In this episode, we’re looking at the most prominent trends to shape the mobile games landscape for the year ahead. We’ll dive into the anticipation surrounding upcoming game releases and explore key trends poised to dominate the industry.
Join industry experts Wilhelm Voutilainen, Sr. Chief Game Analyst, and Kalle Heikkinen, Chief Game Analyst at GameRefinery, a Liftoff Company, as they delve into the exciting mobile game releases of the year.
You can also watch the episode on YouTube:
Topics we will cover in this episode:
- Racing games on the horizon
- Anticipated RPG releases
- Assassin’s Creed Jade
- Survival MMOs: Earth Revival and Fading City
- Global launch speculations: Honor of Kings
- Exploring shooter games in 2024
- LiveOps trends in 2024
- The role of AI in 2024
[00:00:00] Jon Jordan: Hello and welcome to the Mobile Games Playbook. Thanks for tuning in for another episode. This is a podcast all about what makes a great mobile game, what is and isn’t working for mobile game designers and all of the latest trends. I am your host, Jon Jordan. In today’s episode, we are looking at what’s going to happen in 2024. So, it is very exciting to have you join us as our experts in what’s happening. We have Wilhelm Voutilainen and Kalle Heikkinen, who are both Chief Game Analysts at GameRefinery by Liftoff. How’s it going, guys?
[00:00:33] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, it’s going really well. Thanks for asking. It’s really snowy here in Helsinki, so I love it.
[00:00:38] Kalle Heikkinen: All well, Jon, thank you.
[00:00:41] Jon Jordan: I was just in Helsinki this week, and I was surprised how cold and snowy it was. So there we go. Good. So, I mean, this is pretty straightforward. These are always the exciting podcasts to do, then looking forward to the crystal balls and what’s going to happen and all that stuff because no one knows if you’re going to be wrong. We can always listen back in six months’ time and see how right you were. But this is the fun stuff. So I think I’m going to kick off with some games to look forward to. That’s always the most interesting bit, isn’t it? We have some titles in mind that we’re looking forward to playing. Who wants to start us off on those?
Racing games on the horizon
[00:01:52] Kalle Heikkinen: I can go first. So, yeah, I think we could start with a genre that is not discussed that much in the mobile scene. So racing. So there’s a new title coming up, getting a global release, hopefully, next year, that is called Racing Master. It was launched in China this summer and has had a relatively good year thus far. So, Racing Space is something that has been quite stacked in recent years, but this is a title that could bring some new blood to the genre. So, it comes from NetEase, and Codemasters has also been collaborating with the game, and it looks just gorgeous. And yeah, just a couple of things to highlight about that one is that it has a very strong focus on a story-based carrier mode, which is quite interesting. There are a lot of customization options for cars. And I guess one interesting tidbit is that the game gradually suggests the player lower the level of control assistance as he plays the game more and more. So that’s kind of an interesting one there.
[00:02:40] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, I think like we have been definitely waiting for like a huge racing hit to finally come to the Western market, and yeah, I agree that Racing Master looks beautiful, and of course, there’s like other upcoming racing games, too like Disney Speedstorm for example more like arcade racing game from Gameloft that is actually looking quite good as well. I think it was supposed to be released this month already, but I think they postponed it to the January of 2024. But yeah, maybe we will finally get something going on in the racing space in the West.
[00:03:18] Jon Jordan: I guess it’s one of those genres that can be quite hard to innovate in because you either go down the hyper-realistic route, which is what everyone wants. Basically, people who make those games are normally massive petrolheads. So they want to make the most realistic thing, and then you end up with something that’s so realistic that hardly anyone can play it. And that doesn’t fit so well on mobile compared to PC, does it? So I guess then you’re like, how are we doing that with the arcade? I guess from a design point of view, you’re much more limited than you maybe would be in other genres. So maybe just go from you and say make it look amazing.
[00:03:53] Kalle Heikkinen: That is true. Or then you just have to take the theme and bring it back to a totally new genre, like they did with Chrome Valley Customs and MasterTree.
