Mobile Mavens

Indie Mavens: What trends and events will shape the mobile industry in 2021?

"IDFA depreciation has the potential to completely alter the free-to-play market"

Indie Mavens: What trends and events will shape the mobile industry in 2021?

The games industry is a constantly shifting, ever-growing place that is filled with talented creatives at all parts of the company hierarchy.

Today, however, the triple-A market often struggles with taking risks and often relies too much on already established IP and done to death ideas. That's why many argue that the best creativity stems from the indie market.

The notion of indie development was once a pipedream (and still is for lots), yet the rise of the indies is one of the biggest markets of growth over the previous decade. A good game released at the right time can now skyrocket a studio to untold heights like never before.

Of course, there are dozens of daily trials and tribulations that come with this territory, all leading to a ginormous wealth of knowledge and expertise to pull from, which looks to share with our its Indie Mavens series.

Whether it's discussing the hottest topic of the month, the ongoing difficulties of game development, or the conundrum surrounding visibility, our Indie Mavens will be revealing all.

This time, the topic of discussion focused on the biggest trends of 2021 for mobile games as well as predictions for events that will shape and define the space in the coming year. With everything constantly shifting - even more so under the global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns - how will the market react? So, to sum up:

Looking forward, what trends and events do you think will shape the mobile industry in 2021?

Matt Purchase Developer Anchorite

Matt Purchase is the solo developer at Anchorite Games 

Looking back for just a second, it's super hard to ignore the impact (wait for it) that Genshin Impact has had on the industry. If I were to take a guess, I'd say this game alone is probably shaping a lot of what the bigger end of the mobile industry will be doing in 2021.

On the smaller side of things, the Small Business Agreement alongside other indie-friendly deals should mean that maybe... indies will have a bit of an easier time this year.

Karah Sutton Chief Publishing Officer PikPok

IDFA depreciation has the potential to completely alter the free-to-play market...
Karah Sutton

Probably an obvious answer, but so much of our planning for this year can and will be affected by the rollout of IDFA depreciation on iOS devices as well as the ongoing pandemic.IDFA depreciation has the potential to completely alter the free-to-play market, with advertisers decreasing budgets, focusing on Android or changing their advertising strategies entirely. This in turn might affect the types of games we see dominating the market.

The pandemic has changed how people interact with technology and has affected engagement and revenue for a lot of mobile games. It also has indirect effects such as shifting currency exchange rates, how vaccines are rolled out and when will continue to make things volatile.

Rich Siegel Founder and Lead Game Designer Cleaversoft

I think we’ll see the quality bar pushed even higher as larger companies put more focus on mobile, devices become more powerful and services like Apple Arcade continue the forward march. We’re still a little too early for AR gaming to take over but hopefully, in the next few years, Apple iGlasses will debut completely upending everything.

Unfortunately, we’ll continue to see predatory in-app purchases across the most successful games, dominating the mobile game narrative. It seems Apple is pushing for games that can be played endlessly with high retention instead of shorter experiences for Arcade. This is kind of a shame but makes sense. I hope they continue to fund well designed single experience indie games.

Cabin Yim Chief Marketing Officer FairPlay Studios

Here are the three trends/events I think will shape the mobile gaming industry in 2021:

Rise of In-Game Advertising Monetisation - I believe that developers/publishers will start integrating more in-game advertising into their games, using platforms such as AdInMo, Relentlo and Anzu to name a few. As advertising to players is getting ever more competitive and expensive, the integration of these static in-game ads makes more and more sense as the technology behind it continuously gets better.

In addition, as rewarded ads are now tending to be more of a feature to the games, I am expecting to see the developers/publishers get more creative with their placements and how to incentivize players to tap on them.

More Opportunities for Indie Developers on Apple's App Store - With the App Store fee being cut from 30 per cent to 15 per cent to developers with less than $1 million annual app revenue, I believe this gives indie developers an opportunity/incentive to develop and self-publish their games for iOS. With the extra income to focus on their marketing efforts to acquire users to help with their growth and compete in the very saturated mobile gaming market.

Mobile RPG Games to dominate - With the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw a rise in the number of mobile game players worldwide due to the small barrier to entry/exit. As mobile phones become more affordable and more powerful year-on-year, as well as the need to interact with people online due to the lockdown, I believe we will see an increase in players playing MMORPG games on the platform.

The success of Genshin Impact has already proved this, but with major MMORPG titles launching in 2021 - such as Diablo: Immortal, Warhammer: Odyssey and Moonlight Blade - I have a strong feeling that the MMORPG/RPG category will be taking over the mobile charts.

Desmond Wong CEO The Gentlebros

Desmond Wong is the CEO, artist and designer and The Gentlebros. 

Free-to-play games like Genshin Impact and Diablo Immortal will continue to dominate the charts...
Desmond Wong

I think as subscription-based services like Apple Arcade and Game Pass get more and more popular, we will start to see more developers design their games around such subscription mechanics. This means we'll see more games that are designed to try and keep players coming back as often and as long as they can.

That being said, free-to-play games like Genshin Impact and Diablo Immortal will continue to dominate the charts, but as the barriers to entry get higher and higher for developers in the free-to-play space, we might see some move onto greener pastures like the world of subscription.

The pandemic has also shown the fragility of our society. Simply meeting someone face to face is not something we should take for granted and as such, I believe more games will try to have features that encourage people to play together as well.

Gregory Feuz Head of Live Ops Behaviour Interactive

Both the IDFA deprecation and crackdown on loot boxes will impact greatly the mobile gaming industry in 2021. To overcome these challenges, mobile developers and publishers will need to re-invent themselves by investing heavily in their live ops capabilities and activities as well as coming up with innovative yet more transparent monetization models.

Deputy Editor

Matthew Forde is the deputy editor at and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @MattForde64 talking about stats, data and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.