Analyst Bulletin: Mobile Game Market Review August 2021

Analyst Bulletin August 2021 header image

It’s time for fresh mobile game market insights, handpicked by our GameRefinery game analysts!

August’s highlights include Project Makeover’s own iteration of Battle Pass, PUBG Mobile’s tweaks on how its Season system works and the game’s collaboration with Tesla, as well as LifeAfter’s new playable race introduced with a huge update with a lot of fresh content. Moreover, it seems like getting married is not enough anymore as different child-rearing systems seem to be the new must-have of Chinese MMORPGs.

However, this was just a scratch on the surface of everything our analysts have to offer you from last month’s biggest mobile gaming updates, so let’s keep reading.

US Market Overview

  • Project Makeover introduced its own iteration of Battle Pass, which has basic free and premium layer implementations. The progression for the BP is earned by completing challenges that vary from visiting a friend’s avatar’s room to collecting specific color board pieces. But there are a couple of interesting twists regarding these challenges:
    • First of all, when you complete a challenge, a 5h timer appears before the next challenge appears in its slot. This timer can be removed by purchasing the premium layer → you get constant challenges and don’t have to wait for new ones to appear.
    • Secondly, once in a while, “timed special challenges” appear. If you complete these special challenges in the given time, they give extra BP progression points.
Project Makeover's Battle Pass
In Project Makeover’s Battle Pass version, players can remove the 5h waiting time by purchasing the premium layer to get constant challenges and not wait for new ones to appear.
  • PUBG Mobile brought a new game mode into the game, called Mission Ignite, which transforms the original Erangel map into a more futuristic setting with futuristic-looking trains to hop on, Air Conveyor spots where you launch yourself into the air, and Robot Dogs to help you in battle. In addition, many of the old areas of the maps have changed to more futuristic architecture.
    • Another significant change in this update is the tweaks on how the Season system works. Now, rather than having just always separate seasons, there are also Cycles in play. They are pretty much an “overlaying bigger event” that consist of several individual seasons. This then naturally rewards players for participating actively across the Cycle, not just season by season.
PUBG Mobile Cycles system
PUBG Mobile introduced an all-new Cycle Season system to encourage player activity
  • Like we’ve recently seen in many cases, various collection mechanics have been getting more and more popular across the different genres (whether it’s casino games, midcore or casual). Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is the latest game to join the ranks by adding Chocolate Frogs, collectible cards of famous characters from the Harry Potter world. These cards are unlocked from Chocolate Frog Packs, which can be earned from various in-game activities, Battle Pass, OR by buying them with soft currency/pages.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery's collection system
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery’s collection system functions in a season-based manner. Each new season brings new cards. Finding all of them during the season gives you the “grand prize.”
  • POP! Slots introduced fast-paced real-time tournament instances (with team vs team possibility) with Win Zone recurring event. The feature mechanics are rather simple: you have to score as many points as possible during three short (~2 mins) rounds of intense slot spinning. The top players/winning team get a nice chip prize based on the final score and ranking.
  • Yahtzee with Buddies added a whole new playing mode/event, Kingdom, with map exploration, resource gathering, and monster fighting with familiar Yahtzee mechanics. The Player’s goal is to explore the map and build mines to get Crystals, which are used to clear monster caves, thus completing the map and receiving a reward.
  • Diner Dash Adventures’ Secret Menu update introduced classical Battle Pass mechanics to the game, giving players a chance to win extra prizes on the reward path by completing levels.

In other mobile gaming news, developers of Garena Free Fire announced the official date for Free Fire Max’s pre-registration with a pre-registration event that included exclusive rewards. For those who haven’t heard about Garena Free Fire Max before, it’s an improved version of the battle royale title with enhanced graphics, effects, and other features. To the pleasure of the Free Fire players, players are able to easily transfer their whole Free Fire progression onto the new game through Firelink. According to our analysts, this sounds a bit like what Blizzard is doing with Overwatch 2.

Garena Free Fire Max announcement
Garena Free Fire Max is an improved version of Garena Free Fire with enhanced graphics, effects, and other features.

