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The Top 50 Mobile Game Makers of 2023

The movers and the shakers of the last 12 months
The Top 50 Mobile Game Makers of 2023
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A year can feel like a very short time in the world of mobile and to prove that point perfectly it’s time to celebrate 2023’s Top 50 Mobile Game Makers… Already!

Nothing moves faster, attracts more players and talent, or makes more money than mobile and 2023 has once again delivered the goods: both in terms of the amazing new properties and ventures created in the past 12 months, and in cementing mobile’s place as the number one location for gaming’s most innovative creators.

It has been a tough year on several fronts (*cough* thanks again, Apple!). Belts have tightened, major studios have undergone huge upheavals as both global politics and app store policies exerted new pressures and influence on our burgeoning global entertainment industry. Pandemic highs gave way to new normal ‘realignments’ and a focus on sound financials and long term prospects replaced the fervour for easy wins or more speculative punts. It’s been a time for consolidating. Looking closely at what’s working and directing energy to where it can be most effective.

But the energy, intent, creativity and sheer power of will present in the mobile community continues unabated. All around us there are exciting new projects, new technologies, new business models and commercial channels in which to deliver great new products to players and new ways to find new customers and win market share.

And the quality of what’s been made all around us, all over the world, only ever gets better and better.

And that’s what we’re celebrating here, a year’s worth of work from our Top 50 Mobile Game Makers. Our experts have deep dived the facts and figures and pulled out 50 of the world’s hottest companies. Everyone on board isn’t just smashing it right now, but – we predict – has the power to achieve even greater success in the year ahead.

We may have missed a few good souls (in fact, we know there are plenty more we wanted in), we may even have made the odd mistake – heck we are not (yet) an AI-powered Borg collective! But, ultimately, we’ve done our best to pick the best of the best. These are the companies that are leading the conversation right now and will set the tone for mobile in the year to come.

And we can’t wait to see what’s next!

P.S. Huge thanks and credit is also due to our partners at outsourcing specialists Pingle and mobile brand advertising network HyprMX who supported the 2023 Top 50 Game Makers and themselves provide services to support the ongoing growth of the industry.

#50: Devolver Digital

Devolver Digital

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Devolver Digital »

Never a company to be pinned down, the constantly subversive and surprising Devolver Digital has spent the year breaking a few rules and raising its mobile profile with inventive, great games, delivered through carefully chosen channels.

The company released Reigns: Three Kingdoms on Netflix Games service, following an exclusivity deal with Apple Arcade. And followed up with the subversive Devolver Tumble Time, incorporating multiple characters from the company’s portfolio into one place, in a game that’s as knowing as it is fun to play.
Assuming the subscription segment continues to grow, then the ability to mine quality PC-style titles like Terra Nil could be even more in demand – and whilst mobile is still a small part of the listed companies business, cross-platform is a key watchword for most in the year ahead.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Terra Nil
  • Reigns: Three Kingdoms
  • Devolver Tumble Time
  • Downwell
  • Spaceplan

#49: Kwalee

Kwalee

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Kwalee »

2022 proved to be a massive year for British developer Kwalee, with 200 million total downloads and the significant milestone of one billion downloads achieved in January 2023. Following a 12% growth in revenue the company announced a new partnership with CrazyGames in May to bring 11 of its mobile games to the web.

June saw the company hire VP of HR Adrian Garton as part of its mission to attract the best and brightest talent in the games industry. And the company’s high-profile move into artificial intelligence as part of its game production pipeline is helping staff pitch new, AI-enhanced ideas faster and smarter than ever before. The headwinds facing advertising revenue in hypercasual present the same challenge to Kwalee as others though, so the transition to hybrid-casual will be crucial.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Draw It
  • Shootout 3D
  • Rocket Sky!
  • Bake It
  • Go Fish!

#48: Ustwo games

Ustwo games

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Ustwo games »

Ustwo remains a fixture in our rankings thanks to its enduring Triple-I quality output, the latest being the emotionally explorative Desta: The Memories Between. By releasing the title with Netflix, Desta’s audience was broadened extensively.

Away from development, the company has been a pioneer for ‘games for good’ causes, supporting initiatives such as ‘Where are the Black Designers’, pledging three percent of its profits from Desta to the charity UK Youth and supporting multiple Green Game Jams, which planted 2.5 million trees as part of the 2022 event tied into Alba: A Wildlife Adventure.

Looking ahead, the award-winningest Monument Valley series has a trequel in the works ensuring that the company will remain on the red carpets (and within these pages) for some years to come!

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Desta: The Memories Between
  • Assemble With Care
  • Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
  • Monument Valley

#47: Aristocrat Leisure

Aristocrat Leisure

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Aristocrat Leisure »

Combining real money ‘gaming’ with the ‘games’ industry has proved a winning bet for Australia-based Aristocrat Leisure whose half-year 2023 results showed a 12% revenue growth across the group.

Its video-gaming segment, Pixel United (made up of Plarium, Product Madness and Big Fish games) have played their part, growing bookings by 13% in a tougher market.

Whilst much of the focus is understandably on social casino titles, such as Big Fish Casino, Heart of Vegas and Jackpot Magic Slots, alongside casual games such as EverMerge and Gummy Drop, Plarium’s Action RPG Raid: Shadow Legends is a clear (and clearly profitable) outlier.

That title’s solid gameplay and smart marketing (celeb cameos and an animated series coming soon) along with sister action title Mech Arena provide Aristocrat flexibility to play the field.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Raid: Shadow Legends
  • Big Fish Casino
  • Heart of Vegas – Slots
  • EverMerge
  • Mech Arena

#46: Metacore

Metacore

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Metacore »

Merge Mansion has become one of the most talked about mobile games of the year, in part due to its innovative ad campaign. Whereas other mobile games have utilised celebrities in their advertising before, nobody has done with quite the panache and chutzpah of Merge Mansion with an evolving narrative featuring ‘it’ actor Pedro Pascal.

Of course, glossy marketing alone can’t make a successful business generating $10m+ a month. That requires game-design nous from a cracking team, excellent Live Ops and backing from the best, and Metacore has successfully merged all three, together with the inevitable bit of luck/good timing and a pinch of Finnish Sisu!

No wonder that investor Supercell was happy to entrust the company with taking its recent launch Everdale to the next level – we look forward to what e-merges next.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Merge Mansion
  • Everdale

#45: Com2uS

Com2uS

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Com2uS »

As the powerhouse behind the Summoners War franchise and a historic game innovator (remember Skipping Stone and Nom?) Com2uS continues to be a major player in the industry and our Top 50 list. Elegantly pivoting between Web2 and Web3, its determination to keep ahead of trends and forge its own path sets it apart from similarly ambitious rivals.

