Episode 12: What’s in store in 2021 for the mobile gaming industry?

Mobile GameDev Playbook podcast by GameRefinery

In this first podcast of 2021, The Mobile GameDev Playbook unveils what might be in store for the new year and the mobile gaming industry – it’s a fully packed episode!

We discuss how the pandemic’s development might affect industry growth in 2021 and how gaming habits might evolve in the post-COVID era. We also explore future potential trends for the Match3 and Shooter genres, the expansion of the casual gaming market in China, as well as the recent increase of mobile game collabs.

Host Jon Jordan is joined by GameRefinery’s Chief Analysts Kalle Heikkinen, Erno Kiiski, and Wilhelm Voutilainen.

We’re available on all major podcast platforms – if you enjoy the episode remember to hit subscribe!

Topics we will cover in this episode:

  1. Will the pandemic’s development affect industry growth in 2021?
  2. Future trends for Match3 and the casual gaming market in China
  3. Cracking the MMO code in the West
  4. Future of Shooter games
  5. The rise of social features


Jon Jordan: Hello, and welcome to the Mobile GameDev Playbook. Thanks for tuning in for another episode. This is a podcast that provides insights into what makes a great mobile game, what is and isn’t working for designers at the moment, and some of the key trends we’re seeing in mobile game design, globally. We’re kicking off, we’re into 2021. We’re there with our first podcast of the year, it’s going to be a good one, I know.
We’re going to talk with the GameRefinery team about what we think is going to be happening, broadly, and going into some specific genres and thinking about some of the changes that might be happening. I’m your host, Jon Jordan, and joining me this week is Kalle Heikkinen, who is the senior analyst. How’s it going?

Kalle Heikkinen: Very well. Thanks for asking. How about you?

Jon: Not bad at all. We have Erno Kiiski, who is the US senior analyst. How’s it going?

Erno Kiiski: Hi, it’s good. Thank you.

Jon: We also have Wilhelm Voutilainen, who is also a US senior analyst. How’s it going, Wilhelm?

Wilhelm Voutilainen: Hi. All good as well.

Jon: Good, excellent. Everyone’s raring to go. We can say, for the last time, 2020 was a strange year for many things, and for that, generally, a good year for the games industry. We’ve seen various reports, people are doing their estimates now, but it looks like game revenue might be up to 25%. Lots of people have been playing games more, and spending more in games.

A broad question to kick us off, do we think that kind of velocity of growth is going to continue in 2021? That people will have their new habit of playing games and mobile games in particular, or do we see 2021 as being a bit more normal level of growth?

Will the pandemic’s development affect industry growth in 2021?

Erno: Well, if I start off, I would say that, of course, looking at 2020, and all pandemic situations and everything, it’s really hard to compare to any other years that we are seeing or looking at the growth of different games and stuff like that. Then, of course, if let’s say, the vaccinations and stuff like that kicks in, and we get a much more normal year in 2021, it’s going to be really interesting to follow that what’s the trend going to be with mobile games.

Personally, I don’t see the same level of growth still continuing, because of, of course, the extra boost that the COVID and quarantines and everything have given to everything, basically. People having much more time and not doing much more else. Personally, my assumption is that most likely there will be some growth, but I don’t see the same level continuing in a similar manner as it was in this year.

Kalle: I totally agree with what Erno said. Maybe what I would add to that is that it’s probably going to be interesting to see also, geographically, how the situation will develop. For example, as we all know, for example, in China, things have normalized, at least, up to some degree already in terms of the COVID situation there. When we’re going to get the vaccination, things will start to stabilize in Western markets as well and it is going to be interesting to see that, for example, if it will take more time in the US for things to get normal than in Europe. There are still going to be big differences in growth in these two different regions.

Wilhelm: I agree with the guys here, but, personally, I’m really interested in seeing what will happen as we have more and more interesting games, for example, these PC IPs, coming to mobile. It’s really interesting to see if those games are able to pull more PC gamers and console gamers to mobile.

“With more and more PC IPs coming to mobile, it’s really interesting if those games are able to pull more PC gamers and console gamers to mobile.”

