2020 will be a year that lives long in many people's memories, for better and for worse. Thankfully, there have been some fantastic experiences on mobile to help us all through these particularly trying times.
The games industry is thriving despite the devastating effects of COVID, and the mobile sector has also seen extraordinary growth this year. Games have undeniably been a force for good under unprecedented circumstances.
With that, we've reached out to several members of the industry for their insight, thoughts and personal experiences throughout 2020. We're on a mission to discover favourite mobile games, how has the industry coped under the pandemic, and what we could see in 2021 and beyond.
This time, we're catching up with Alexander Shea, publishing lead at hypercasual giant, Voodoo.
PocketGamer.biz: What do you think was the biggest news or event for the mobile games industry in 2020?
Alexander Shea: It’s of course been an extremely busy year for the games industry, with so many developments it's hard to keep track! A major part of how Voodoo operates is keeping a close eye on industry trends, and 2020 has been an exciting opportunity for changes in audience specifically.
We’ve observed new figures indicating that ultra-casual games are bringing in more non-gamers, acting as the core driver behind user conversion. As indicated by the Newzoo Mobile Games Report 2020, hyper-casual games are attractive to non-gamers thanks to being instantly playable, instantly understandable, and infinitely replayable, and the market has seen a significant increase in users over the last 12 months.
Which mobile game do you think had the biggest impact on the industry this year?
We saw a surprising number of big games take off this year! In 2019, we had a couple of huge hits like Aquapark that really stood out. In 2020, we have seen a higher volume of hit games in general, so none that necessarily stand out on their own. If I could name a couple that had a big impact on hyper-casual, I would say Draw Climber, Woodturning 3D, Cube Surfer, or Scribble Rider. These games all brought something new to the table, and yielded tens of millions of downloads each over the course of the year.
I think the fundamental pillars of hyper-casual will stay the same - users will continue to look for high-quality games with outstanding execution, and original ideas that translate well to hyper-casual.
What is your top mobile game of 2020?
A difficult choice! So many games come close to the mark, but we’re particularly proud of Cube Surfer. There have been several super exciting releases in the last few months of 2020 though, Shortcut Run or Roof Rails for example, so we’re looking forward to seeing their progress in the new year.
Do you think the mobile games industry has reacted well to the many challenges presented this year?
I think that the mobile games industry has been a very resilient sector, and we’ve been really lucky in that respect. Our reach and user base has only grown this year, with more people turning towards mobile gaming as an ideal form of entertainment during lockdown. It’s also been a very strong year for our partner studios, and we’ve seen some amazing results. We’ve been collaborating remotely with our partner studios for years now, so we really had a head start in this sense.
What do you think will be the biggest trend over the next 12 months?
I think the fundamental pillars of hyper-casual will stay the same - users will continue to look for high-quality games with outstanding execution, and original ideas that translate well to hyper-casual. We do anticipate that puzzle games will continue their strong presence in the top charts.
At Voodoo more specifically, we’re hoping to continue our routine of being behind new genres. In 2018, we saw the rise of io games such as Hole.io, Crowd City, and Paper.io, and in 2019 we boosted the hyper-casual puzzle space with games like Roller Splat or Dig This! So let’s see where 2021 takes us!
In terms of your company, what's the thing you're most proud of during 2020?
2020 has been a really big year for Voodoo. We recently hit 2 billion downloads for this year alone. But what I’m most proud of is that we were able to double the size of our publishing team, expanding globally to be able to keep serving studios all around the world at the highest level. We’ve also significantly expanded our service to studios. We help them from the very first step of creating a hit game - ideation - all the way to game performance optimization. On average, each Hit game could easily keep 20 people busy on our end! Seeing the company continue to expand and our services continue to strengthen are things that we are all really proud of this year.
What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
2021 is a really exciting year for us. We’re expecting it to be our strongest year yet in terms of Hits, and can’t wait to discover and help build even more great games with our partner studios. We do expect to see new genres emerge within hyper-casual, with innovation, creativity, and perfect execution at the forefront. We can’t wait to get stuck in!