Com2uS is planning to release no fewer than 10 titles – including Summoners War: Chronicles – within the year with blockchain functionality, issued through its C2X cryptocurrency. Its Web2/3 hybrid tactics – where players are gradually acclimated to blockchain functionality (knowing or otherwise) whilst retaining familiar F2P elements – is a formula that could pay off in style in the year ahead. And if not, it will undobtedly pivot to the next big thing!

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Summoners War: Sky Arena
  • NBA NOW 2022
  • MLB 9
  • The Walking Dead: All-Stars

#44: Sandsoft

Sandsoft

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Sandsoft »

Hot on the heels of its appearance in the inaugural Top 30 MENA Mobile Game Makers list, Sandsoft makes a welcome debut here. The core reason is simple, it’s planted its flag in one of the hottest spots in the world’s fastest growing global market.

Having made waves with the opening of its flagship studio in Riyadh, January saw Sandsoft invest $3.25 million in racing and motorsports game developer The Tiny Digital Factory, opening up new collaborative publishing opportunities in the MENA region.

A further partnership with Jam City on the release of high-profile DC Heroes & Villains highlighted the company as a go-to choice for developers looking for partnerships in the region.
Adding talent such as Ahmed Sharif (formerly Meta’s head or AR/VR/Metaverse and Platform Engineering) as CTO underlines its ambition.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Fantasy Pick
  • Drive Ahead! Yalla!
  • Pacific Rim
  • Rambo

#43: Wildlife Studios

Wildlife Studios

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Wildlife Studios »

Brazilian developer Wildlife has had a massive year, with Tennis Clash quickly emerging as one of the biggest mobile sports games on the market.

The title gained official sponsorship from the Australian Open, was the official mobile game of Roland-Garros (the French Open) shortly thereafter and even featured as one of only two games included in the inaugural esports olympics, culminating in Singapore June 23.

But Wildlife is far from a one-trick pony, having doubled down on mobile in November 22 (laying off almost 300 staff on other projects), it’s also maintained success with its Zooba: Zoo Battle Royale title whilst air combat title Sky Warriors shows early promise. With an impressive diversity in its portfolio of 60 games released and over 3 billion downloads to date the studio certainly lives up to its core values of moving fast and thinking big.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Tennis Clash
  • Zooba
  • Sky Warriors
  • Suspect: Mystery Mansion

#42: Homa

Homa

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Homa »

Homa styles itself as a platform for growing and publishing video games, with particular focus on the hypercasual market. Founded in 2018, the French business had expanded steadily over the years until last year’s $100m raise provided a little extra rocket fuel, and a rebrand to boot.

The timing proved astute, as it arrived before the IDFA-fuelled hypercasual winter, and provides the company plenty of room to pivot further towards hybrid casual and add talent. Not that it needed extra encouragement, having set up a dedicated division in April 22, publishing Aquarium, Fight for America and recently inking a deal with 8SEC for the impending Merge Army.

With its own titles still performing well – Merge Master: Dinosaur Monster accrued over 100 million lifetime downloads by June 2023 – and its forward-thing approach to new tech, we predict a big future for Homa.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Merge Master: Dinosaur Monster
  • Fight for America: Country War
  • Wild West Cowboy Redemption
  • Zombie Defence: War Z Survival

#41: Trailmix Games

Trailmix Games

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Trailmix Games »

The compelling Love & Pies story continues to run and run. Following a $4.2 million investment from Supercell, Trailmix has proved its worth, with the UK developer gaining a further $60 million stake from the gaming giant while still maintaining its independence and flair.

Not only a benchmark company for values and culture (winner at the Green Game Jam awards in June 23) , it is delivering real results too. A pivot from merge 3 to merge 2 along with the strong story-driven content saw a massive 60% day one retention (22% day 30 and 10% day 180) delivering millions of dollars of revenue each month.

With the funds in place to back its gameplay, storytelling, and pragmatic approach, we can’t wait to see what’s on the menu for 2023.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Love & Pies

#40: AppLovin

AppLovin

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AppLovin »

It may have made its name (and money) via growth and monetisation services, but the movement into mobile publishing (via Lion Studios, Magic Tavern & Machine Zone) hasn’t gone too badly!

AppLovin topped Data.ai’s 2023 charts for US headquartered game publishers by worldwide game downloads, and came a credible 7th in terms of revenues too (21st globally). The likes of Game of War, Final Fantasy XV, Matchington Mansion and Project Makeover are still delivering solid revenue, whilst Lion Studios hypercasual titles boost the downloads. That said, by its own metrics, the publishing business remains secondary, offering lower margins and declining overall revenues. But smart game acquisitions, a broad portfolio and an eye on quality have made good on last year’s promise and we can only see further success for the next 12 months.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Matchington Mansion
  • Wordscapes
  • Project Makeover
  • Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire
  • Game of War

#39: Tactile Games

Tactile Games

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Tactile Games »

“We do great content. We don’t do smart business schemes.” Those are the words of Tactile’s CEO Asbjoern Malte Soendergaard. It’s a statement that ultimately sums up this unassuming studio’s culture: don’t chase the latest fads for a quick cash grab.

Despite flying under the radar, its flagship mobile game, narrative-driven match 3 blast title Lily’s Garden, is one of the most successful launches for a European studio over the last five years. To date, the title has generated $517 million globally in lifetime player spending across the App Store and Google Play, according to data.ai estimates.

Meanwhile follow-up title Penny & Flo has accumulated $60 million since its release, and in March 2023 the company launched a brand new puzzle game, Makeover Match. Expect even greater things ahead.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Lily’s Garden
  • Penny & Flo
  • Simon’s Cat: Story Time

#38: Tilting Point

Tilting Point

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Tilting Point »

September saw Tilting Point announce a new partnership with Netflix, which is making an increasing name for itself in the subscription space (more on that later in our list). This saw the release of two prior hits with a total of 70+ million downloads onto the service, as well as developing a brand new title.

The company also released a new spin on the classic title Oregon Trail, entitled Oregon Trail: Boom Town, and entered a new partnership with Fragbite, publishing its title MMA Manager 2: Ultimate Fight.

Whilst the partnerships are going well, stalwart branded titles still deliver across a diverse portfolio, and the company is embracing new tech like webshops and web3 trials, Tilting Point has not been immune from the struggles facing much of the industry, releasing 60 of its 440-strong team in February.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Spongebob: Krusty Cook-Off
  • Star Trek Timelines
  • Narcos: Cartel Wars
  • MMA Manager 2

#37: Capcom

Capcom

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Capcom »

The mobile lineup of Japanese games company Capcom has been steadily growing for some time now, and new announcements like AR-based Monster Hunter Now have us bubbling with anticipation… Will this partnership with Niantic roar with success like Pokémon Go? Shareholders clearly have high hopes, as evidenced by Capcom’s stock having broken records twice in April ‘23.