Wilhelm on gaming audiences

Erno: One thing I would like to mention is that, personally, I don’t see that– If the quarantine and everything goes back to normal, that the games like Among Us, for example, the huge virality they had, I don’t see that kind of level of huge viral hits happening again because of the social aspect of those games.

Jon: I think that’s a very good point. I think, generally, what seems to happen, not just in these real-world events, but in general, when you have a big increase in activity around some game or product or whatever, then, that is clearly unsustainable. It drops back down, but it’s always a higher level than you saw before, and some of the new behavior, some people who have had this new kind of behavior get quite engaged in that. I think it’ll be interesting.

It won’t be probably spread broadly across all genres like we saw before. Maybe we’ll see when people are able to go out more, we’ll maybe see a couple of months of quite low growth, quite low engagement relative with mobile games because everyone will be finally out and enjoying the outside. That’ll probably be a good thing for most people’s well being. It’d be interesting to see.

I think, one of the trends, we’re going to go through some genres now, and one that’s really been, this kind of mobile games have brought it to the highest level ever, it’s going to match 3, there’s just something very mobile friendly about match 3. Over the previous years, we’ve seen quite a lot of very interesting design, evolution, and even revolution, perhaps, around how you take this very engaging gameplay mechanic, and how you build other things around it. What do we think about match 3? Do we see this innovation continuing? Where is it going? What are the key products to be looking out for?

Future trends for Match3 and the casual gaming market in China

Erno: If I start on this topic, if we look at the match 3 market now, so, of course, especially in the West, and in the US, it’s the biggest sub-genre in the market, making a bit over 20% of the revenues in US, iOS, as an example. Of course, it’s been evolving constantly, and they’re the biggest evolving things that we saw, or have seen in the last couple of years. Such as match3 games with a meta-layer on top of the actual core gameplay, for example Gardenscapes and Homescapes, basically, that model.

Then, after that, we saw millions of copies from that kind of model. Then, a little bit later on, we saw, for example, this home design game, Home Design Makeover, and Property Brothers from Storm8, those were a new type of wave of match 3 games. Now, I would say the latest iteration of this, we saw a couple of weeks ago, this game called Project Makeover was launched, which is basically a game which combines the home design element from the Home Design Makeover and then it combines that with this look makeover, so you put makeup on people, and choose clothes and stuff like that.

Then, there’s also the narrative thing that combines that together. This is a new type of meta-layer, but it uses the similar approach of completing levels, getting stars from levels, then choosing from three to four options as Gardenscapes and Homescapes did. Now, when Project Makeover was launched, and they had this new approach, a new combination of stuff, a new team, they went straight away up to the top-grossing 20, for example, in the US.

“When Project Makeover was launched, and they had this new approach, a new combination of stuff, new team, they went straight away up to the top-grossing 20 in the US.”

Erno talking about match 3 examples

Of course, good to remember, that it’s from the same development team as Matchington Mansion, which is also a really successful match3 game. There’s a lot of muscle behind the team. Looking at that kind of success, and that kind of a new type of method that we saw Project Makeover used. It’s going to be interesting to see what are the next steps there. What we have seen in the match3 market, there have been so many guys and companies trying to copy, for example, the Gardenscapes model, and a couple have been successful like the actual Matchington Mansion.

It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of things we’re going to see in the future, what kind of meta-layers companies can come up with. To be honest, Project Makeover, it’s really well made, but it’s quite simple, still a simple twist, but it brings a totally new layer of gameplay to the genre. Based on the early success, it has been really, really successful.

Then, again, if you look at the innovation, on the other side, we saw Hay Day Pop, which was a soft launch game from Supercell. They tried to innovate on the meta side as well. They had this free form farm building where you are building your farm, stuff like that. Very battle pass focused progression. You had a battle pass and you progress on that, and then you get buildings, and then you put them on your farm and stuff like that, but they didn’t, for example, have any narrative, and now it didn’t pass the Supercell standards and they killed the game. Those are a couple of things to be seen or followed. Project Makeover, as an example of combining these casual game genres in its meta.

Something like, let’s say, the next match 3 puzzle game that uses Master Chef IP, and then, you’re making a Master Chef episode in the meta or something like that. It’s going to be interesting to follow.