[00:04:12] Jon Jordan: Cool, Wilhelm, one from you. What have you got for us?
Anticipated RPG releases
[00:04:15] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, so I think we could look at the upcoming RPGs. So, of course, the RPG space has been interesting pretty much every year. Last year, we had Diablo Immortal and lots of other interesting games as well. But some upcoming ones are definitely interesting, such as Lost Ark Mobile. So Lost Ark used to be a really popular game when it was released on PC. So it is kind of like a top-down MMORPG type of game that used to be really popular in the West; I think it’s still really popular in Korea. So that’s going to be interesting when it’s going to be released on mobile in the West. Same for Path of Exile. So, one of the biggest competitors for the PC Diablo games is this kind of interesting free-to-play game on PC, but having no pay-to-win, so paying for convenience. And I think it’s going to be the same. I think the unknown is that it’s going to be the same on mobile as well. So, it’s going to be really interesting to see how they will compete against Diablo Immortal, which has these pay-to-win elements. And of course, the monetization challenges then, if we look at, because all of these games, all of these upcoming games, these Lost Ark and Battle of Exile, they are both single-character RPGs, so you’re not forming a team of characters. And those traditionally have not been that successful on mobile because it’s really hard to monetize them. All the top monetizing RPGs are character collectors. You collect the multiple characters, you form teams. So Diablo Immortal was thethe only success in a long time in that sense. So, well, it’s going to be interesting to see how Lost Ark and Battle of Exile will do on mobile.
[00:05:56] Jon Jordan: Hmm. I mean, do you think they are obviously, to some degree, competing with Diablo Immortal for an audience? And they are that game now old enough that there’s all of the people who have had been playing that not had enough, but they like hungry now for a similar or not similar experience, but another RPG that’s going to be deep, and I know.
[00:06:19] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, I think that’s a good question for sure. There might be players, of course, who are hungry to play Path of Exile, for example. But then, on the other hand, there are deep progression layers in Diablo Immortal. There’s also players who are super invested in Diablo Immortal. They have spent their time and their money on getting this massive progress of characters, so it might also be hard for them to swap.
[00:06:47] Jon Jordan: Yeah. You just don’t often see games that are growing the market rather than just competing within the market. I mean, I guess that’s always the great goal for game designers is to take a genre and expand it because that’s when you really get success rather than just like, oh, the cake’s this big, we just need to take a bigger slice from someone else. That’s a harder thing to do, isn’t it? And okay, so I guess another traditional IP coming to Mobile is Assassin’s Creed Jade, which should be great, shouldn’t it? Isn’t that what you’re going to tell me?
Assassin’s Creed Jade
[00:07:25] Kalle Heikkinen: Yeah, yeah, I guess this connects to the RPG side of things as well. So definitely one of the most interesting games to follow next year. But at this point, there’s actually not that much to tell about the game. Of course, we’ve seen some videos of the gameplay, and it looks exactly what you can expect from an Assassin’s Creed title. So I suspect that side of things they probably can nail. And the game looks very good, of course. But definitely, it will be interesting to see what their monetization approach is going to be with this game. What kind of social elements are they going to have there? And most importantly, I would say that what is going to be their level of commitment to the live operations of this game? And yeah, it’s actually interesting to look at the history of the Assassin’s Creed franchise on mobile because that’s quite interesting. Technically speaking, this is their 17th attempt on mobile with Assassin’s Creed when it comes to Ubisoft. But of course, many of those games were spin-offs of premium titles back in the day, like 2010, 2011, 2012, and stuff like that. But also, just recently, a couple of years ago, they tried making, for example, the runner game with that IP with the Assassin’s Creed free runners. So, it definitely seems to be an IP that they want to utilize on mobile as well. So let’s hope that they get it done with Jade this time around.