Capcom’s mobile hand isn’t being played entirely in the augmented reality space, though: Monster Hunter Riders has surpassed 5 million downloads and Street Fighter: Duel has finally arrived in the West too, after starting out as a China exclusive. Pre-registrations for the latter had reached 5 million globally by its launch date in February 2023.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Street Fighter: Duel
  • Monster Hunter Riders
  • Monster Hunter Now
  • Snoopy Drops

#36: Playtika

Playtika

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Playtika »

M&A has once again been at the forefront for Playtika’s story over the last year. Whilst the Israel-based business didn’t quite add to its previous Finnish acquisitions of Reworks and Seriously, falling short with Angry Birds maker Rovio, it did pump $25 million into Turkish developer Ace Games and was subject to a few buyout rumours itself.

Away from the markets, the core business seemed solid enough; revenues were up in Q1 23 to $656.2m and EBITDA up 13% y-o-y at $222.7m. CEO Robert Antokol put this down to “unrivalled Live Ops expertise along with our robust tech stack, including our AI powered Digital Studio”.

Casual games such as Solitaire Grand Harvest and Bingo Blitz did the heavy lifting (both with double-digit growth), alongside still substantial social casino titles. With plenty of cash in the bank, we’d expect to see more M&A ahead.*

*Q2 data not yet released at time of writing

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Solitaire Grand Harvest
  • Bingo Blitz
  • Best Fiends
  • Pirate Kings

#35: Square Enix

Square Enix

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Square Enix »

Whilst Square is more renowned for its console heritage, it does boast an impressive mobile catalogue including multiple Final Fantasy games, Nier Reincarnation, Voice of Cards, Dragon Quest spinoffs and more.

Like many regional publishers, the domestic market generates a sizeable chunk of its income with titles like Dragon Quest Walk and Dragon Quest Tactics pulling in over $25m each month from Japan alone. We can’t say precisely how much of the $2.5bn net sales from 2022-2023 are mobile, but we do know Mobile/PC browser accounted for c.$840m and Sensor Tower’s $55m+ p/m estimate would leave us in the region of $660M (or 26% overall).

With new titles such as Final Fantasy XV: War for Eos out now and FF VII: Ever Crisis coming soon, we can expect these numbers (and mobile percentages) to increase in the next 12 months.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Dragon Quest Walk
  • Dragon Quest Tactics
  • Final Fantasy XV: Eos
  • Romancing SaGa Re: Universe
  • Nier Reincarnation

#34: CyberAgent

CyberAgent

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CyberAgent »

Cygames parent company CyberAgent has its fingers in multiple pies, with investments, media, and advertising sat alongside its games business. As Cygames delivers console, browser, and mobile activity, separating out smartphone revenues can be a challenge.

What we do know is that the company remains a force, especially in its domestic Japanese market, and that quirky horse-racing title Uma Musume continues its charge, passing the
$2 billion revenue mark in April.

More promising still is the overseas expansion with American and European offices established to drive licensing and global uptake of this and fellow titles like CCG Shadowverse, RPG GranBlue Fantasy and Princess Connect: Re-Dive. Add in the impending Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis from subsidiary Applibot and you can ‘Cy’ why it remains a strong presence in our Top 50.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Uma Musume: Pretty Derby
  • Shadowverse
  • Granblue Fantasy
  • Princess Connect

#33: Voodoo

Voodoo

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Voodoo »

As a long-time leader in the hypercasual market AND a pragmatic business, it was no great surprise when Voodoo announced casual and midcore publishing arms last December – what may have caused a few raised eyebrows was CEO Alex Shea stating that “hypercasual is dead!” at PGC London.

Since then, the company has enjoyed growing success with its portfolio of ten hybridcasual games, led by Collect Em All and Mob Control, which are each generating between $20 million and $100 million a year – and the company is working on new titles which it expects to exceed $100 million in annual revenue.

Whilst Voodoo still utilises a hypercasual pipeline for filtering up to 1,500 prototypes, casual games VP Alvaro Duerte recently suggested as few as four per year will be published. He also hinted at possible acquisitions (to join 2021 purchase of Beach Bum)…

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Collect Em All
  • Mob Control
  • Hole.io
  • Helix Jump
  • Paper.io 2
  • Run Rich 3D

#32: Habby

Habby

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Habby »

For a company that single-handedly invented hybrid-casual, Habby is a humble bunch. You’ll rarely hear the Singapore-based business on conference stages; it prefers to let its games do the talking.

And what games they are! In only its second year of trading it launched Archero which hit the bullseye in combining simple hypercasual mechanics with casual/mid-core monetisation, taking the business from $1m to $181m… in a year.

Follow-up Penguin Isle proved this was no fluke, but it’s in the last 12 months that Habby has really outdone itself. Whilst many are attempting to copy its formula, Habby once again led the way with two more smash hits: relentless action-packed shooter Survivor.io (already well on the way to the $200m that Archero netted) and then bullet hell roguelite Sssnaker. Suffice to say we aren’t the only ones waiting to see what’s next.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Survivor.io
  • Archero
  • Sssnaker
  • Penguin Isle

#31: Netflix

Netflix

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Netflix »

As Netflix battles to stay front and centre in the ever-changing digital entertainment world, the plan to step into games was a simple decision. Executing the move and staying there was where the real challenge lay.

After 18 months of activity, it’s fair to say the rating has to be ‘so far, so very good!’ – at least as far as developers and players are concerned.

By utilising hit IP franchises (Stranger Things, The Queen’s Gambit), making smart industry hires, and signing exclusive deals for new titles (or re-releases) with the likes of Super Evil Megacorp and Ustwo, Netflix established a beach-head of over 60 titles. This was further bolstered with acquisitions of key studios (e.g. Next Games) and plans to add another 40+ games in 2023 alone.

Yet, whilst subscriptions may be a growing part of the mobile market, it’s the potential of wider integration with apps connecting mobile players with their TV which is really getting many excited and could prove the true game-changer.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Valiant Hearts: Coming Home
  • Tomb Raider Reloaded
  • Asphalt Extreme
  • Highwater
  • Oxenfree
  • Stranger Things 1984

#30: Jam City

Jam City

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Jam City »

Much of Jam City’s recent action has taken place on the corporate level, with the promotion of co-founder Josh Yguado to CEO to replace outgoing Chris de Wolfe’s move to web3-based spin-off Plai Labs (taking with it Champions Ascension and its team). There’s also the ongoing dalliance with going public, priorly delayed by volatile markets.

