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Which of 2017's biggest mobile games will sustain in 2018?

Homescapes, Lineage 2, Toon Blast, Final Fantasy XV?
Which of 2017's biggest mobile games will sustain in 2018?

It should come as little surprise that breaking into the mobile games top grossing charts is a tough task indeed.

At the time of writing, stark evidence of this is provided by the fact that only four of the 25 top grossing iPhone games in the US were launched in 2017. 

These games are MZ's Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire (10th), Peak Games' Toon Blast (13th), Playrix Games' Homecapes (15th) and FunPlus' Guns of Glory (23rd).

Not only does this mean that all bar one of 2017's efforts are being muscled out of the top 10, but they're also being outgunned by ageing titles; 10 of the top 25 (and four of the top five) were released in 2014 or earlier.

So was 2017 such a bad year for mobile games, or does this simply signal that slow burners are the new instant hits?

Speed vs. acceleration

For a compelling argument against this theory, one need look no further than Lineage 2: Revolution and its dash to the summit of the top grossing ranks in its native South Korea.

According to App Annie, it remained at the top there for more than five months, between December 2016 and May 2017. On December 8th it sank to 7th, its lowest point so far, but it's back to the top spot as of January 4th 2018.

But in the West the MMO has experienced a less explosive kind of success. Lineage 2's current peak in the US iPhone grossing charts was 26th on November 23rd 2017, during its launch month.

It appeared to be on a steady decline thereafter, hitting an all-time low of 119th on December 31st, but by January 1st 2018 it had bounced back up to 43rd. On January 4th, it sat at 57th.

“Lineage 2 Revolution seems all but guaranteed to continue its success in South Korea.”

Lineage 2 Revolution seems all but guaranteed to continue its success in South Korea, then, while in the US it's on track to maintain its top 100 status.

If it can do so throughout the bulk of 2018, given the vast cultural divide betwee South Korea and the US, Netmarble will look upon it as not only a remarkable success, but also a wholly successful localisation project.

Poised for success

If any game were to be an instant hit in the US last year, based on the track record of both developer and franchise, Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire would have been the obvious choice.

MZ's latest wasted little time entering the top 50 on the US iPhone grossing charts, but more surprising was that it didn't follow the trajectory of Game of War and Mobile Strike by almost immediately accelerating into the top five.

But the game's grossing position has been on a steady ascent since launching - barring a period in November 2017 when the game mysteriously dropped out of the chart altogether - and its highest position of 11th was recorded on December 2nd.

It's taken longer than usual for MZ to conquer the App Store but the trajectory of Final Fantasy XV is definitely upward.

“It's taken longer than usual for MZ to conquer the App Store but the trajectory of Final Fantasy XV is definitely upward.”

Add to this the suggestion that MZ has pulled back on its infamously powerful user acquisition campaigns for Game of War and Mobile Strike to give its latest the best chance of success and it would not be at all surprising to see the game really cement itself in 2018.

Step inside

It's little coincidence that all of 2017's best performers came from major companies with pre-existing mobile game hits - ones that have been there and done it.

Expanding on popular existing IP is becoming increasingly popular, though this does not always come in the form of outright sequels, but rather live alongside existing titles.

One such game was Homescapes, which followed Playrix's 2016 sleeper hit Gardenscapes. The home renovation-themed match-three puzzler was a real hit in 2017, peaking at ninth in the US iPhone grossing chart.

As of January 4th 2018, the game at at 23rd. Meanwhile, it's interesting to see that Gardenscapes has experienced little drop-off in its own rankings, sitting at 30th.

“If Playrix can maintain both Gardenscapes and Homescapes, it will be quite the achievement.”

History would suggest that throughout 2018, Gardenscapes will begin to fall away as Homescapes picks up the mantle - but if Playrix can avoid this happening without damaging either title, it will be quite the achievement.

On the up

Then there's Peak Games' Toon Blast, the follow-up to 2014's Toy Blast. The latter was itself the epitome of a slow burner after failing to register on the US iPhone grossing charts for its first two months before rising from 1,196th on March 7th 2015 to well within the top 100 by the end of that year. 

It's since been a mainstay of the top grossing charts since, often within the top 20, so it's hardly surprising that Peak Games shoud try to repeat the trick with Toon Blast.

So far, so good. Toon Blast was much quicker to enter the top 100 than its predecessor, getting there in a matter of days, and has remained there ever since.

It's steadily rising through the ranks, too, hitting 22nd as of January 4th 2018. Toy Blast was 16th on the same day, but Peak Games has already shown that successful titles don't necessarily need to be quick out of the blocks.

So yes, at least in the West, 2017 may have been lacking a mobile game in the vein of Clash Royale or Pokemon GO - that standout hit that rockets up the charts and gets people talking.

But the fact is that the vast majortiy of successful mobile games are not made this way. They are launched and fine-tuned, with no time limit on their success.

And 2017 provided many games with the potential to show serious staying power.