[00:09:08] Jon Jordan: I can’t say I’ve played all those 17 games, I’ve played some of them, but would you say this is much more like the type of Assassin’s Creed you’d expect on PC console on mobile, which they’ve, did you say they’ve tended to do things, genres within Assassin’s Creed that would clearly work well on mobile? They’ve not, really, it’s obviously very expensive to make these games. And so I guess that’s the interesting point for this one. This is like a console-type game for mobile.
[00:09:20] Kalle Heikkinen: Definitely. Definitely. So the marketing for this so far and the scale of things, if you look at the videos and stuff like that, it looks like that level of focus for this game is on, it’s something else when it comes to the stuff that they’ve done previously on mobile with us. So, yeah, it’s a very interesting one to follow.
[00:09:58] Jon Jordan: And I guess, as you also say, the tricky thing is not necessarily making the high-end game that fits there. It’s that success on mobile really comes through live ops. And as you highlighted, that’s not very clear. And that’s, I guess, sometimes what console developers have not understood. They’re just not set up in the way that mobile developers are to really optimize those live ops.
[00:10:23] Kalle Heikkinen: Yeah, that is the biggest concern I would personally have when it comes to the long-term success of the title. But as I said, there’s so little that we know at this point, so it’s really speculative still.
[00:10:41] Jon Jordan: Yeah, but certainly one you would think there’ll be headlines of when that game comes out because every Assassin’s Creed, it’s almost everyone wants to check it out even if they sometimes you get the feeling some people want to check it out to criticize it, which, but yeah, it will always get plenty of downloads.
[00:10:54] Kalle Heikkinen: Yeah. Exactly.
[00:11:01] Jon Jordan: Cool, what are we onto next? Wilhelm, you’re gonna talk about some more RPGs.
Survival MMOs: Earth Revival and Fading City
[00:11:06] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, so I think, like, because now we’re talking about this really high production value, like almost like console experiences. It’s interesting to look at, like some other upcoming titles. So you have Zenless Zone Hero from miHoYo coming. So it’s going to be a similar game to Genshin Impact. But it’s more like this non-open-world game. It’s more about RPG action, where you’re playing like these smaller instances, but it looks, of course, it’s a miHoYo, so it looks the game looks amazing. You have another kind of similar games as well, Project Mugen, so it has a similar style to it also, I want to highlight here that what’s really interesting is that the themes of the games are a bit different than your usual RPG. Instead of being the fantasy team or sky-fighting, they are more about this street fashion team. I think this is also starting to rise in popularity in Japan and maybe in China as well. So it’s an interesting team to look at for sure.
The third really high production value is Wuthering Waves, which looks quite similar to Genshin. So it’s really interesting when they get released next year. And really, the big thing in those games, and like in many other of these games that we have mentioned already, is the cross-play. So cross-play has been growing in popularity. And I definitely see cross-playing being a huge trend in 2024 as well with these upcoming games. You have lots of benefits. You are unifying the console, PC, and mobile audiences. And it also helps we’ve been talking about the app store fee bypassing the web stores. So you can better utilize those as well. So it’s, well, the cross-play AAA titles coming to mobile. It’s an interesting thing.
[00:13:13] Jon Jordan: And would all those three come from APAC developers as well? So that’s because they’re just so expensive to make those titles that you want to be making those from slightly lower-cost regions.
[00:13:17] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, yeah.
[00:13:30] Kalle Heikkinen: That would have been actually my question to you guys: what’s the common link between these titles that were just discussed? So yeah, they all come from Asia. I guess my question is, is it so that nowadays, Asian developers are the only ones who have the muscle to compete in this RPG space, which seems to require that the expectation levels are so high for this genre that – Are they the only ones who can deliver nowadays?
[00:14:04] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, and then you need to nail kind of having the AAA game, plus having the extreme mobile live ops combination actually to be super successful. So you need lots of production value for that.