But it’s making mobile games that Yguado will focus upon, as he looks to grow a business that’s generated $4 billion from seven key titles to date (including those of last year’s acquisition Luda).

Homegrown puzzler Cookie Jam still delivers the numbers alongside branded titles Harry Potter: Hogwards Mystery, Disney Emoji Blitz and location-based AR game Jurassic World Alive in a solid portfolio. Yet it’s superhero-charged match 3 DC Heroes & Villains that represents the next chance to fly.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • DC Heroes & Villains
  • Cookie Jam
  • Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery
  • Jurassic World Alive
  • Disney Emoji Blitz

#29: Shift Up

Shift Up

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Shift Up »

Gacha shooter Goddess of Victory: Nikke surpassed $400m in mobile revenue in June, putting it within spitting distance of other heavyweight titles such as half-billion-beating Diablo Immortal. In fact, given that Goddess of Victory was released in November of 2022 compared to July 2022 for Diablo, the title even has a few months to catch up.

Its unique gameplay combo has been a boost to Shift Up this past year with its over-the-shoulder shooter experience (not unlike what you might find on console or PC) and smart gacha mechanics proving popular whichever territory it’s released in.

We’re backing the South Korean publisher for further success through 2023 with brand extensions and new games on the horizon.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Goddess of Victory: Nikke
  • Destiny Child

#28: Netmarble

Netmarble

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Netmarble »

As the South Korean giant behind Lineage 2, Marvel Future Fight, BTS World, Tower of God, The King of Fighters ARENA, Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds, Seven Deadly Sins and more, Netmarble’s impact on the mobile gaming landscape is hard to challenge.

The revenues remain considerable too, with $2.1 billion generated in 2022 (up 6.6% year-on-year), although, with write-offs against the cost of SpinX and the lack of new blockbusters it did spin into the red to the tune of $83 million.

Notably, US subsidiary Kabam’s Marvel Contest of Champions remains an important title, generating over 13% of Q4 sales for the company and the developer’s first simultaneous cross- platform title King Arthur: Legends Rise, a game running in Unreal Engine 5 based on Arthurian legend, looks set to be an important release in the companies’ future success.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Lineage II
  • Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds
  • The King of Fighters Arena
  • Marvel Contest of Champions
  • BTS World

#27: Stillfront Group

Stillfront Group

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Stillfront Group »

Whilst certain other Swedish ‘roll-ups’ (no, not rollmops!) have struggled, it’s been another solid year for Stillfront Group, boasting EBITDA up 10% y-o-y to 695 million kronor (c. $67M USD).

The Swedish company which specialises in the acquisition and management of mobile and browser games worldwide has worked hard to generate synergies across 23 studios such as Nanobit, Candywriter, Goodgame Studios, and Kixeye. This is even more impressive considering the geographical diversity, with US and European studios bolstered by Jawaker and Babil in the MENA region, Moonfrog in India and its most recent Asian addition, 6waves, with offices in Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo.

Despite slightlier choppier waters, we believe this diversification plus a strong skilled management team will steer a sure course.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Trivia Star
  • Big Farm
  • Albion Online
  • Hollywood Story
  • Call of War
  • BitLife

#26: Outfit7

Outfit7

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Outfit7 »

It created a monster! The Talking Tom franchise is one of mobile gaming’s most enduring series, and smart updates and dialogue with its audience has just meant that the hits have kept on coming.

In fact Talking Tom & Friends was the number one mobile IP of the last ten years, with the franchise topping the MAU charts since 2013. Up to 470 million active users engage with the 20+ games in the Talking Tom & Friends universe every month, and whilst the Chinese-owned company keeps data relatively tight, estimates pin the 2023 run-rate at around $184m.

With an animated series on the way and new (non-Tom) franchises such as Mythic Legends evolving, future prospects continue to look bright. The company has a sense of social responsibility too, with My Talking Angela 2 picking up two 2023 Green Game Jam awards.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • My Talking Tom 2
  • My Talking Tom Friends
  • Talking Tom Gold Run
  • My Talking Angela 2
  • My Talking Tom
  • Talking Tom
  • Talking Tom Hero Dash

#25: FunPlus

FunPlus

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FunPlus »

A seventh anniversary for MMO unicorn King of Avalon and an exciting new hire headline a solid year for the global publisher. Veteran industry leader Alexandre Amancio brings his 20 years’ experience from Reflector and Ubisoft Montreal to join as SVP & Head of World Building, hinting at bigger brands, better studio integration and maybe cross-platform strategy?

Elsewhere it’s very much core business as usual as the 2,000-person business continues to grow revenues from its diverse portfolio including strategy titles State of Survival, Stormshot: Skull Isle Odyssey and Gun of Glory: Lost Island, match 3 Call of Antia, RPG Misty Continent and the aforementioned MMO King of Avalon.

Looking forward, the tie-in with Warner Bros for DC Dark Legion promises another strategy smash coming to the small screen in 2024.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • King of Avalon
  • State of Survival
  • Call of Antia

#24: Huuuge Games

Huuuge Games

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Huuuge Games »

For Huuuge Games, this past year has been… well… huge. From record-high profits to new studios, what’s not to celebrate?

The casual and social casino publisher’s Q3 2022 was its most profitable quarter ever at the time, with Huuuge Casino and Billionaire Casino leading the charge to a 57.3% y-o-y increase in net profit at $64.4 million and a similarly record $82.8 million in adjusted EBITDA.

Huuuge then kicked off 2023 in deal-making mood, securing publishing deals with Square Triangle and Frieddegames for Bowling Clash: New Legends and Cafe Dash: Cooking Diner Game. The publisher then went on to beat its all-time high EBITDA once again in Q1 2023.

With some cross-platform diversification into PC titles and the creation of Huuuge ‘pods’ (not ‘cells’!) to create new game ideas, who’d bet against an even bigger year in the near future?

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Bowling Clash: New Legends
  • Cafe Dash: Cooking Diner
  • GameStars Slots
  • Huuuge Casino
  • Billionaire Casino

#23: Lilith Games

Lilith Games

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Lilith Games »

Whilst other Asian publishers may grab the spotlight, Hong Kong-based Lilith Games celebrated a 10th anniversary by continuing to quietly deliver some amazing mobile games and a very healthy growing business, bringing in $100m p/m from April 23.

Rise of Kingdoms remains the lead brand, after breaking through the $2 billion lifetime milestone last year, although new SLG title Call of Dragons is also providing a big income boost from US & Europe, and comic-based RPG Dislyte looks to do the business too, especially in Asian markets.

