Data & Research

Hearthstone led the way but the card-battler genre is moving on

Hearthstone led the way but the card-battler genre is moving on

This article is part of an ongoing series of data-driven articles from PocketGamer.biz and App Annie highlighting trends in the global mobile games sector using App Annie’s Game IQ analytics.

This enables mobile game developers to dig deeper into the data and discover not only which games are performing best but what characteristics they have.

In this week’s report, we’re looking at the most popular Strategy Card-Battle games in terms of their average monthly active user metric.

And sitting pretty in the #1 position is Konami’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links.

Based on the famous Japanese anime series, the cross-platform title spanning mobile and PC was released in November 2016 in Japan and globally in January 2017.

Given that pedigree, it’s no great surprise it remains most popular in its domestic market but it’s also built up a strong player base both in western Europe and north and south America.

And it’s this wider appeal that means Duel Links beats out Hearthstone - which is generally a higher profile game - to the top spot.

This isn’t to say that Blizzard’s game doesn’t also have global appeal. Released back in 2014, it’s another cross-platform experience - PC and mobile.

Compared to the top two game’s longevity, Legends of Runeterra is a relative newbie. Released in April 2020 and developed by Riot Games for mobile and PC, it’s a card-battler based on the League of Legends IP.

As for the rest of the top 10, there’s a wide range of developers and titles on display. But Japanese companies perform particularly strongly, taking four of the available positions.

This demonstrates both these developers’ expertise at making such deep, core games, as well as the popularity of the genre domestically.

The remainder of the positions are filled out by higher profile, more international IP.

After all, the core meta and gameplay of card-battlers is relatively fixed, which means combining it with big brands could be a successful route to broadening the market to attract players who wouldn’t otherwise engage with it.

That’s certainly the case with Take Two’s WWE SuperCard, which has been a very solid performer in terms of player base and monetisation since its launch in mid-2014.

Released in 2020, Marvel Duel and Gwent: The Witcher Card Game are both off to a decent start, but still have some way to go to demonstrate longevity.

Game IQ is a vertically tailored analytics product, developed by App Annie, that provides insight into dimensions such as class, genre, subgenre and tags. Games can now be analyzed by broad category class (tuning), genre, subgenre, and tags (modifiers) such as IP, art style, settings, monetization mechanic, and more.

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