[00:14:15] Jon Jordan: It’s even more expensive. And I guess the other thing is that people are interested in that because they’ve seen the success of stuff like Genshin, which was, obviously, an amazing game, and it cost a hundred million dollars to develop, but the success was amazing. It was really an outside success. As soon as you have one of those people, are prepared to invest that amount of money, or some people had to invest that amount of money to try and repeat it, but after a few people don’t repeat it and basically end up losing a lot of money, then people then look for another opportunity maybe, so maybe next year will be the high point of these super expensive 3d RPGs, and or if they’re successful, everyone will be making more of them, I guess one on the other. Okay, what else have we got? Um, Kalle, you want to talk about two games, Earth Revival and Fading City. Tell us about those and why you think they’re interesting.
[00:15:08] Kalle Heikkinen: Yes, yes. Just brief mentions about this one. Earth Revival and Fading City are two China-originated survival MMOs, so we are still continuing on the RPG tip here. Coming to the global market next year, Earth Revival is actually from NetEase, which has a very, very strong influence from the Last of Us series, like evidently there. So why I want to mention these titles because the main reason is the fact that there are publishers and developers out there that are obviously looking at AAA titles, and these developers see this as an opportunity to leverage those IPs indirectly. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re an IP holder of a popular gaming franchise, you don’t have a mobile presence. Well, guess what might happen. It might be that someone else will fill the void for you. And I’m afraid that these cases that I just mentioned, they won’t be the last ones that we’re gonna, we’re gonna see. So, of course, it will be interesting to see when these are globally launched, will they bump into some legislative issues, for example, because it is with these titles like I was looking at some trailers that they had, for example, from the Earth Revival, which is the Mass Effect kind of game. Like the editing on the trailers and stuff like that, it’s exactly the same as the trailers were for Mass Effect 3 back in 2009 or something like that. So it’s interesting to see if we’re going to see more of this. Let’s just put it that way.
[00:17:12] Jon Jordan: Mmm. Yes, I guess it’s you probably can’t copyright. If it gets there’s other things you probably could do, isn’t there?
[00:17:52] Kalle Heikkinen: Yeah, yeah, it’s like where you draw the line, but yeah, I would just say that, like for all the IP holders out there that like we’re gonna see some, I think we’re gonna see some interesting discussions going forward when it comes to this type of cases.
[00:17:45] Jon Jordan: And do you think, can those, you say those are from Chinese developers? So, is it enough that those games could just be released in China, which would obviously maybe curtail some of the copyright issues, and people just go, everyone’s already in China knows it’s inspired by Mass Effect or something, but there’s a different thing if you go global with it, I mean, I guess they could just be successful within China, but maybe if they’re, they’re being more aggressive in their attitude and they go well of course we’re going to be global?
[00:18:16] Kalle Heikkinen: Yeah, that’s a good point. Earth Revival has already been launched in China. It’s a top 50-grossing game title there. Yeah, it was just launched, I think, like one month ago or something like that. And yeah, it’s very successful there. So, yeah, I definitely there’s a point there that operating these games in China, probably from a legislative perspective, is much easier than when you then release them to the global and especially Western markets. So I think when that happens, yeah, let’s see. Of course, I haven’t played those games personally, so I’m not 100% sure what kind of things have been copied exactly, but looking at videos and trailers, it’s very easy to see what has been the source of inspiration for these games.
[00:18:21] Jon Jordan: Oh, is it? Okay. We’ll see, but you said it’s influenced by and inspired by others. This is a whole different debate. Everyone’s influenced by something, and it’s where it’s a case where the line is crossed. Moving on and talking about global launches, you want to speak about the Honor of Kings. I thought Honor of Kings was out ages ago, but you’re saying Honor of Kings isn’t out globally?