Kalle: My two cents to the discussion is that, obviously, I’m looking at this game, talking about Project Makeover. My take on this is that, if there are still people who think that Chinese companies do only mid core stuff, now, it’s really time to wake up. I do think this is just the beginning of getting more Asian, especially, Chinese developed casual games to the Western markets.

“I do think this is just the beginning of getting more Asian, especially, Chinese developed casual games to the Western markets.”

Kalle on more casual games emerging from the Chinese market

We actually don’t talk enough about the casual landscape in China, the RPG games, strategy games, and shooters, they steal all the spotlight, but it’s actually filled with really high-quality products in sub-genres within games, customization, interactive story, and even match3. Actually, there are some successful platform games as well. These are all monetizing really well, and they’re all in the top 100 grossing in China.
They have all the bells and whistles in terms of game features, and content, and live-ops. I think that, for example, when we in the West, when we usually discuss match3 games, we always mention that they are a content treadmill and the high cost of live-ops is brought out. Well, that’s not that much of an issue in China, obviously.

Now, if we combine this expertise and resources that the Chinese developers have, with the fact that the Chinese are really interested in tier one markets, and there’s actually not that much Asian-originated competition in many of the casual spaces in the West.

For example, if you compare to situation to the 4X strategy situation in the West, and see, these developers, for example, the one who is behind Project Makeover, I actually can’t remember the name, but they’ve also been able to partner up with Western partners, for example, Project Makeover with Apple, for instance. The end result is that you get games like these. Like Matchington Mansion and Project Makeover and Archero, which are super well-optimized and clearly designed with the Western audience in mind.

I’m predicting that by the end of 2021, we will see at least one more Chinese originated casual game sustainably entering the top-grossing 100. This is just the beginning.

Jon: That’s good. Predictions already. I was thinking we were going to have to save this till the end. You’re very into that one. It’s interesting that– I think from my point of view, there are two things here. There’s one, as you say, that you can always add more meta, but obviously, at some point, the concept behind it breaks apart, because there are so many different things you’re trying to cram in there, and the user experience becomes too fragmented. There’s a very difficult balancing act there.

I guess, it’s also interesting that, Supercell, I guess the company most people think would be probably the best mobile game developer in the world, if such a title exists. How to go match3 and can get it to work to their standards. We should not say other companies shouldn’t be making match3 games, but Supercell has a particular status. I guess it shows some sort of creative tension between the pure design side of trying to make something new and really groundbreaking, which is what Supercell obviously has built its reputation on.

Then, something else, which is, how can we just squeeze the last bit of juice out of it, and developers will take their own decision on that. Different developers have different reputations or different business models, I suppose. It’s interesting those two things simply encapsulate where we are with match3, which is quite a broad spectrum.

Erno: Yes, definitely. I agree on the Supercell stuff on that, but like Kalle mentioned as match3 being a genre with a huge content gross, and all the top games are releasing new levels on a daily basis. One of the choices that Supercell made was that they tried to recycle the levels, and the whole loop was a bit different. Overall, if you look at Supercell and their live-ops, it is so different compared to many other top companies, and they don’t run events in a similar cadence than many other games and stuff like that. That’s why it was a bit surprising that they were trying to even go to match3, but at least, to their high standards, it didn’t work out as they wanted.

Cracking the MMO code in the West

Jon: Moving from match3 to a very different genre, MMOs, are these very big, detailed, kinds of persistent, immersive worlds, I guess, really blossomed over the last decade or so on PC. Now, we’re seeing more of that going to mobile devices. How are we seeing that landscape? Because those are clearly, very different games, from a design point of view to match3, and very different I guess, from a development cost landscape. Do we think that there’s going to be a lot of types of games coming out, or is it still just because they’re so expensive that there are only so many that can ever be released?

Kalle: There’s actually a couple of interesting games already coming out. I think we mentioned this in the last podcast as well. Summoners War: Chronicle is one of them, and then, we have Warhammer: Odyssey. Really excited to see what kind of games they’re going to be, and what their launch performance is going to be. As we all know, the MMO space, traditionally, has been a really tough nut to crack in the West. These games with their IPs definitely can help in finding success.

“The MMO space, traditionally, it has been a really tough nut to crack in the West.”