Add to this the equally solid incomes from AFK Arena and Warpath: Ace Shooter plus quirky titles like Abi and Isoland 2 and it’s not hard to see why CEO Kenny Wang is looking forward to “the next 10 years of bringing the world together through games.”

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Rise of Kingdoms
  • Call of Dragons
  • Dislyte
  • AFK Arena
  • Warpath: Ace Shooter

#22: Rovio

Rovio

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Rovio »

After a seven-year hiatus of slingshot gameplay, as Rovio experimented with new genres and brands, the Finnish company finally returned to a familiar formula with Angry Birds Journey early last year. What followed was a successful upward arc in revenues of over 11 percent.

Angry Birds Dream Blast was arguably an even bigger player in the company’s recent success, flying high in Q1 with 68% growth y-o-y, bringing it close to the top of Rovio’s pecking order beside Angry Birds 2. Does this reinforce the idea of a one-brand business? Perhaps, but with over 5bn downloads it’s not a bad brand!

Of course, we would be remiss not to mention Sega’s impending acquisition of Rovio for a whopping €706 million, which could well change the game completely as the speedy blue hedgehog joins forces with the red bird.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Angry Birds
  • Angry Birds Dream Blast
  • Angry Birds Journey
  • Angry Birds Friends

#21: Moon Active

Moon Active

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Moon Active »

Developer and publisher Moon Active has become synonymous with one gold mine of a title: Coin Master. The game sees players battling it out to be the best of the pirates, Vikings, hippies, etc, and helped to raise Moon Active to a $5 billion valuation in 2021.

After overcoming threats of a ban in Germany as a casino title, Coin Master continues to be high grossing to this day. And with Moon Active being an Israeli company itself, its coin-centric game has earned acclaim as Israel’s top earner in the country’s rapidly growing $9bn+ gaming space.

With eyes (presumably) on a more diversified portfolio future, Moon Active recently expanded its library by acquiring Zen Match from Good Job Games (adding to previous acquisition of Family Island makers Melsoft). Considering the amount of ‘coin’ left in the coffers, we’d not be surprised by further investments.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Coin Master
  • Zen Match
  • Family Island
  • Pet Master

#20: Dream Games

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The Turkish games scene has been on a high for some years now, but Dream Games is undeniably the brightest current rising star, smashing its way into the competitive match 3 firmament with Royal Match’s slick visuals, decorating theme and mini-games, driving the company to a $2.75bn valuation.

Dream Games continues to push boundaries, with a January TV campaign targeting 186M impressions and a new London office assisting CEO and co-founder Soner Aydemir’s goal to “expand our international footprint, reach the best talent in the industry and become one of the best entertainment companies in the world!”

Whilst Royal Match’s Live Ops is always a priority, it’s also soft launched variant Royal Kingdom, adding new competitive aspects (think Clash of Clans match3) and a broader world to rebuild. Expect further construction in the next 12 months.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Royal Match
  • Royal Kingdom

#19: Niantic

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2023 has seen considerable change at Niantic. At one point the Pokémon Go maker’s strategy seemed intent on gifting all manner of brands the ‘Go’ treatment, and considering the $6bn+ generated by that title it was hard to question the strategy.

Sadly, very few follow-ups came remotely close to emulating this success, and after the damp squibs of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite (closed in ‘22) and to a lesser extent Pikmin Bloom, CEO John Hanke made the difficult decision in June to shutter the LA Studio and projects including NBA All-World and Marvel: World of Heroes.

This is not the end of the journey, though, merely a directional change, with the company focusing energies on making Pokemon Go a ‘forever game’, nurturing new launches Peridot and Monster Hunter Now, and honing its AR platform for itself and others’ games.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Pokémon Go
  • Pikmin Bloom
  • Monster Hunter
  • Now Peridot

#18: Playrix

Playrix

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As a wholly private company (possibly the largest on this list), we don’t have granular Playrix data, but we do know it continues to chip in several billion of industry value annually via a unicorn portfolio including GardenScapes, Homescapes, Fishdom and Townships, (lifetime earnings over $9bn). We also know it has UA smarts – whilst many were struggling, Playrix posted its third highest month of IAPs ever in January 23, raking in over $250m in that month alone!

The company also deserves high credit for completely shutting down its operations in Russia and Belarus, as well as the ensuing Herculean effort spent transporting the majority of its workforce from Russia and Ukraine to offices across Europe and elsewhere, sending a strong message to the world at undoubted personal revenue cost.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • GardenScapes
  • Homescapes
  • Fishdom
  • Townships
  • Manor Matters

#17: Krafton

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Although South Korean games publisher Krafton has multiple titles in its portfolio across multiple platforms (and indeed many studios) including Castle Craft, Defense Derby and the Road to Valor series, its brand remains synonymous with one keyseries.

A worldwide hit, battle royale smash PUBG Mobile has reached an incredible $10 billion in revenue across its various iterations, having been one of the most profitable mobile games anywhere on the planet these past two years. Krafton has taken over publishing duties in India, one of the world’s largest mobile-first markets for gaming, releasing the game as a regional spinoff named BGMI as well as the rebooted ‘New State’ edition.

Indeed PUBG titles were responsible for the vast majority of mobile income, over 64% of Krafton’s 539m KrW record high revenue in Q1 2023.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Battlegrounds Mobile India
  • PUBG New State
  • Defense Derby

#16: Tripledot Studios

Tripledot Studios

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Tripledot earned a spot on this list last year thanks in part to its impressive status as the third fastest-growing private company – of any type – in the UK, having been valued at $1.4 billion in February 2022. From there, things have only continued to improve.

Now, the London-based games developer behind casual titles like Woodoku, Solitaire and Word Hup has gained even mightier status, becoming the fastest growing company in Europe according to the FT, with an average growth rate of 795%, and a budget going from €115k to a massive €83m in just three years.

To facilitate even further growth, Tripledot has expanded its executive team, with former Scopely president Daniel Freireich among the hires, becoming Chief Games Officer, perhaps hinting at M&A activity in the future?

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Merge Party
  • Solitaire
  • Sudoku
  • Woodoku

#15: Second Dinner

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New entry time! And this one is as happy smashing fourth walls or card frames as it is breaking into our top 20. While the Marvel licence obviously draws eyeballs and publisher Nuverse deserves accolades for smart management, we need to give credit to developer Second Dinner, an infinity stone in the gauntlet of Marvel Snap – one of the gaming world’s favourite’s of 2023 thus far.

Bringing fresh ideas and a fast-pace to the CCG genre, Marvel Snap has shown a Magneto-esque ability to suck up game awards, alongside some impressive figures: 5.3m downloads and $2m in revenue in its first week, and over $70 million in its first six months till June alone!