Global launch speculations: Honor of Kings
[00:19:27] Kalle Heikkinen: Yeah. Yeah, this is a confusing one. This is a super confusing one. So why I wanted to bring this up is that apparently there are again rumours that Honor of Kings, which, if there’s someone who doesn’t know, is one of the biggest mobile games in the world, at least if you think about the games that have crossed the most. So, there are rumours that it will get a global release in 2024. Honor of Kings was launched back in 2015 in China, and it’s been a success story, as I said. Always been a top one-grossing game in China, practically. And a Western version of Honor of Kings called Arena of Valor was released back in 2016. So that’s what gets us very confused about this one. But that never received really great success that at least would be comparable to Honor of Kings in China. But this new global version of Honor of Kings was soft-launched actually in Brazil last summer. You can take a look at some numbers and performance numbers of the game. They’re pretty modest when it comes to revenue and downloads. So yeah, it’s really has been in the soft launch there for six months. So let’s see what’s gonna happen. But the rumours are that they’re gonna make a global launch, launch. So let’s see. But personally, I’m just a little bit confused about Tencent’s plan here. So are they going to run both Arena of Valor and Honor of Kings in the West? Or will Arena of Valor be killed at some point? Or will the Honor of Kings Western version ever actually be globally launched? The mobile scene is very hard to enter, but I guess if someone can do it, then Tencent, of course, has the experience and resources to execute it. But then again, they missed those expectations with Iron of Valor already. So I’m really confused about this myself as well.
[00:21:38] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, I don’t know if Valor, it used to be in a kind of high ranks at the launch, at the beginning of the game, but obviously now drop away. They have really slowed down with the live ops of the game and the updates. There’s only like a couple of updates, new content per year, and they have really slowed down on that one, but well, it’s interesting to see how it does against Mobile Legends, Bang Bang and The Wild Rift, so two of the biggest mobile games in the West on mobile, so.
[00:22:10] Jon Jordan: But I guess if it’s just that they can consolidate the live ops and just have one live ops team doing both and that maybe that’s enough to, give it another try.
[00:22:19] Wilhelm Voutilainen: It kind of makes more sense to also have the same game with the same name as well, because they don’t feel so separate titles. So in terms of like, let’s say eSports, which is big in these mobiles. So, yeah.
[00:22:33] Jon Jordan: Yeah. Okay. One to keep an eye on. Good, good. What’s next? So, Wilhelm, shooters. We’ve talked a bit about racing games, but shooters are a perennial genre where everyone’s launching and loads of stuff going on there. So what are we looking there?
Exploring shooter games in 2024
[00:22:49] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, so yeah, Shooter’s definitely one of the hardest to enter. Still dominated by the big three games, Call of Duty Mobile, PUBG and Free Fire in the West. So there are really promising games coming in 2024. First of all, Warzone Mobile, which I would say is the game’s strength. So I would say that would be successful because it will have a cross-progression Battle Pass it has with the PC version. And of course, the PC version is an extremely popular game. So I think instead of directly competing against the mobile audience and against those big three, it can definitely bring the code Mars on PC players to mobile. Let’s say you have the Battle Pass plan, which is, by the way, in the PC version. It really takes time to progress because it’s a time-based progression battle pass plan. So you progress it by just playing the game, like, so time-based battle pass plan, that takes a lot of time to progress. So I personally wouldn’t really mind to sometimes, hopping on my couch, playing some Warzone Mobile and continuing the battle pass progression there so I can actually finish the battle pass in time. So I think that’s a big strength that can really, really work for them.
[00:24:16] Jon Jordan: It’s going back to your cross-platform thing, isn’t it? Yeah. The importance of cross-play is that it just gives you an embedded audience there, so immediately, you’re adding benefit to those people straight away.
[00:24:29] Kalle Heikkinen: And I was thinking that… Yeah, I was just adding that. At first, I thought that it make sense to cannibalize the Call of Duty mobile audience, but then again, I guess maybe it is more beneficial to have the players play the Warzone more than the Call of Duty mobile. I guess with Call of Duty mobile, was it Tencent that is the co-developer there? They get a certain cut out of the profits there. So with Warzone, they’re going to get all the cash for themselves. So maybe that’s something, too, to incentivize them to focus on Warzone.
