What Mobile Game Genres are More Profitable to Develop?

Here is a little research about how the genre of your game can influence future profit.

Nowadays, smartphones have become powerful enough to compete for a user’s attention when it comes to playing games. As a result, mobile titles now account for 51% of the global revenues in the gaming industry, followed by console games (25%) and PC ones (24%).


Thus, mobile game development has become a truly lucrative niche. However, at first, you have to understand that not every title becomes successful, and to achieve a positive result you can’t just develop games similar to the ones you like. Secondly, you have to do market research before you start shaping your idea into a full-featured product. Finally, you can’t just choose the most popular genre, because it is necessary to adequately evaluate your budget.


There are quite a lot of mobile game genres that, in turn, have a large number of categories. According to Newzoo report, in 2018 the top ranking mobile games generated 10 times more revenue than the industry average, while 15% of game development companies earned literally nothing from their apps. How to get to the top of the list? Can you predict your success? Let’s do a little research about how the genre of your mobile game can influence future profit.


Defining the Most Popular Mobile Game Genres


We’ve all heard about the boom of hyper-casual titles. Short session lengths and simple game mechanics – this is what makes them so addictive to a player. However, if we look at the best selling gaming apps on Google Play, we’ll see that a vast majority of them can be categorized as midcore or even hardcore games.


Midcore titles can be defined as a bit more challenging games than the average casual ones, which require strategic thinking and usually include ranking among other users. You must have heard about Clash of Clans, one of the most popular midcore games ever created? Just look at its daily category ranking for the last three months – it has never fallen below #10 on the Top Grossing Games chart! Mobile game development studios surely noticed the trends, as more casual games gradually add midcore game features these days to increase user engagement.


Mobile game development has become a truly lucrative niche.


Hardcore games are targeted at specific players, that have a great interest in certain genres and spend a lot of time playing games with a big learning curve and high level of engagement and difficulty. For example, Honor of Kings or Fate/Grand Order. For the record, our prediction is that the gap between midcore and hardcore games will become blurred soon as the traditional hardcore games become more accessible, while midcore ones get more serious and add complex functionality to the feature set.


Today best selling games on the App Store and Google Play charts almost completely consists of midcore titles that have built on their loyal audience and continue doing it for years, while in the top free games there are mostly hyper-casual ones. Which of them get more profit? It should be noted that the above-mentioned Clash of Clans, for instance, was made six years ago and remains one of the most popular and profitable mobile games, earning $328647 daily revenue and getting 13 thousand daily downloads. While casual and, especially, hyper-casual ones don’t seem to stay there for very long.


When it comes to the popularity of certain game genres, there can be mentioned the next ones that usually can be identified as casual or midcore games:


  • Match 3 requires players to form lines of identical elements;
  • Endless Runner allows users to have limited control over a character that is constantly moving forward;
  • Battle Royale is a fight involving many characters that is played until only one fighter remains standing;
  • Turn-based RPG allows players to manage their characters to perform various actions to defeat opponents;
  • City Building is a genre of a simulation game to develop a sustainable settlement for your people to survive through the various conditions.


However, basically, the popularity of a certain mobile game genre is closely related to game functionality and user engagement mechanisms; however, mobile titles that generate millions of downloads do not always become profitable. At the end of the day, the commercial success of a mobile game largely depends on the monetization mechanism you opt for.


Mobile Game Monetization Mechanisms Used by Successful Studios


On Google Play you can find over 3 million apps and only 3% of them are paid. The freemium monetization model is dominating the market nowadays. That means your app is free to download but has additional paid content. For example, premium levels that can be unlocked only on a paid basis. But let’s review some other monetizing methods of “free” games and find out its correlation to the genres.


  • In-game ads. The vast majority of mobile game developers use advertisements as their main monetization strategy, especially when it comes to hyper-casual games. Nowadays advertisements in games are becoming a scourge. A lot of hyper-casual games have a really low rating and tons of complaints because of irritating ads which appear after almost every level. As a result, most players think that modern game development studios pursue only one goal: to make money through advertising.


  • Rewarded ads. This format is more engaging and socially acceptable as it gives users the option to watch ads in exchange for in-app rewards such as, for example, extra lives, virtual currency or a more customized character. Let’s turn to casual clicker game Tap Titans. It is a great example of a product that uses rewarded video successfully. Letting players earn coins by choosing to watch videos provides also a nice break from the constant tapping.


  • Subscriptions. Although this method often gets overlooked by game developers, subscriptions are predicted to be the future of mobile game monetization for the majority of genres. How does it work? The thing is, after you subscribe, you are charged a small sum/a small sum is written off your card monthly and it’s really convenient for players. However, certain game studios abuse players’ trust and continue to charge them for the game even after they delete the application.  In order to unsubscribe you have to do a certain sequence of actions in the AppStore settings, while not everyone takes care of their bills and can just not pay attention to such a small fee.