Given the pedigree of the team (Ben Brode was the face of Hearthstone and worked on WoW) and the boundless Marvel-verse to mine, its ongoing success is surely… inevitable.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Marvel Snap

#14: Roblox

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The hugely popular online (and mobile) gaming platform Roblox has been labelled a leader in both the UGC and metaverse spaces, with its myriad cross-media deals almost too prevalent to track. From F1 and Spotif, to Gucci and a virtual Mariah Carey concert, Roblox appears capable of sucking all brands into its angular universe.

Unlike many metaverses, it’s also managed to draw a sizeable crowd, with more than 50% of children in the US playing the game and users growing by 20% through the last year, leading to north of 200-300m MAUs (depending on which report you read).

Unsurprisingly the platform revenues grew 16% to $2.2 billion and crucially paid out $624m of that to creators, with titles like Adopt Me, Brookhaven, Blox Fruits and Meep City each generating many billions of plays.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Roblox
  • Adopt Me
  • Brookhaven
  • Blox Fruits
  • Meep City

#13: Sea Group

Sea Group

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The Sea group continued to sail onwards in positive fashion, with Q4 2022 marking the Singapore companies’ first profitable quarter and y-o-y revenues up 25% to $12.4 billion, whilst Q1 2023 showed continued growth.

The picture for its games group Garena was slightly less rosy, with revenues slipping almost a third in Q4 to just under $950m and further ‘softness’ predicted in the face of an India download ban. Q1 2023 offered more positivity, with revenue back up to $1.1bn and net profit rising 50% y-o-y to $432m, but active and paying users still declined and notably Tencent chose to reduce its stake (from 21.3% to 18.7%).

Nevertheless, Free Fire remains a major title and with the arrival of the promising Undawn, and the licence to operate Contra, Call of Duty and Arena of Valor in the ever-expanding Southeast Asian market, Sea is a force to be reckoned with.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Garena Free Fire
  • Garena Speed Drifters
  • Undawn

#12: Unity

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The last quarter of 2022 marked a milestone for Unity, as the game creation platform celebrated its first profitable quarter as a public company (on a non-GAAP basis). This momentum continued into ‘23, with $500 million in Q1 revenue, up 56% y-o-y.

Its mobile game publishing sector is on the up too; with median game seeing an 8% rise in daily active users since 2021. Naturally, Unity’s success has been a team effort, with recently merged ally ironSource playing a key role by giving Unity devs access to the ironSource suite of services for advertising mediation and app marketing tools. It also provided a first-party suite of 70+ Supersonic titles such as Archers.io and Bridge Race boasting over 2.5 billion downloads.

Whilst the role Unity will play as a game maker in the future is unclear, it will surely remain hugely influential on the space.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Archers.io
  • Bridge Race

#11: Electronic Arts

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Electronic Arts mobile division undeniably had a challenging year on many fronts. First it ceased developing its Battlefield mobile game and shuttered the award-winning FPS Apex Legends Mobile. Then it announced effectively flat results for its portable gaming activity: just 1% growth vs 12% for PC/Console.

Despite the headwinds, however, there were also plenty of signs of a brighter future. FIFA Mobile has continued scoring well, reaching the highly coveted $1 billion ‘unicorn’ revenue milestone and there are hopes that LOTR: Heroes of Middle Earth can replicate some of the billion-grossing success of Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.

EA retains a broad mobile portfolio including in-house franchise iterations (SimCity, Need for Speed), and Glu’s games (Kim Kardashian Hollywood, Dash series). The division of the core business could bring more focus and innovation.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle Earth
  • FIFA Mobile
  • SimCity BuildIt
  • Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes

#10: Space Ape Games

Space Ape Games

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Walking the fine line between creating new properties and serving your tried-and-tested community is a balancing act that few get right. Milk your smash hit too often and your audience will decamp. Fail to provide a new place to go and you could lose them forever. It is however a (second?) act that Space Ape appear to have executed beautifully.

After establishing Beatstar as a uniquely powerful platform the London-based studio has kept the hits coming – literally – via an ongoing series of ever-bigger-name deals. It’s a game that’s only ever as fresh as the tunes on board and with years of experience and reputation now under its belt, the Beatstar squad is second-to-none at harvesting its unique relationship to and love of music to forge new connections between artist, labels and mobile gamers. Connections that will continue in the freshly cut genre spin-off Country Star.

Space Ape’s games have been played by over 150m people and generated $375m lifetime revenue. Star performer Beatstar generated an incredible $120m in its first year. Meanwhile Transformers: Earth Wars has so far grossed nearly $150m and is still earning, despite being a seven-year-old game – growth that’s testament to the team’s care in expanding and maintaining its worlds.

And when Supercell owns 62% of a company you can bet that it’s doing something right, and admit when it’s wrong: the closure of Boom Beach: Frontlines showed Space Ape isn’t afraid to cut its losses, whilst new game Chrome Valley Customs provides a new avenue for success.

And this mix of garage simulation, puzzles and story is being smartly marketed. Beatstar players can claim a new song in an in-game promotion that’s tailor-made for its 40 million players. With a launchpad like that we’re predicting great things for the game with lots more hits on the way.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Chrome Valley Customs
  • Beatstar
  • Fastlane
  • Rival Kingdoms
  • Transformers: Earth Wars

#9: Miniclip

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Incredibly, it’s been 11 years since Subway Surfers first crashed into the scene and Sybo’s smart evolution and reconstruction of its most famous brand continues to earn it new and loyal players alike. In fact, in March this year the game clocked up an amazing total of 4 billion downloads.

Spin-offs such as Subway Surfers Match have made smart use of their IP to keep Subway Surfers on point for over a decade, while a collaboration with Outplay for Subway Surfers Blast has only broadened the brand’s appeal. Meanwhile, quality remains at its peak with Subway Surfers Tag earning Sybo Game of the Year at our Mobile Game Awards this year.

Now of course, it is also part of much bigger family, having been acquired by Miniclip last year, the latest in a series of seven smart-looking purchases by the Tencent-backed business.

Not that the parent company was lacking in its own success stories previously – the company announced 4 billion casual downloads in 2022, with over 1 billion for 8 Ball Pool alone, an evergreen title that leads a vast portfolio of over 580 apps including simple sports titles like Ultimate Golf, Mini Soccer (and similar takes on cricket, baseball, basketball and even horse-racing), shooters Pure Sniper and classics like Agar.io.

