers over the past decade.
MMOs such as Dragon Nest M and Lineage II Revolution have their roots from South Korea. These games started as popular PC titles that have now been adapted to mobile devices. The games include popular Korean MMO art styles and PvP gameplay to keep players engrossed.
War of Rings, Daybreak Origins and Legacy of Discord are other MMORPGs that are successful. Lords Mobile is an RTS game developed by IGG, a successful title in the country that benefits from short session times and a huge social element.
Western games boosted by English proficiency and social media
English is widely spoken in the Philippines, making the country a good testing ground for companies looking to soft launch titles. Gamers in the Philippines are also obsessed with social media and discover brand new games via Facebook.
These two factors have led to many Western developers being able to find both short and long-term success in the country.
Titles like Clash of Clans, Subway Surfers and Plants vs Zombies have performed well over the long-term, whilst brand new titles such as Helix Jump and Granny have quickly ascended to the top 10 downloads.
On the other hand, Philippine gamers have very low spending, which has led many PC game operators to bypass the market rather than invest in operations there.
It will be great for the games industry in the country if mobile games find more commercial success.
Each month Niko Partners provides analysis in this column on trends in mobile gaming in Asia based on data provided by Sensor Tower on monthly rankings of game apps by downloads and revenue. The country is selected by Niko Partners, out of the list of eight countries we track regularly: China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei), and Vietnam. Sensor Tower’s mobile data analytics provides information on iOS and Android mobile apps in all countries except China, where they currently cover iOS only.
*In this case, SEA refers to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. SEA countries also have third-party Android stores so the Google Play figure is not 100 per cent reflective of the total Android market.