  • In-app purchases. The majority of top-grossing games use this type of monetization. It allows developers to avoid tons of irritating ads and letting players use in-game currency to upgrade their loved characters. It is an interesting fact that over 50% of revenue comes from less than 1% of users. Nevertheless, in the United States, Candy Crush is more popular than any other mobile game. According to market analyst Sensor Tower, players of Candy Crush series spent an average of $4.2 million a day in 2018. And it’s a perfect example of a midcore match-3 game that successfully encourages players to pay in order to get in-game currency.



Here at Knocknock games, however, we consider IAPs a bad practice. While buying in-game items, you often, literally, just skip levels that could help you gain such privileges. Amazingly, some players are really satisfied with the idea of buying progress instead of enjoying the gameplay. And you should understand that these rare people who make in-app purchases bring much more revenue than an insane number of ads. This is clear from the example of Epic Games’ Fortnite and Voodoo’s Helix Jump, both of which have 4M downloads, but the revenue of the former is $27M, while the latter has gotten only $50K.


If we’re talking about the most profitable games, we should mention that such factors as the costs of developing and marketing just cannot be ignored. Even the virality of a super popular game Angry Birds was, for the most part, made by an excellent marketing strategy, while you can be left with nothing already during the development phase.

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Well, What About The Costs of Developing a Game?


This is a quite simple aspect. The less content – the cheaper. For example, you should spend more than $400 thousand to create a typical city-building game, while the developing of its high-quality visuals takes up to 70% of the entire cost. If you wanna develop a game in the cheapest way then you have to choose mechanics with automatic balancing and a really small amount of necessary content. The best variant is if you wouldn’t have to configure every level individually because it’s just another time burdens.


Thus, you should choose such a variant when you could just set up the level’s difficulty by expanding the difficulty of the previous one. A minimalistic interface of hyper-casual games with instinctive gameplay is the most appropriate one for such a tactic. Voodoo’s Baseball Boy and Ketchapp’s Dunk Line are excellent examples. Unfortunately, you can never be confident in the success of your game. You can earn nothing from your first game, even if it’s super monetized hyper-casual one. Game development company Ketchapp makes about 40 games a year and, in spite of the fact that they have much staff, this number is really huge. Hyper-casual games may have a shorter lifetime than other games, but that isn’t scaring anyone away. They are being made on the principle – to make the most of them and forget.


Relying on advertising so much, they tend to make the biggest revenue in the first couple of days, unlike genres with IAP monetization, where the most active users make the most money over time. A success rate of a hyper-casual game is monetization of every user, while midcore games are concentrated on retention and virality rates. These rates display how many users stay in the game after the first session and how many friends a player has brought with him. These rates aren’t needed for casual games, which people play being stuck in traffic. You just get bored soon and forget about it. Unfortunately, 94% of players abandon the game they installed in a month.


You better choose typical hyper-casual games that can be played with a single finger and usually have only one control action – tapping. They have a moderate amount of content. To develop an average hyper-casual game one should be ready to pay about $20-50 thousand and wait for approximately one-two months of developing. Prices for midcore games, in turn, start at $150 thousand, while the process of developing lasts about 6 months. With regard to the genres, action games tend to have more graphic content. One of the most successful games Clash of Clans is a strategy with difficult in-game mechanics. If you want to repeat its success, we have some bad news. Supercell has been working on for six years even though in the first year it, probably, didn’t make a profit. Just imagine how much effort and money it took! Be ready to spend minimum $250 thousand to create its mediocre clone.


The next profitable genre is hidden object. You may think that such games are very simple to develop. Yes, it isn’t difficult from the side of programming, but just imagine this insane amount of graphic content! Though, if you have sufficient budget, it can be your choice, because, surprisingly, its audience – women – is the most solvent.


The last significant advice: never neglect marketingRemember that virality is mostly created by marketers – and that’s why you need a solid marketing budget to propel your game to the top of the App Store and Google Play charts. The average marketing budget comprises 80% of the entire game costs and it isn’t the unjustified expense. However, if you have a really tiny budget, save at least $30 thousand to implement the standard marketing actions.


Well, at the end of it all, what do we have? In case you have a small budget, then think about the developing of a simple hyper-casual game with well-designed monetization tactic. With thousands of releases each day, it’s becoming extremely difficult to attract players’ attention. However, we believe that almost every idea can be transformed into a really demanded product with the help of a team of creative and experienced game developers. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be the first in the top best selling games?

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