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Five mobile gaming trends to keep an eye on in 2021, according to Newzoo

Newzoo details a handful of industry developments set to shake up mobile this year
Five mobile gaming trends to keep an eye on in 2021, according to Newzoo

Data analyst giant Newzoo has put together a list of trends that look set to rock the mobile games industry in 2021. 

Last year, the industry saw its biggest year of growth yet. The year of the pandemic contributed to record levels of installs and revenue growth across the board, and that is forecast to continue in 2021.

Mobile-led titles such as Among Us and Genshin Impact led the way for mobile to level up as a platform, but neither title was one of the five mobile games that made over a billion dollars in 2020. High revenues look set to carry over into this year, alongside other tech developments that will make mobile development and play even more lucrative. 

2020 trends to watch

1. The death of IDFA may reshape mobile marketing

The acronym 'IDFA' has been on the lips of the majority in mobile for the last year. At WWDC last year, Apple announced that as part of an iOS14 update, the Identifier for Advertisers would be removed. The so-called 'death of IDFA rippled throughout mobile, as a large proportion of iOS marketers relied on that resource to track UA and advertising campaigns. 

Newzoo predicts that the IDFA removal will spark a revival of traditional forms of creative advertising, seeing marketers crafting new campaign structures that can operate outside of Google and Facebook. It's still a little early to see the full effect of the change, but a future with a heightened focus on privacy will certainly affect how data is accrued. 

2. 5G will become more prominent

While 5G is nowhere close to being the accessible, next-generation answer to connectivity yet, it is beginning to occupy more and more spaces. Newzoo reckons that this rollout will continue into 2021, with efforts to increase 5G infrastructure and the release of 5G handsets from multiple mobile manufacturers. A report from Newzoo also unveiled that 16 per cent of all active smartphones will be 5G by the end of 2021, and that could rocket up to around 43 per cent by 2023. Should that occur, 5G better be ready.

3. AAA on mobile will explode thanks to Genshin Impact

We (the industry) couldn't stop talking about the astronomical success of Genshin Impact last year. From record-breaking revenues and chart-topping installs, Genshin made its mark as the most successful original IP to be launched by a Chinese developer.

While Genshin performed incredibly across PC and console, it made headway as a free-to-play, AAA experience on mobile. Free-to-play is still considered a bit of a dirty word, and Genshin's efforts to provide such a massive RPG experience for the grand total of nothing has started to reshape that outlook. Newzoo believes that the success of Genshin will catalyse a AAA movement on mobile, as well as a rise in original AAA titles to come out of China.

4. App Stores will face distribution challenges globally

Another story that dominated our news pool in 2020 was the ongoing spat between Epic and Apple, following the removal of Fortnite from Apple's App Store. While the process was messy, it led to Apple introducing the App Store Small Business Program, which sees Apple taking a 15 per cent cut of an app revenue rather than the original 30 per cent. 

A similar trend is happening in China - app stores in the country are also tightening up publishing regulations. While Epic sought to challenge Apple's 30 per cent cut, it is not unusual for third-party Android app stores in China to take a 50 per cent cut. Huawei recently removed all of Tencent's titles from its store due to a similar revenue dispute (the games have now been reinstated).

Newzoo thinks that app stores will continue to have their practices challenged in order to create a fairer ecosystem for developers and publishers across the globe.

5. Mobile will attract more IP-based games, and mobile-first IP will grow beyond gaming

We're already seeing popular gaming IP make its way onto mobile; Square Enix Montreal has created the 'GO' series, featuring the popular Hitman and Tomb Raider IPs. The company is also developing a new Tomb Raider title for mobile this year. Mobile giant King is also set to release Crash Bandicoot: On The Run in the spring.

However, Newzoo also predicts that mobile-first IP will start to grow beyond the confines of the platform. We've seen this in the past with handfuls of mobile titles becoming fully-fledged franchises with the likes of Angry Birds and Candy Crush, but mobile is now more lucrative than ever to entertainment IP holders. Newzoo has potted over 230 entertainment brands from TV, film and books across app stores, and over 900 IP-based titles. 

And as we move into a more connected metaverse where forms of entertainment merge into one another, that looks set to only grow.