[00:25:11] Wilhelm Voutilainen: And then, some other games, so Valorant and also Rainbow Six. So, more of these tactical shooters are slower-paced games compared to the other titles; the movement is slower-paced and more tactical. And of course, the time to kill is super fast, but, it’s really tactical. So I would say like right now there is. none of those kind of games in the really high-grossing ranks. I think the highest-grossing one in the Western/ West market is the Critical Ops, which is, I think, is an amazing game. And I personally think those games are one of the best shooters, one of the best shooter genre that works on mobile because of the slower pace and more tactical movement that really works on the works better on the touch screen, I would say. So, like, for example, Valorant, it’s a massive IP nowadays. It’s a super huge success on the PC. I don’t know if they maybe they will do similar. So I have cross-progression battle pass plan that would really work for them.
And then, of course, lastly, I want to really mention the Division Resurgence. So a looter shooter type of game. We have not seen a looter shooter in a long time, like being successful in the West, or on the mobile in general, I’d say. I think it’s going to be tough to make it work, because balancing this power progression shooter, can be really tough. How do you balance the gameplay and the monetization parts? There has been one game that has kind of made it work. So, Pixelcom 3D, one of the actually oldest shooter games on mobile there is, that is still live and going really well. They actually have a pro progression element. So, they have been able to make it work. So, Division Resolution, I think they have a chance at it.
[00:27:05] Jon Jordan: Okay. Good. So so plenty to go on.
[00:27:07] Kalle Heikkinen: I guess as a bonus I’m going to throw in just High Energy Heroes from Tencent. So we all know Apex Legends was cancelled, and killed in the West, but Tencent actually made a very similar-looking game, launched it in China this year called High Energy Heroes. If you look at the UI, it’s very similar to Apex Legends and stuff like that. The art style and aesthetics are a bit more leaning towards Asian anime looks. So it has performed pretty well in China still, I think in the top 50 grossing. So of course, like there’s no, I didn’t find any evidence that it would get a global release. But who knows? Maybe, maybe it could. But yeah, definitely When talking about new shooter games, it’s a game to keep on the radar.
[00:28:07] Jon Jordan: Again, to all playing going back to what you were saying about looking at gaps in markets where existing games, clearly in this case, there isn’t going to be an Apex Legends mobile because it’s dead. So for a team like Tencent, who probably got loads of developers, it’s worth a punt, isn’t it? I mean, probably maybe other High Energy Heroes. I mean, that could work in the West, couldn’t it? It’s maybe not the strongest, but we’ll see. Good. So plenty going on with shooters. Let’s get into some trends. Always talking about LiveOps. So hopefully, Kalle, you have a lot to say about LiveOps in 2024. What have you got for us?
LiveOps trends in 2024
[00:30:07] Kalle Heikkinen: Yeah, yeah. So let’s start with the obvious. So the cost scope and importance of LiveOps will obviously grow also in 2024. So if you’re launching a new game, the sad news is that all your competitors already have their LiveOps machines running. So you really need to have that LiveOps strategy in place. To be more specific, we’re seeing a lot of promotional collaboration events. So IP collaboration events in games and being very important part of their LiveOps palette. So for example, this year we see a lot of interesting ones in games like StumbleGames, for example, with Monopoly events and Barbie collaboration events. And whenever I speak actually with our Honor of Kings analyst, so we mentioned Honor of Kings already in this podcast, she always says that there is some exciting IP collaboration event going on. And then, would you, Wilhelm, agree with me that events, just in general, are becoming more surprising and exciting? So like putting out events that are like, just collect 10 pieces of golden candy and then, reach this threshold and get a reward. Uh, it’s just, it’s, it’s like, we’ve seen that and what, what is really resonating right now is that we’re seeing more of these like more non-traditional events and mini-games events and stuff like that.