So, whilst there was some brief press confusion around the company winding down of legacy PC browser channels, the reality as CEO Saad Choudri said last year is “we’ve always followed where the players go and the players are going onto mobile.” And, right now, Miniclip looks well-placed.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Subway Surfers
  • Subway Surfers Blast
  • Subway Surfers Match
  • 8 Ball Pool
  • Mini Basketball

#8: Take-Two Interactive

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Whilst Take-Two’s $12.7 billion acquisition of Zynga still remains the biggest purchase in the mobile gaming world (at least until Micro-vision Bilzzard King goes through), it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t money well spent.

Just as Zynga made the early pragmatic move to transfer top titles from Facebook to mobile, so Take-Two’s decisive move to add pocket gaming to its triple-A console and PC franchises has paid dividends, with the mobile publisher featuring prominently in the company’s FY financials for 2022, contributing to net revenue growth of 53% to $5.35 billion. In fact, 2023 saw Take-Two effectively becoming a ‘mobile first’ company as app revenues tipped past 50% of the total in multiple quarters and ended at 47% for the full year, with titles like Merge Dragons and Words With Friends named as key drivers of the $2.5bn contribution, and also a good proportion of the $2.2 billion gross profit.

Q1 2023 numbers (just in before press deadline) showed the trend continue with overall income up 20% y-o-y and Empires & Puzzles, Toon Blast, Merge Dragons and Words With Friends once more credited prominently alongside NBA2K23, GTA and Red Dead Remption titles.

Ultimately, Zynga’s mix of polished, accessible social games and smart brand marketing, alongside portfolio development smarts from Turkish and Finnish acquisitions, provides a great foil for Take-Two’s triple-A titles. Now, if it can start to utilise the likes of GTA, Red Dead and more in mobile too…

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • FarmVille 3
  • CSR2
  • Words with Friends 2
  • Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells
  • Zynga Poker

#7: ByteDance

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Whilst ByteDance is best known for its staggeringly successful social media app TikTok, this Chinese company’s tendrils have been extending into the world of mobile games from many different angles.

First up, is its publishing subsidiary Nuverse, the marketing and financial force behind the multi-award-winning Marvel Snap. Offering a friendlier entry to the space than most CCGs, it’s no surprise this game’s developer Second Dinner also makes an appearance in our listing. But Nuverse has many other strings to its bow, with the likes of international branded titles Warhammer 40,000: Last Crusade, Ragnarok X and One Piece: Lost Routes plus local titles Flower, Figure Story, Watcher of Realms and Wulin: Masters of Leisure.

It also happens to own Moonton (since 2021), publisher of the hugely successful Mobile Legends: Bang Bang as well as Watcher of Realms, Mobile Legends: Adventure and Magic Rush: Heores, as well as C4 Connect whose Asia-only release Beautiful Girl Training Idle RPG may be somewhat lost in translation but seems to generate millions every month.

All of the above ensured mobile games chipped in over $1 billion in revenue for the year to June 2022. Whilst those numbers will definitely have grown in the last twelve months with a little help from Marvel Snap, they obviously remain miniscule compared to the $80bn overall company revenue last year.

And it’s these deep pockets, alongside the vast power of the TikTok platform to promote its own and others’ titles through initiatives such as “TikTok made me play it”, that convince us that Bytedance’s role in the mobile games stratosphere will inevitably increase in the years ahead.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • TikTok
  • Marvel Snap
  • Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
  • Mobile Legends: Adventure
  • Ragnarok X
  • Watcher of Realms
  • Beautiful Girl Training

#6: Scopely

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It’s been ‘right time, right place’ time and time again for Scopely through 2022 and ‘23. After seemingly taking its foot off the gas for last year’s listing (dropping from the top 10 down to number 20) little did we know of the big plans in progress behind the scenes.

Although it was already humming along nicely with the likes of Star Trek Fleet Command, Yahtzee, and Marvel Strike Force, the purchase of emerging smash hit Stumble Guys was no mis-step and provided the additional rocket fuel that saw Scopely accelerate through the last year. Having attracted more than 20 million daily players worldwide, and generated more than a billion hours of playtime, Scopely knew a winner when it saw one, making the game the new jewel in its crown.

With another smash in waiting, Monopoly GO, on the launchpad and a passion for further expansion at the forefront of its plans, it was no surprise that acquisition offers were in the air, although it was perhaps a bit of a shock to the global games system that the decisive bid came from Saudi Arabia’s Savvy Games Group.

Whilst $4.9 billion was a sizeable offer, it looks likely to prove sound business for Savvy, providing an international recognised and profitable mobile company as a flagship brand alongside its in-house studio, infrastructure business Nine66 and esports giant ESL. Add this to the considerable war-chest (of $30 billion plus) and a dominant position in the rapidly growing MENA market and the future for Savvy Games Group looks very bright indeed – expect to see it as a fixture in these lists for years to come.

On the other side, Savvy’s acquisition should allow Scopely the financial backing required to further deliver on its strategy to grow and deepen existing franchises, as well as work with or acquire other studios across the industry (as with its purchase of Dundee-based Tag games) and also be flexible enough to explore new trends or opportunities like the growing cross-platform market.

#5: Activision Blizzard

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When one of the biggest tech companies on the planet comes knocking with a cheque for $68.7 billion that has your name on, you know that you’re doing something right. And while that deal is still not quite finished (and perhaps may not quite come to fruition in the way all parties involved want it to) we can’t help but see it as a ringing endorsement!

Activision Blizzard’s battle to stay on top – and ability to predict the future – started with its acquisition of mobile powerhouse King back in 2015, a journey that saw it rise to the lofty position of number two in last year’s Top 50. While its console and PC games continue to perform (we’re looking at you, Call of Duty) it’s Activision Blizzard’s mobile games that really rule the roost and have placed the company inside our top 10 once more.

Sure, there’s been a slight slide since 2022, but let’s think of this as a little calm before the inevitable Microsoft-infused storm. Besides, business has been ticking along very nicely, thank you! H1 2023 Jan-June financials showed growth across the board (revenues up 34% at $4.6bn, net income up 97%). What’s more, like rivals Take-Two, these numbers saw a further tip into ‘mobile first’ territory, $2bn outstripping the $1.2bn each from PC and console titles.

Yup, this empire may have been initially built on Call of Duty and World of Warcraft but it grows and prospers on a daily diet of Candy Crush Saga and spin-offs (including Soda Saga, Jelly Saga and soon Solitaire Saga) all backed by the unstoppable energy of Diablo Immortal. Indeed, the latter has just surpassed $525million in consumer spend from 22 million downloads globally – not quite the $666m yet of Diablo IV – but this mobile tail is far longer!

