Once again it's that time of year where we all start feeling reflective and look back on the year just gone.
So to that end, we thought we'd ask our Mobile Mavens - a collection of games industry experts - a few questions about the year gone by, and what lies ahead in 2024.
Here we ask:
What are your predictions for the games industry in 2024?
You can read part two of this article here.
Given the current state of oversupply in the games market and the increasing competition for users' idle time from platforms like TikTok, I believe that 2024 will see an intensification of these trends.
This could lead to more companies withdrawing from the highly competitive market, leaving room primarily for those offering high-quality content, big IP titles, or games that require shorter play sessions, such as MOBAs and instant casual games.
Big games will get bigger. Old games will be revived. Continued consolidation around the major genres and the biggest brands. Successful companies will become more obsessed with how to manage ever bigger and more complex teams.
It all sounds a bit bleak if you’re most passionate about small scale creative challenges - but those games will continue to find an audience, it’s just that significant commercial success will come almost exclusively from studios that learn how to operate at a larger scale than previous years.
- Significant shifts in platform dynamics: The relationship between mobile gaming and its platforms is poised for substantial changes.
- Emergence of new user acquisition avenues: Platforms like TikTok will become key channels for user acquisition.
- Enhanced direct user engagement: As developers move more players to their own webstores, they'll cultivate closer, more meaningful relationships with their users, unlocking new possibilities.
- Revenue model diversification: Game developers are likely to diversify their income streams, focusing more on alternative revenue channels beyond in-app purchases.
I have six things which I think are likely to happen:
- More consolidation of companies at the top of the charts, the big studios will continue to become more successful and the small to medium sized ones will find it harder and harder.
- M&A will start to scale back up, and VCs will start to invest again, more frequently, not to the extent that they did 2 years ago, but more than in 2023.
- IP Games will have more chart success. Monopoly Go has really shined a light on this and I think the likes of Hasbro and Mattel both had massive years overall. From a transmedia perspective, we saw games and movies becoming ever closer.
- Live ops and events strategies become the standard for the industry, and companies who don’t have a core focus on this will be left behind by those who do.
- Studios shift from having a strategic focus and mindset on acquiring as many players as cheaply as possible to how they can maximise their LTV per user over a much larger window of time (optimising in-game metrics and building content for up to a year).
- AI continues to become bigger in game creation. There are some studios already using this to build aspects of their games and I see more coming to market and using it successfully.
Precise targeting through traditional mobile channels is increasingly difficult and a focus on monetisation will be essential next year.
Developers will prioritise efforts that deliver deeper funnel engagement and will need to optimise user engagement and retention while balancing monetisation elements to maximise revenues.
2024, like 2023, will likely show more and more app and game developers and publishers maximising every inch of their growth strategies, be it monetising non-paying users for the first time, deepening gameplay to catch IAP payers, increasing the frequency of interstitials or other actions.
For example, hypercasual developers will become more selective about which games they publish, and they’ll also branch out into genres that deepen the gameplay and include a wider and more lucrative variety of monetisation units. On the other end of the scale, hardcore games and subscription apps that are holding onto the myth that ads will cannibalise their IAPs will soften their stance and try out user-initiated ad units like rewarded video and offerwall.
While conversation has been placed on “bad ads”, in 2024 we’ll see a shift to a data-led discussion, where activities are pursued or halted based on data, not opinions. There will be a better balance of performance with churn, and in order to get there, games will take a personalised and data centric approach using ad quality data to optimise the ad experience.
Tech will continue to take centre stage with developers and publishers using it to maximise their activities, be it moving more of their games to bidding, screening for game marketability before publishing, running campaigns through CTV, or more.
No predictions will be complete without mentioning AI, which developers will no doubt use to help improve and support their productivity and creativity.
Looking ahead to 2024, I predict a surge in high-quality free-to-play games making their mark on PC and console platforms. This shift is expected to bring mobile monetisation methods to these platforms in a more subtle and integrated manner.
Simultaneously, the mobile games sector will continue to grow, with the opening of third-party stores sparking interest. The saturation of app stores may lead to a shift in marketing strategies, potentially seeing a rise in "branded" TikTok challenges and viral advertising as more prominent avenues for reaching audiences.
Martine Spaans runs publishing label Tamalaki.com; a boutique publisher with a hands-on approach, specialised in Hidden Object, Match-3 and Simulation games.
Tamalaki joined forces with partner-company FGL.com, which focuses on idle/clicker gamer, card and board games, and silly puzzles.
There have been some interesting recent developments regarding the market practices of Apple and Google, mainly set in motion by Epic. I think we will already see the first effects of these lawsuits in 2024, when these closed markets will have to open up a bit more.
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.
It’s going to be a tough year, but there are some signs of turning that corner despite the heartbreaking numbers of redundancies we are seeing.
Those teams who get through it will be more focused on delivering a sustainable player experience (many with live ops), but a time like this is also fertile ground for us to see new teams form with creative new ideas and the potential to change our expectations.
It’s a hard time for a lot of people but I am convinced there will (eventually) be a brighter opportunity to make amazing games.
I think we're going to slowly see more capital starting to be deployed in new startups. However, many current startups will fail to raise another round and go under.
I think publishing will become more important again as fewer new studios try to self-publish, given how hard UA is these days.
I think we're going to see more games going cross-platform. And I think we're going to see studios starting to look outside of just mobile for opportunities to launch and new game concepts to test.
I still believe 2024 will be a hard ride for many, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I see several subgenres of the games industry still shaking.
The industry behind the games industry will be shaking heavily now as publishers and developers will think twice about how to spend their budgets on marketing, influencers, press, events, cooperations, etc.
A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor – so embrace the storm. We have seen so many here at HandyGames already. This will not be the last.
For 2024, I think we’ll see smaller development teams experimenting with new models and mechanics that aren’t currently allowed on Google Play and the App Store.
For example, releasing apps and games to a core audience that are intended to be sideloaded. With many web3 games cut off from iOS due to App Store restrictions and a high likelihood of iOS being forced to allow some form of sideloading in 2024, this could be a trend on both the main mobile platforms.