Kalle on the MMO market

Especially, I would say that the Summoners War, having a mobile originated IP, as far as I know, is a very good choice to expand the IP to other mobile sub-genres as well. MMO, I think, it really does make sense. Overall, I think in the West, if we think about this very, very hardcore sub-genre, with MMO, I guess one of the issues is that the players are so accustomed to playing these games on PC.

I think it’s a similar problem up to some extent with mobile as well, that it has been a challenge to attract these players to play on mobile, as well. How to solve that problem? That’s, I guess, is the big question. I think one approach that could be used is probably that there could be some cross-platform approach, in a sense, the way that Genshin Impact did that, they released the game on multiple different platforms, but for example, in China, the games that I’ve seen, some of them are truly cross-platform so that you can start playing on PC, and when you commute to work, you can use your mobile version to continue the progression on your mobile device. You can use the platform that suits your current situation.

The mobile version, actually, doesn’t necessarily even have to include all the functions or features that the other version like the PC version has. At least, in China, some of the games that I’ve seen, the mobile versions of those games, are somewhat limited in features that there are some aspects of the game that you can do on the mobile version and, for example, character progression, but then the core gameplay might be something that you have to do with PC.

Speaking of Chinese MMOs, I just want to mention real quick. A very big game that was launched in China some time ago, called Moonlight Blade. Published by Tencent, based on a PC IP like many of the games in China. Also, there are some movies and novels based on the IP but the game is mainly based on the PC version. It’s set in this Chinese Martial Universe, and they’re actually not that much fantasy or supernatural elements in the game. If you’ve seen the movies Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, think of that setting in a game.
It’s now sitting on a top-grossing three, and it was even on top one position. That’s quite remarkable, taking in the fact that the Honor of Kings is the DeFacto top one grossing game in China. It’s quite rare that we see someone else taking that position. Currently, there’s a lot of MMOs in this landscape, so maybe the question is, what is the big deal with this one? The answer is that it is high fidelity.

I’ve analyzed tons of MMOs in the Chinese market over the last four years. This is definitely the most ambitious one in one in terms of audiovisual presentation. Animations, weather effects, lighting effects, they’re all HD standard, and the customization options, there are just out of this world. I just couldn’t help but make a comparison to Genshin Impact as well. Even though game mechanics-wise Moonlight Blade is not doing that many innovative things. Just in terms of graphical fidelity, this is just an example of how ambitious games from China can be, and really bridging the gap between AAA HD console gaming and mobile.

“Moonlight Blade is an example of how ambitious games from China can be, and really bridging the gap between AAA HD console gaming and mobile.”

Kalle on mobile gaming quality

Jon: This is interesting because the decisions for these games to be made were obviously made two or three years ago. To look back to see why people would be making those decisions back then that mobile was the place to put these things. I guess, as Summoners War points out, it makes sense to be on mobile devices because the Summoners War was a surprise hit on mobile. I guess, there is, again, that tension between the big massive world that you’re going to spend hours playing in, and it being on a mobile device, I guess we feel that more that way in the West than some audiences in Asia, I guess. I don’t know if anyone has any views on EVE Echoes, which is the mobile version of EVE Online? Very much supposed to be like, I guess, a companion version, to it.
As it’s not trying to do the same thing as EVE Online. [However,] It doesn’t seem to have captured the imagination in the same way. I guess that shows some of the downsides of trying to fit these massive worlds into what physically, at least, are quite small screens. Maybe that’s where the disconnect is.

Kalle: Yes, I totally agree. At least, in the West, it seems to be a big issue for Western players.

Erno: Yes. In a way, I totally agree with that. I feel it personally when I play for leisure time. That’s one of the times when I want to immerse myself in a big world. I prefer big screens and stuff like that. Again, to highlight, Genshin Impact here as an example, a game that wasn’t a disruptor in the market in that sense, because there weren’t really any successful action RPGs [in the West] on mobile, well, really successful ones.

There were barely any of them in top-grossing 200, for example. Now, Genshin Impact, with its model of being this triple-A experience with the free-to-play, free-to-play meta, and a lot of focus on the core gameplay, basically found a way to be a successful action RPG on mobile. If we look at the MMORPGs on mobile, Wilhelm has played more of them on the Western markets, most of those don’t have the same fidelity and focus on the core gameplay, as let’s say, PC MMOs do.