[00:32:15] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, I would say that definitely the production values of events are getting higher, especially in this newer type of events. So, comparing, as Kalle mentioned, comparing a single simple task event where there’s literally just a task, do something in the core gameplay, get points, and get rewarded. Comparing that to an event, let’s say, where you do something in the core gameplay, then you play, let’s say, a mini-game with that or build something like the event meta game or something, or even have an interesting UI or a theme, it make it so much more interesting and engaging for the players. Some really good examples are phase 10, they run these themed events every month and they have exactly that. So there’s always a new mechanic tied to the event loop and a new team as well. And also like this more of this interesting one of them. One of the events and going like taking trends from other games like Lily’s Garden, they have run this makeover event. So it’s kind of liketakes inspiration from the project makeover. And instead of just, you playing the match three core gameplay, you’re getting points and rewarded, you’re playing match tree core gameplay, then you’re using the points you get from that to kind of like do a makeover for the game’s story character. And depending how far you get into the, in the makeover, the end, the story ending of the event gets better and better. So there are lots of these interesting elements to it compared to, traditional task event.
[00:33:54] Jon Jordan: Hmm, hmm. Definitely plays into the cost, scope and importance of live ops. It’s kind of crowed when it just becomes a, yeah, game within itself or, special, extra special rewards. I mean, that’s just that everything is becoming complex. It’s interesting, you said, Wilhelm, that a lot of those ones are social as well, the events now, so you it’s not just about you. It’s all about deepening the core community of the game by embedding people into things they’re doing together.
[00:34:19] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, you have social elements, you have meta elements, you have a story, many of those, and interesting stuff for sure. And then another trend is definitely, I would say, in terms of events, is the games are finding new ways to monetize their events. So like we’ve had, we’ve seen past year, we’ve seen lots of premium reward tracks in events. So like this mini parallel passes inside events, monetizing some of the events rewards.
And then we’ve seen that becoming more popular. And then we’ve also seen this kind of like event boosts. So boost doing something or purchasing something to boost your progression inside the event. That’s usually what has been happening lately a lot. If you have this event skin or this event character, your progression during the event is doubled. So, for example, Modern Warfare 3, which just got released on PC, is running events like that right now. So if you’re purchasing a single one unique operator that is promoted in the event, your progression is faster. But, so those are kind of like what’s already going on, but then what we have just recently seen, and I definitely see this becoming more popular in 2024, is this kind of like this pay-gated content. So events are locked behind a paywall. So, for example, Last Fortress is one of the top Forax Surge games. You have to purchase this premium building in the game to actually access at this mini-game event. So the only way to access an event is to purchase this premium building, which costs $50. Then on State of Survival, another super successful Foraxes, they had this Resident Evil collaboration event. And to play some of the events inside the huge set of events you actually had to pull, this represents an evil tractor from a gatcha. That’s the only way to participate in the event and get anything, and then the last really interesting example, Free Fire They had this top-up event. So top-up events mean that you have to spend or purchase a certain amount of premium currency in the game, and that way you would unlock this huge set of different events. So a whole massive set of events was locked on you spending or purchasing premium currency. So pay gated content is definitely gonna be a trend.
I find that very interesting because it’s like going back to the roots of the live ops in like AAA premium titles. I see this as a form of a DLC where you have gameplay content locked behind a purchase or a paywall. Of course the mechanisms are here not so straightforward and stuff like that but it’s like DLC in a sense.
[00:37:17] Jon Jordan: Definitely, that sounds like one to look forward to. Well, check out how it’s happening in 2024. And then last one, I guess we wouldn’t be allowed to do a podcast like this without mentioning AI. I don’t know how deep we want to go into it because it’s, I’ve just, there’s obviously very obvious things we understand about gen AI and how that’s impacting the sector. But I guess none of us are deep experts to exactly wheedle out. So, what’s exactly going to happen? But how do we think AI is going to, GenAI stuff is going to change? Is it, I mean, maybe the contrary thing, is it actually going to change stuff in 2024 or is, or is it just speeding up game development and making stuff cheaper and we don’t actually notice it in games per se? What do you think?
