January 3, 2024

Mobile gaming trends of 2024: Top 7 developments set to define the year

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7 mobile gaming trends for 2024

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI)
  2. Hybridcasual coming for hypercasual’s crown
  3. CTV advertising
  4. Augmented reality (AR)
  5. Subscription models
  6. New geos and localization
  7. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) platforms

2024 shows clear signs of growth for the mobile gaming industry

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No matter how much the mobile gaming space evolves, there are always clear trends guiding its growth year over year. Staying on top of mobile gaming trends as we roll into 2024 can help mobile game publishers design more engaging gameplay experiences and more effective campaigns overall.

In 2023, we predicted key trends for the year like challenges to monetization, the emergence of the metaverse, and industry consolidation. Many of those trends have played out as expected, so now we’re back to update you on what to expect next in mobile gaming for 2024. 

Read on for the seven trends mobile game publishers need to know to build their audiences and deepen their relationships with players in the year ahead.

Mobile gaming trends for 2024 (and beyond)

mobile game trends 2024 infographic
2024 mobile gaming statistics for developers and publishers, infographic designed by Mistplay

👀 Related reading: What players want: Play, spend, and loyalty trends for mobile gaming in 2023

1. Game publishers and players alike are adopting more AI 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an accepted part of countless mobile gaming development processes, from ideation and creation to execution and delivery. Generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion, and Midjourney will be particularly important for mobile game publishers since content generation, computer vision, and natural language processing techniques go such a long way when it comes to creating more immersive gaming experiences. 

AI’s applications are relevant both within and beyond the in-game experience. This is an incredibly hot topic in game development right now, as publishers innovate around the many uses of AI. Game developers and their providers are already making progress: Xbox and Microsoft partnered with Inworld to make use of its character engine for AI-powered non-playable characters (NPCs) and build games with procedurally generated worlds. Unity 6’s 2024 launch will highlight a number of AI-powered platform updates, including the use of AI to address harmful and toxic player behaviors through its Safe Voice product.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the following:

  • 87% of game creators use some kind of AI as part of their development process.
  • Generative AI will grow to at least 50% of game development within the next 10 years.
  • 25% of gamers in the US and UK believe that AI is a powerful tool for game development that studios should embrace wholeheartedly, with 58% believing that AI can be useful for gamedevs if used carefully and responsibly.

2. Hybridcasual games are coming for hypercasual’s crown

The shrinking popularity of hypercasual games that we projected in our 2023 analysis is set to continue as a trend in 2024. While hypercasual once reigned supreme in gaming, it’s seen a decrease in market share in recent years. The IDFA changes heavily impacted mobile games’ ad monetization models, prompting publishers to adapt their hypercasual titles for the hybridcasual space in response.

Meanwhile, as major publishers increase their hold in the mobile gaming space and mobile hardware benefits from enhanced specifications, the popularity of hybridcasual games continues to rise. Focusing more on player experience – without sacrificing monetization techniques – will help game developers capitalize on the promise of hybridcasual games. By combining hypercasual’s easy playability with the monetization opportunities of midcore games, hybridcasual offers relaxed players advanced gaming features like collection systems and in-game economies that increase long-term loyalty.

To summarize the current landscape of hypercasual vs hybridcasual gaming:

  • Hypercasual downloads fell by 15% from 2021 to 2022.
  • The hybridcasual genre has almost doubled its revenue in two years, growing from $502 billion in 2020 to $974.6 billion in 2022.
  • In 2022, hypercasual games’ popularity decreased by 1 billion yearly downloads, while hybridcasual downloads increased by 13%.

3. CTV advertising’s popularity is only expected to increase

illustration of connected TV

Connected TV (CTV) advertising is a great strategy for mobile app developers with the budget to test new channels and scale up their ad spend. Unity, for instance, the engine of choice for most top mobile games, recently announced a partnership with Roku in an effort to take its customer acquisition campaigns to bigger screens. 

As more and more consumers watch CTV instead of linear television, publishers have an opportunity to pivot more efficiently to meet them where they are. Celebrity stars can certainly take things to the next level, but the real opportunity is in connecting with the tech-native mobile gaming demographic that loves second screening. After all, showing mobile game ads to consumers with their phones already in hand is a surefire way to see results.

When contemplating CTV advertising, you might want to take the following points into account:

  • CTV advertising is expected to reach $25.9 billion in 2023, representing 13.2% growth.
  • Time spent watching CTV is expected to reach two hours per day by 2024, doubling the time recorded in 2019.
  • Pedro Pascal’s live action mobile game ad helped Merge Mansion reach more than two million active users and 40 million downloads.
  • CTV ads helped Royal Match climb to the #24 spot in US downloads in April 2023, up from the #115 spot in November 2022.
“CTV can be an incredible channel for mobile UA when done correctly. Mistplay’s team has buy-in from all levels to make connected TV work, including our Data and Design teams, as well as stakeholders from an executive level. From the outset, we hypothesized that the channel would be predominantly a brand play. After some collaboration with our Data team, we were able to surmise that it was not just successful from a brand perspective, but also drove competitive CPIs and ROAS for our app.”  – Nick Cullen, User Acquisition Team Lead, Mistplay

👀 Related reading: 10 user acquisition channels marketers need to know in 2023

4. The augmented reality space is ripe for more mobile innovation 

Augmented reality (AR) and mobile gaming are a match made in heaven. With gamers needing to take their devices out into the physical world to see the benefits of AR in their gameplay, there’s no better way to immerse themselves in AR experiences than with their phones. AR mobile gaming is certainly a growing space, but its popularity doesn’t necessarily mean it’s too late for publishers to join in the fun.