Wilhelm: Yes, that’s a really good point from Erno. If we compare China and the West in terms of MMORPGs, MMORPGs are probably way easier to bring to China, but I’d say they’re the biggest problem in terms of Western MMORPGs has definitely been it [lack of focus on core gameplay].

I think they have been a bit too complex in terms of if you look at the UI design and so on. There’s a bit too much stuff. I think, for example, if we look at Summoners War: Chronicles, if they are able to focus on the core gameplay, as well as Genshin Impact has, I think they can really bring or make “the Genshin Impact of MMORPGs” and actually make a top-grossing MMORPG in the West as well.

Future of Shooter games

Jon: Good. We’re moving on through the genres. I noticed in my notes here – I know, people don’t believe, we have notes. I’m going to talk about the shooter genre, which, apparently, I’m told is not too saturated, which is [chuckles] a surprise to me. Actually, technically, it says, there’s this Call of Duty: Mobile, which has outrun everything before it for the last year and a half. Obviously, there’s still battle royale from a bit further back in time.

What do you think about the shooter genre, which has taken a long time to be successful on mobile? There’s been really a decade of failed attempts or attempts that didn’t go as massive as shooters have been on every other gaming device. Going back to even match3, match3 has seen a lot of innovation around meta. Do we think that the shooter genre has a lot more to give in terms of the meta because it’s gameplay?

We all know what the gameplay is, I guess, if we love the gameplay, we love shooters, but then, to be that much around the meta, I suppose with the battle royale that was a pretty big change of meta.

Erno: Of course, like you mentioned, there are the big boys in the market nowadays. There’s the Call of Duty, there’s the PUBG, they are very, very dominant on that competitive battle royale type of gameplay in the shooter genre, but we can also look at the shooter genre in a little bit bigger scope. I agree that, if you would make, let’s say, a battle royale game with cosmetic meta, with basically the same gameplay as trying to make a military shooter with the cosmetic meta, it might be quite difficult to enter the market and actually get market share from those big boys.

We have to think about the shooters as a little bit bigger picture. One of the good examples is, now especially, when Epic and Apple have their fight going on, that Lillith actually announced their new shooter game, which has a bit of a mix of teams, a little bit of Cyberpunk, a little bit of this cartoonish Fortnite style gameplay, stuff like that. I think that is one shooter, that I’m personally following really, really closely. We don’t know much about the actual gameplay loop of the game, and does it have, let’s say, power progression meta, or is it purely cosmetic, or what’s the game like even.

Based on the initial things that we have seen, and knowing Lilith as a company and how much production value they put into their product, it’s going to be a really, really interesting shooter to follow and how it actually is able to compete in the current market situation, and in the current competitive landscape, especially, when Fortnite is out of the picture on mobile currently.

Kalle: I would definitely agree with Erno on Lilith’s new shooter, was it for Farlight 84, or what was the name again?

Erno: Yes, I guess.

Kalle: Something like that. It’s going to be interesting to see what [happens] — As Erno said, we don’t know much about the game yet. It’s going to be interesting to see what elements in the meta side of things they’re going to use to differentiate themselves. What we do know is, that the developers at Lilith, they’ve always had something exciting up on their sleeves. Maybe adding interesting twists to the existing genre formula.

For example, with AFK Arena, Lilith had the idling layer, that they added to the RPG. The Art of Conquest is a very interesting mixture of build and battle and MMO elements, and so on. I’m definitely positive about this game being something interesting. Now, zooming out a little bit, again, just giving you guys my China take on things. Just a couple of words on battle royale, in general. This is a little bit anecdotal, perhaps, but just something that I’ve been thinking about for the last year, at least, and noticing in the market is that, if we think about pure battle royale experiences, it actually hasn’t been that exciting in China.

We haven’t had new entrants to the top 200 grossing after Game for Peace which is the PUBG in China. It has a 98% revenue market share in the top 500 grossing in China. That might be one reason why no one is trying to threaten the Game for Peace. The second one is Knives Out, which has less than 1% revenue market share, and the other games are just what’s left.

