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Mishka Katkoff shares 2019 predictions in mobile gaming
The mobile gaming industry report

At ironSource Gamefest 2018, Mishka Katkoff, who is the Head of Studio at Rovio and Founder of the popular Deconstructor of Fun blog, discussed 2019 predictions and trends for the mobile gaming industry. Here’s what he had to say.

What's next for casual games?

Mishka breaks casual games into five subcategories: location-based games, arcade games, lifestyle games, puzzle games, and simulation games.

1. Revenue will grow more than downloads

As of August 2018, casual games (excluding APAC) amassed $559 million in net in-app purchase revenue, and 181 million downloads.

In 2018, puzzle and simulation games were the only categories to increase year-over-year revenue, while location-based games failed to gain significant revenue market share.

That said, downloads for puzzle games in 2018 steadily declined as CPIs rose, and downloads for arcade games took a nosedive likely because of market saturation. Downloads for simulation games increased nicely, bouncing back from hibernation.

In 2019, we can expect these trends to continue, with revenue growing at a faster pace than downloads.

2. Hyper-casual games will mature

According to Mishka, hyper-casual games have been successful so far because they’re low cost, churn out quickly knowing within a week whether the game will live or die, and focus on novelty while sticking to proven mechanics.

In June 2018, hyper-casual games took a heavy nose dive in revenue and downloads, signaling a saturation point in the market. In order to stay competitive, Mishka predicts that hyper-casual games will begin incorporating deeper arcade mechanics in 2019. Perhaps hyper-casual games will even begin focusing on Day 7, 14 or even Day 30 retention.

3. There's more room for innovation in puzzle games

Of all the casual game subcategories, mobile gaming market trends show that puzzle games take home the most revenue - remaining stable but high, while downloads keep steady. This shows us that there’s still room for growth and innovation in this category.

Already, we’re seeing deeper meta game mechanics in puzzle games, as some of the older games like Angry Birds 2 and Best Fiends are evolving to more midcore games - specifically, through bosses, collections, social meta game features, and events monetizing through gacha mechanics.

However, innovation in puzzle games won’t include PvP elements, as each puzzle game with PvP elements launched in the last two years has failed.

What's next for midcore games?

Mishka breaks midcore games into five categories: action, card games, MOBA, RPG, and strategy.

1. Revenue will grow more than downloads

As of August 2018, midcore games (excluding APAC) saw $554 million in net in-app purchase revenue, and 120 million downloads.

In 2018, revenue for strategy and RPG declined, while revenue for action games increased. The action category was largely driven by the rise of battle royale games.

Meanwhile, downloads declined in all categories since there were no big launches this year. The action subcategory peaked in March due to the launch for PUBG and Fornite, and has remained steady since.

2. RPG will be the biggest revenue driver

Looking at the massive growth of RPGs in China, Mishka predicts that RPG will be the biggest grossing category on mobile in 2019.

To succeed as an RPG in 2019, where revenue is extremely high, Mishka lists a few key factors. First, keep live operations fresh by optimizing the game for each player. Second, tie new content to gacha monetization to increase LTV. Third, incorporate extremely deep and evolving meta-game mechanics. The depth should come over accessibility and core gameplay, and will require deep building.

Looking at the mobile gaming market in 2019

According to this mobile gaming industry analysis, 2019 is going to be a wild year for mobile games. We’ll see genres consolidate and fold into each other, new sub-categories emerge, and revenue continue to grow.

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