Events

  • In addition to introducing the new updates mentioned earlier, PUBG Mobile organized a collaboration event with Tesla last month. On the map, players could find Tesla Gigafactories, in which they could build Teslas to drive around during the match. The Tesla collaboration also included some Tesla cosmetics that players could earn from events/gachas. Moreover, there was even a raffle in which some lucky player could win a real-life Tesla.
PUBG Mobile x Tesla collaboration
During the PUBG Mobile x Tesla event, players could visit Tesla Gigafactories to build Teslas to drive around during the match.
  • Garena Free Fire celebrated its 4th anniversary with a collaboration event with DJs Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. The massive event contained loads of smaller events, including:
    • 4th Anniversary Party special interface, which had players collecting Anniversary Tokens from event tasks/looting from battle royale matches in order to pull a Fragment Royale event gacha that contained rewards and Jigsaw pieces. The Jigsaw pieces were used to complete a Memory Jigsaw event to claim even more event rewards.
    • Happy Birthday Free Fire annual party area, where players can hang out and attend various mini-games rewarding Anniversary Tokens.
    • Dimitri & 100% Top-up event, where players got progressively rewarded for purchasing premium currency in the game.
    • Various other monetization events, including the 4th Anniversary Mystery Shop, where players get a random amount of discount of various items in a shop – and purchasing enough items unlock the “grand prize” with a huge discount for purchasing.
    • As well as daily missions, Friend Time event, 4th-anniversary quiz, and much more!
Garena Free Fire's anniversary event
During Garena Free Fire’s anniversary event, players could hang out at the party area and participate in various mini-games that rewarded Anniversary Tokens.
  • Roblox organized a collaboration event with Nerf titled Nerf Hub, which took players to a hang-out area to try various Nerf Guns at a shooting range and collect two special decorative rewards for their avatar. The main thing about the event, though, was the new collaboration Roblox Nerf guns sold physically in real life. By purchasing these collaboration guns, players got a code to claim the Nerf gun inside Roblox. Each gun has its own Roblox game where it could be used, and the Nerf Hub contained portals to these games. The selected games are some of the most popular ones in Roblox.
Roblox x Nerf collaboration event
The main thing about the Roblox x Nerf collaboration event was the Roblox Nerf guns sold physically in real life. By purchasing these collaboration guns, players got a code to claim the Nerf gun inside Roblox.
  • Caesar Slots introduced a new special “side mode,” My Fortune Palace, where players get to decorate their own palace floor by floor for rewards. The event is built in a similar style as Coin Master. Players need Goldies (a special currency acquired from, e.g., completing Daily Quests) to purchase decorative elements for their palace. Once they’ve got all the elements for one floor, they get a threshold reward and move on to the next one. As an addition to these threshold rewards, players can win extra prizes from the Leaves Wheel, which they can spin once they’ve filled out their Leaves Bar (=have built enough elements to their palace).
  • Mobile Legends: Bang Bang had a collaboration event with Transformers, which contained various events, such as ​the Autobots vs. Decepticons event, where players had to choose either faction and then collect Energy cubes from various event tasks. Gathering Energy Cubes granted the player individual rewards as well as faction points, with the winning faction gaining more rewards at the end of the event. In addition to this, the event included event gachas with exclusive Transformers-themed rewards.
  • Another game to have a collaboration event with Transformers last month was Top War: Battle Game. The event included a lot of content, such as ​​​daily free login gifts, tasks to complete for rewards, PvE content with Transformers characters, special event currency and rewards, such as Optimus Prime hero and Prime-exclusive Skill, limited-time gachas and IAP offers.
Top War: Battle Game x Transformers collaboration event
Top War: Battle Game was another game to have a collaboration event with Transformers last month.
  • War of the Visions FFBE held possibly its most anticipated collaboration event with Final Fantasy VII Remake. Players could battle iconic FF7R enemies (Shinra soldiers, Sweeper and Guard Scorpion) in familiar locations from the game’s early parts while listening to various tracks from the FF7R soundtrack. Event content included, for example, several event-related achievements and bingo boards to clear for rewards and a free Tifa character as a login bonus.

New on the market

Lastly, let’s take a look at what interesting happened among the US top 200 grossing entrants last month.