“We haven’t had new entrants to the top 200 grossing Game for Peace which is the PUBG in China. It has a 98% revenue market share in the top 500 grossing in China. That might be one reason why no one is trying to threaten Game for Peace.”

Kalle on Game For Peace success

When you open up nowadays these battle royale games or shooter games, in general, that have just battle royale modes, what you can see is that the battle royale modes are not anymore in the front UI. When you open up the game, there’s going to be pop-up messages directing you where you can find the battle royale mode.

Nowadays, the battle royale modes are often hidden in sub-menus or sub-menus, so you actually have to know how to navigate yourself to play those battle royale modes. That has been an interesting thing. I think even in the West, we’ve been talking about Fortnite, for example, doing the metaverse stuff and having other stuff in the game, not just the pure PBR battle royale experience.

I think that we’re talking about the same thing that, at least, some of the players have, at least, up to some extent have gotten over battle royale, and now seeking other kinds of experiences from these kinds of games.

Erno: Yes, definitely I would like to add that PUBG Mobile in the West, they just added the metro royale mode, which is — Well, it has elements from battle royale, but it’s not a pure battle royale game anymore. They are bringing more and more these things that widen or actually go away from the classic battle royale.

If you talk about just the pure battle royale games like let’s say Apex Legends is still coming. Being quite a basic battle royale experience, of course, with the twist of the gameplay is a bit different and stuff like that, but still, I assume it’s going to have a tough time to get market share in the current situation.

Jon: In some ways, of course, it’s just my view. It was always amazing that battle royale lasted so long. In some ways, it was hard to come up with a mechanic that would put more people off than 100 of you float down to an island, and most of you’re going to get killed quite early on, [chuckles] and the game’s going to last forever. In some ways, the surprise of it was how you wouldn’t come up with it in a logical way, and that was probably the surprise of it. Maybe we should be looking for those really left of center, weird ways where the developer just pushes through.

The rise of social features

Jon: We’re coming to the end. There was one last thing that you actually just mentioned, just there. It’s an interesting one that’s bubbling under, maybe we come back to it in more detail in another podcast, but we have this idea of hangout areas or social areas which have always been part of gaming. I remember people talk more in Quake lobbies than they do playing the game, so I guess that social element has always been in games.

Now, we’re seeing it becoming a more prominent part, I guess. How do we see that one playing out because I guess it also has different ramifications globally in different cultures as well?

Kalle: Yes, in the West, and especially in China, we have seen these different ways that games have tried to find interesting, compelling, exciting content for players to come back to the game and then basically just spend time inside the game. Obviously, they can play the core gameplay, if it’s a battle royale game, they go play the battle royale shooting experience, or if it’s a music game, they go play the rhythm core gameplay.

On top of that, and on the side, we’ve seen that games have added these different kinds of game modes, different kinds of spaces, instances where people can interact with each other, hang out, just have a good time. Just to name a couple of games in the China side of things, I’m sure, and Wilhelm can talk about the West, but then in China games like Audition Online, QQ Dance or QQ Speed, and Outer World, for example, have been experiencing with these spaces where you can just go, chill out, hang out with friends, show off cosmetics, play mini-games, do some quizzes, listen to music, watch different kinds of videos, movies.

Of course, games have been very clever to utilize these modes and combine that with live-ops to create unique events such as limited-time concerts. You say that on this date, we will have this artist playing a gig in this game, and then, people have a very compelling reason to come to listen to that concert that happens inside the game. One specific example that I haven’t mentioned is actually from Japan.

There’s a game called Project Sekai: Colorful Stage feat. Hatsune Miku, quite a mouthful. It’s a rhythm game, but they have this mode called, virtual live, which is an immersive type of live event. Players enter this virtual stadium as an avatar, and they can enjoy the concert that happens there, the movement in that mode is unrestricted.

Then the players can throw a wider variety of effects to the stage including chat messages. They can send these effects to cheer the performers and send emojis and stuff like that. It’s a big part of the game experience nowadays. That was a very interesting one that one of our Japan analysts brought up.

“In China, we have seen these different ways that those games have tried to find interesting, compelling, exciting content for players to come back to the game.”