The role of AI in 2024
[00:38:00] Kalle Heikkinen: Yeah, it’s like you said. We’re definitely not the experts, but it’s always fun to speculate. So let’s speculate. So, but yeah, I think it’s of course, like talking about 2024, like you just have to touch upon the topic of AI, I guess. And it surely has replaced blockchain and metaverses, the gaming industry passwords, right? And rightly so. I mean, the potential to disrupt how games are made is, frankly speaking, huge. So if we, for example, think about the high-level implications and what it means to the industry, developing games will get much quicker and much less complex. And I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad thing, obviously, but it’s already, if you think about it, it’s already ridiculously hard to find an audience to your game. Like every day there’s 500 games released to the Apple App Store. There’s 40 games released to Steam every single day. And with AI coming into the equation, I think these numbers will explode. So it’s going to be really interesting to see how this will affect the marketing side of things and the UA landscape when the competition is going to get even fiercer and fiercer.
[00:39:18] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Yeah, and of course, the UI is a really good point for sure. And, of course, creating game content might become much easier and faster. So of course, might affect live ops; I don’t know if we’re gonna see all the casual games have massive live ops like Cod Mobile or something like that. Maybe we will see something like that. And also, talking about just, the scale of games that you can create. So we talked earlier about the Genshin type of games, which require a massive workforce to create all those huge worlds and the content there. So if that becomes easier, you can scale massive worlds. Could we see more of these open world type of games in the market? Could we see maybe the MMORPG tournament doing a massive comeback in the future? Can we see more of these metaverse types of games actually coming to live? I don’t know if it’s gonna be already in the 2024, but forward to that, yeah, might, might something interesting what happened there.
[00:40:24] Jon Jordan: I guess it’s whether AI just allows people to speed up what they’re already doing, which obviously it will do. Is that going to be the core result, at least in 2024, or is it going to allow totally new sorts of content to be made that couldn’t have been made before? Which I guess is harder because AI probably won’t come up with that itself; maybe it will. But there’s a lot of things to come up with. So is it just accelerating existing trends? Or is it coming up with totally new things? Yeah, that’s the… And I guess people, definitely people would be trying to come up with totally new things.
[00:40:56] Kalle Heikkinen: One thing I want to add to this that at the GameRefinery we’re obviously always on the lookout for any evidence of AI-generated content in games. In China, we actually we’ve seen it in use as the top MMO in the market called Nishui Han, which is from NetEase. So they have used these large language models to generate at least a certain amount of the narrative content that they have in the game. So they have used this; they have used AI to help them design the narrative there. So, yeah, will be, will definitely be interesting. And then I guess what I also believe is that this will probably result in even faster copying of game features and art styles and all kinds of assets that we have in the game. So, if you can just make prompts like, please generate a Clash Royale-like battle pass for my game and one click and it’s there. That’s going to be quite groundbreaking.
[00:42:12] Jon Jordan: Yeah, I guess also the other thing with anything like this that comes in is, it’s not the fact that you can see how it’s going to make all games better, but I think it’s hard for the individual developer to see how it makes them competitively, gives them a competitive advantage. If everyone has access to the same tools, then, maybe this, everything gets better, but how does that make your game stand out from all the other ones, particularly if it’s going to be loads more games? I guess that’s the really tricky thing that developers are going to have to come to terms with, which is what their competitive advantage is in that landscape.
I guess we’ll have to ask chatGPT to see if it can tell us. Cool, so there is plenty to look forward to. Thank you for the games as well. It’s always good to get some titles we can start checking out and look forward to. But thank you for your expertise, Wilhelm and Kalle.
[00:43:01] Kalle Heikkinen: Thank you.
[00:43:02] Wilhelm Voutilainen: Thank you.
[00:43:04] Jon Jordan: And I thank you for watching and listening to the podcast; however, you are consuming it. Of course, in every episode, we are delving into what’s going on in the mobile game space, which is the most dynamic and largest gaming sector. So we hope you are enjoying the shows. Obviously, subscribe to get all our episodes, and we’ll see you next time. Goodbye.