Call of Duty: Mobile also continues to dominate, passing an incredible $3bn in lifetime revenue (with half of all global COD playtime on mobile). Now, just imagine all this with a multi-trillion dollar benefactor…

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Diablo Immortal
  • Candy Crush Saga
  • Call of Duty: Mobile
  • Farm Heroes Saga

#4: Supercell

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Supercell once had this whole business locked down and ticking like a clock. Year after year, it was the role model defining success both in terms of new game launches and effective Live Ops product management.

Very few companies have pulled off a billion-dollar mobile game, fewer still have managed to repeat that success, and to our knowledge only one has done it five times: with Clash of Clans, Hay Day, Clash Royale, Brawl Stars and Boom Beach.

What’s more, Supercell did it all with a smaller proportional team than anyone – gargantuan games being ultimately controlled by tight cells to deliver a company efficiency that, at its peak, no other company in the world could match.

In its 11th year, however, even mighty Supercell has had to face up to changing market realities, falling revenues and the elusiveness of that sixth smash. In an honest and considered annual blog post, CEO Ilkka Paananen accepted the need for change.

And in part this is why we are returning the company to the higher echelons of our charts. Naturally it deserves a high-rank because of the phenomenal continuing success of its live games (Clash titles alone surpassed $10bn revenue last year), and this is further boosted by its prolific investment into other developers.

However it is what we think Supercell can do next with a new approach, including eschewing the smallscale ‘cell’ structure for supporting its live ops with bigger teams, launching further development studios and urging all its developers to “take big risks and be different”.

Add Supercell’s game-making talents and Live Ops skills to its hands-off, confident and smart approach to letting its investment talent do what it does best (and make good on that investment) and you’ve got a culture that’s steeped in best practice and experience.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Clash of Clans
  • Boom Beach
  • Clash Royale
  • Hay Day
  • Brawl Stars

#3: NetEase

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Last year’s number one Mobile Game Maker has slipped… but only a couple of places!

In some respects NetEase can consider itself hard done by, as there’s been no real slowdown in its performance.

Last year saw the company deliver record results, with a $13.75bn turnover and the vast majority – $10bn – coming from mobile, and Q1 2023 continues an upward year-on-year curve.

Hardly surprising then that since October 2022 its share price on the Hang Seng index has rallied more than 85%, bringing it within a stone’s throw of the same highs it experienced before the Chinese gaming legislature, eclipsing hot competitor Tencent in the process.

This has all been achieved with a broad mix of titles, some like Identity V and LiveAfter being less familiar to western audiences, whilst Marvel Super War and EVE Echoes show the company’s skill at leveraging brand partnerships. The latter add to some huge brands such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, as well as partnering on the mobile debut of Activision’s Diablo Immortal and FPS Destiny.

NetEase has also proved adept at branching out beyond its traditional Chinese market to open multiple international studios, including Japan-based Pincool, Canadian Bad Brain Studios, and major European studio Anchor Point. So far it’s a policy that’s paying off with smash hit titles such as Eggy Party being not only one of China’s three most downloaded games, but also a simultaneous hit in other major markets like the Philippines.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Diablo Immortal
  • Knives Out
  • Eggy Party
  • Harry Potter: Magic Awakened
  • Lifeafter

#2: Tencent

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It’s been quite a year for Chinese publishing giant Tencent, with twin jewels in the crown PUBG Mobile and Honor of Kings continuing to deliver. The former iteration of Krafton’s battle royale recently surpassed a major milestone, and joining a very elite club grossing over $10 billion in lifetime revenue. Notably it still lags behind its stablemate, which was the first mobile title to surpass that illustrious level in 2021… and is still going strong, generating over $2.2 billion in 2022 alone ($500K more than PUBG).

The success of these titles and more saw an 11% rise of operating revenue to $6.7bn. In particular it’s noted that China sales – which account for 70% of all Tencent sales – increased for the first time in five quarters as the authorities eased domestic market restrictions. But perhaps most interesting for Tencent this year has been its activity and growth in the fiercely competitive (and rapidly expanding) Indian market. Success has come quickly to Tencent’s new Level Infinite label, publishing titles including Arena of Valour and Arena Breakout, whilst new game, Undawn, is currently out in India marking a return to the region with huge potential for future growth.

It all adds up to stellar success in the first part of 2023. Incredibly, alongside NetEase, the two companies account for 80% of the revenue generated by China’s top ten gaming companies in Q1 2023. And while other companies may be struggling to find their feet again after the giddy pandemic highs, Tencent’s numbers are very much on the up, its properties accounting for roughly 50% of domestic market revenue for the quarter, compared to 40% in Q1 2022. Meanwhile overseas revenue rose by a record 25%, hitting $1.86 billion.

And all that is before we consider the company’s ever-expanding investment portfolio, with meaningful stakes (or total control) of over 45 businesses from Miniclip, Supercell, Riot Games and Netmarble to Epic, Discord, Roblox and Voodoo.

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • PUBG Mobile
  • Honor of Kings
  • Undawn
  • League of Legends

#1: Hoyoverse

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We have a brand new number one. miHoYo has had a stunning 12 months, confounding its competition by transitioning from smash hit to smash hit without missing a beat.

Usually there’s a sense of shock and awe when the global top-earning game finally loses that mantle to another title, but when miHoYo’s Genshin Impact gave up its number one spot to Honkai: Star Rail earlier this year it didn’t feel so much a surprise, as the next step in a master plan.

Genshin Impact defined a genre. Mixing styles, crossing platforms and bringing gacha gameplay to an open world and a global audience, it delivered both the best of gaming past and a smart, future focus designed to keep today’s ever-expanding wealth of casual players on point. Indeed, the game became a prime example of how triple-A quality can arrive on mobile and scale to other platforms, and as such has coined a formula many publishers are striving to emulate.

Delivering hours of gameplay and rich content for no charge was always going to be a gamble so it’s testament to miHoYo’s bravery and vision that it went all in on its generous design. Merging single player and multiplayer elements across platforms, the game earns its players’ respect through sheer variety and multiple quests, before becoming a pursuit that they’re proud to pay for. By Genshin’s second birthday in Sept 2022 the game had generated $3.7bn making it the most successful launch of a new mobile IP since Tencent’s Honor of Kings.

But, surely, lightning can’t strike twice? If anything, Honkai: Star Rail has set off on an even more meteoric rise, earning $500m in just over three months of global release!

The game’s addictive gameplay, art style, and story has put it on track for success and propelled miHoYo into the second most profitable mobile game maker in China. These metrics of cash trajectory, quality of product and the skills and experience to do it all again have combined to put miHoYo at the top of this year’s list. Congratulations!

SOFTOGRAPHY:

  • Genshin Impact
  • Honkai: Star Rail
  • Zenless Zone Zero