Kalle on in-game mechanics in China

Wilhelm: Yes. As Kalle mentioned these hangout areas, they’re definitely been trending in China [in 2020]. Right now, not as much in the Western games, but we have seen some already. I’m expecting that in 2021 they become even more popular in the US as well. We have seen huge games like PUBG and COD: Mobile have their own anniversary events, where there was a hangout, Erno can probably talk about that more.

In 2020, we have seen a lot of live concerts in games like Fortnite, Minecraft. For example, Roblox recently had its Lil Nas X and Roblox Concert Experience event. It was basically like an actual concert. Roblox is basically a huge platform of multiple games, so there was a new game hangout area game created there, where players can hang out with each other and listen to the concert. I think there were few concerts during the certain weekend, when Lil Nas X actually did a live performance.

He actually did a worldwide premiere on his new single called Holiday, and it was reported that it drew 33 million attendees. These events are really good potential for both the game and the artist. As it brings so good visibility for the artist. If we go back to the hangout areas, and we think about, for example, how much there has been decoration meta elements trending as well, which is really good way to monetize in the games, and it’s really player-friendly way to monetize.

Of course, if you have this hangout area, where you can show off your avatars of other players, it’s also a really good way to incentivize players to collect more decorative items for their avatars, and so on.

Erno: I would like to add still on that, what we have also seen as a trend together that works with this element of having these hangout areas. We have seen these different brands and so on, and of course, different artists and stuff like that doing collaboration events with these games that have these possibilities and getting visibility to their product and their, let’s say, new movies or some other brands, even clothes brands and stuff like that and getting visibility.

For example, having clothes — There’s this casual sports game called Tennis Clash from Wildlife Studios, they had, for example, Gucci collaboration. You could highlight your Gucci clothes there. [It’s] like a new way of collaborating with mobile.

“There’s this casual sports game called Tennis Clash from Wildlife Studios, they had a Gucci collaboration. You could highlight your Gucci clothes there. It’s a new type of marketing as a new way of collaborating with mobile.”

Erno on in-game advertising and collaborations

Kalle: What do you guys think that when the COVID goes away, are we still going to see these virtual concerts and stuff like that? Or is this just a very unique thing for this time period that we’re living in right now because I’m not sure?

Wilhelm: Well, of course, yes. Personally, if I think, for example, if you look at the Lil Nas X event in the Roblox, it drew 33 million attendees. If you compare– Of course, a live concert is always a lot of content, it’s a different experience, but if we’re just talking about visibility. If an artist, for example, releases a new single, you can get way more visibility to having a live concert in a game like Roblox. I’d say that in my opinion, we are going to see more and more of these concerts in mobile games.

Erno: Yes, I agree also. Of course, anything at the moment, or anything happening this year, it can be harder to compare to normal stuff. Still, I think, the huge popularity of these things, and overall, where the trend is going, I think it’s going to be a new thing definitely, and they’re not going away anymore. The scale and the volume of those things, it’s going to be left to see.

Jon: Yes, I think we’ve ended up where we started, discussing how this year is going to be different to next year. I think, as you pointed out, we now have these gaming experiences, which now have very big audiences. Whether they can continue that very big growth of tens of millions of people, we’ll wait and see. Like with all new innovation, we’ll start seeing any game, the things they can do, these events, and some games that maybe can’t, will be attempting to do it.

It will just become something that the game designers and game operators will be looking, “What does my audience want more? What kind of artists or what kind of creators can I get into my game to drive these simultaneous events?” Which will provide lots of fascinating podcasts, I think for us in the next year. I’d just like to say, thanks to Wilhelm, Kalle, and Erno.

Erno: Thank you.

Kalle: Thank you.

Wilhelm: Thank you.

Jon: Thanks to you listeners for listening. We are available on all the usual podcast channels, so please do subscribe every month. We are delving deep into the world of mobile games now, the biggest part of the gaming industry, and the fastest-growing. We’re digging into what’s going on, the trends, the design, decisions that are being made, and we hope you enjoy it, and maybe give us some feedback. That’d be a good start to the year. Thanks for listening, and come back next month.

If you liked this episode, don’t forget to listen to our previous podcast episode where our GameRefinery analysts take a look back at what 2020 has had to offer the mobile gaming industry.

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