There hasn’t been a runaway hit for mobile AR games since Pokémon Go, and even 2023 darling Peridot has been met with disappointment. Peridot was incredibly popular when it first launched, but the poorly thought-out gameplay loop and clear emphasis on spending made it a flop. That said, the excitement around the game’s release shows that there’s room for publishers to get AR right.

AR can go beyond the gameplay as well, and Niantic is headed in that direction. By investing in a new rewarded AR system, they strive to develop new revenue streams. Niantic hasn’t given up on AR in games either; Monster Hunter Now has become its second most popular game, with more than 10 million downloads in the first month of its release.

The moral of the story is that the AR mobile gaming space is ripe for innovation and impact. More specifically:

5. Mobile gaming subscription models are on the rise

The subscription model has already made its transition from the domain of streaming services to the world of mobile games. But this year, we’re seeing an even greater saturation of subscriptions in mobile gaming. As the subscription model’s popularity grows, publishers should keep an eye on their options – like expanded access, features, bonuses, and other perks – to leverage the power of in-game subscriptions, improve the player experience, and build loyalty.

While subscription-only options may not be the right fit for mobile gaming right now, other combination models like auto-renewal and umbrella subscriptions are worth taking note of to explore new monetization options within mobile games. As we’ve seen game offerings coming out of streaming platforms like Netflix and Crunchyroll, consumers are already accustomed to the subscription model when it comes to streaming services, so introducing a crossover product that includes gaming experiences can further solidify subscriptions as a viable option in the game space.

When it comes to gaming subscriptions, keep the factors below in mind:

6. The time is right to expand into new geos and localize games

illustration of a cursor moving across a map, game localization and geos

Capturing new geos is an important way for mobile game publishers to expand their reach – and localization is the key to that sustained growth. Outside of the top five geos in the world right now, publishers should be expanding into new growing markets, like India, Brazil, and Indonesia, that show slow but steady gains in market share, while representing higher growth potential than other already saturated geos.

Then, post-expansion, localization in new regions can help keep audiences engaged and increase their long-term loyalty. Language translations are one thing, but truly connecting with underserved markets will help make any game stand out. Publishers should look for opportunities to celebrate local holidays, honor cultural touchstones, tap into the celebrity scene, and put a finger on the zeitgeist wherever they hope to expand.

Here are some additional stats around the power of mobile game localization:

  • 58% of mobile game players say that it’s extremely or very important for content to be localized to their country or region.
  • Revenue in almost every geo declined post-COVID; Japan was down 22%, Korea was down 20%, and Taiwan was down 12% YoY – but China’s revenue has remained stable, allowing it to replace Japan as the second largest mobile games market since Q2 2022.
  • When it comes to downloads, India is the largest mobile game market in the world, representing 17% of the worldwide total in 2022 and showing a 13% increase in the last quarter YoY.
  • Downloads in Brazil grew by 2% YoY in 2022.
  • Downloads in Indonesia grew by 5% YoY in 2022.
  • Free Fire uses deep localization in Brazil, India, and Indonesia and earned $55 million in 2023 compared to Call of Duty: Mobile’s $16.5 million and PUBG: Mobile’s $13.5 million that same year.

7. Publishers are exploring direct-to-consumer (DTC) platforms to boost revenue

While there’s nothing new about the 30% cuts taken from in-app purchase (IAP) spend by the Google Play and App Store, revenue has declined over the past couple of years for mobile games, leading more publishers to focus on preserving their margins through direct-to-consumer (DTC) platforms. Plus, with more Millennials and Gen Z consumers using their phones to purchase from DTC brands, this shift is useful in capturing the attention of younger audiences as the landscape evolves.

There are benefits to the player experience with DTC platforms as well – namely, once they make the switch to a DTC platform, they have an uninterrupted experience with IAP offers built directly into the gameplay. Plus, a commonly used tactic to encourage players to make the switch is to offer more VIP experiences and rewards within their platform over the app stores.

The switch to DTC platforms can be a win-win, as players enjoy more exclusive, seamless experiences, while publishers get to keep the IAP revenue and funnel it back into their own games.

Here’s a snapshot of how DTC platforms impact mobile gaming today: 

2024 shows clear signs of growth for the mobile gaming industry

The mobile gaming industry is sure to see sustained change in 2024. Constant experimentation, iteration, and adaptation are table stakes for publishers to stay ahead in a fast-evolving mobile landscape. At Mistplay, we expect these seven trends above to guide growth in the gaming world and recommend that publishers who want to get ahead pay close attention to how these concepts come to fruition in the coming year.

Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with new industry insights all year long, and be the first to know about the latest trends, strategies, and techniques dominating the space. There’s no better way to make informed decisions and build better mobile gaming businesses that withstand the test of time.

WritTEN BY

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