Why are AAA publishers still struggling to make it on mobile?

Mobile gaming dominates the games space, but AAA game makers are failing to effectively enter the market

Why are AAA publishers still struggling to make it on mobile?

Despite dominating mainstream gaming news, AAA publishers routinely struggle to make notable footholds in the mobile gaming market, reports

The accessibility of mobile gaming represents a significant opportunity, projected to reach $315 million in revenue this year, which many console and PC developers have failed to effectively capitalise on. This is partly due to market penetration, with over four billion smartphones in the world compared to over 100 million PS4’s and just 32 million PS5’s.

Exputer notes that while other consoles such as the Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Wii have sold between tens and hundreds of millions of units, many of these consoles are outdated and, while the same is true of mobile phones, they lack effective access to the cloud which mobile gaming can capitalise on.

The report states that while many AAA developers and publishers are attempting to make headway in the mobile space, mobile income routinely represents just a small portion of overall revenue. EA, for example, drew $294 million in revenue from mobile in Q1 2023, compared to $435 million from PC and other devices and $1.152 billion from consoles.

In another highlighted example, Take-Two reported $110 in revenue from mobile gaming in 2021, prior to its acquisition of mobile gaming giant Zynga. Following this acquisition, mobile revenue jumped to $721 million, accounting for 51% of the company’s reported revenue for 2022.

New markets, new problems

Exputer notes that AAA publishers hoping to break into mobile gaming to maximise revenue should “expand their offerings through aggressive acquisitions of mobile gaming companies”, while taking note of what makes mobile platforms unique. While big budget ‘AAA mobile games’ may seem attractive, hypercasual games continue to rule the market, with developers benefitting from a lower production cost and, potentially, the ability to create hit games with smaller production teams.

The article also states that publishers should “avoid adapting popular AAA IPs to mobile devices”, noting that utilising cloud gaming services can be a more effective means of bringing these games to mobile devices. Despite a few notable successes in transferring AAA experiences to mobile devices, such as Call of Duty Mobile, several companies have failed to effectively capitalise on the mobile market in their attempts, with EA’s recent shutting down of Apex Legends Mobile and Battlefield Mobile cited as just some examples of a company failing to translate a successful IP to mobile platforms.

We listed Take-Two and EA as two of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022.

Staff Writer

Lewis Rees is a journalist, author, and escape room enthusiast based in South Wales. He got his degree in Film and Video from the University of Glamorgan. He's been a gamer all his life.