  • Marvel Future Revolution had its grand launch at the end of last month, making the game debut on top of DLs and around top-grossing 30. It will be interesting to see how Marvel’s first open-world Action RPG on mobile will succeed in the future.
  • Visually beautiful new Idle RPG Magnum Quest has been hovering around top-grossing 180 for the past couple of weeks.
Marvel Future Revolution is doing well since its release last month

China Market Overview

  • It seems like getting married is not enough anymore as different child-rearing systems seem to be the new must-have of Chinese MMORPGs. Previously done by games such as Fu-sheng Wei Qing-ge (浮生为卿歌), wuxia fantasy-themed Xin Xiao-ao Jiang-hu (新笑傲江湖) is the latest game to feature a child-rearing system. A player who is married in-game can “adopt” max. two child NPCs. Bringing up the child NPC and leveling the child up in the game’s “education system” grants dozens of permanent boosts to the player’s main character’s stats.
Xin Xiao-ao Jiang-hu (新笑傲江湖,) child-rearing system
In Xin Xiao-ao Jiang-hu (新笑傲江湖,) players who are married can now “adopt” up to two child NPCs
  • Song-song Zong-dong-yuan’s (松松总动员) latest update included an innovative IAP offer linked to a daily login calendar: every day a player logs in, apart from the usual gacha tickets they also get a further discount on the IAP offer, until on the last day of the week the offer is dirt cheap – if you get all the logins, that is.

August also marked the time of the Qixi festival events in the Chinese mobile game market. Qixi is known as the “Chinese Valentine’s Day,” the traditional Chinese day of romance – if you’re interested in reading more about different seasonal events, you should check this blog post. This year our CH analyst spotted Qixi festival events in games like a turn-based RPG Wang Chuan Feng Hua Lu (忘川风华录), and a MMORPG Shén wǔ 4 (神武4).

Chinese Qixi festival
Shén wǔ 4’s (神武4) celebrated Qixi Festival with an event, where players could get currency from completing daily quests, and exchange it for prizes. Festivities also included a separate marriage event where, when players got married in the game during the event, they got a limited-time gift box.

Events

Top War: Battle Game x Transformers collaboration event
During the Top War x Transformers event, defeating Dark Forces and participating in rallies rewarded players Energon, which they could donate to Optimus Prime to help him recover and reward supplies in return.

New on the market

Finally, let’s see what happened in China’s top-grossing 200 list last month. It seems that there are a few tough players among the new entrants…

Japan Market Overview

  • LifeAfter added a new playable race, the Revenants, with a huge update along with a whole lot of fresh content and other events.
    • Revenants are a half-infected race that has whole new combat mechanics, gathering abilities, and skills. When attacking, Revenants use up Parasitic Vitality: once that is drained, a gauge for sanity will start depleting, and if it reaches zero, the Revenant will turn into an infected. Revenants even have a new profession available. They can also harvest materials without tools.
LifeAfter's Revenants
In LifeAfter, players can choose Revenant as their character’s race when starting a game, and older players can switch to Revenant by completing the introductory questline.
  • Rise of Kingdoms (―万国覚醒―) held a Summer Festival event, which included an ​exclusive summer themed story with new chapters opening as the event progressed, festive preparation with clear missions within seven days to earn rewards, and much more.
Rise of Kingdoms' Summer festival
Rise of Kingdoms’ Summer Festival event included an ​exclusive summer themed story with new chapters opening as the event progressed. The aim was to provide players with an incentive to return to find out what the new chapter contains.
  • Princess Connect! Re:Dive (プリンセスコネクト!Re:Dive) introduced a large-scale co-op event, Legion War. The event was essentially a series of large asynchronous co-op battles played server-wide, meaning that even though each player attacks the bosses individually, all the players attack the same boss. Hence the boss’ health bar is shared with everyone.
    • Players can set up Support characters for other players to use. If a player has a low-level team, they can use some of the available Support characters to strengthen their team and up their damage.
Princess Connect! Re:Dive's Support characters
Princess Connect! Re:Dive’s Support characters are characters set by other players that everyone can use in the event battle. This is a useful feature for players that don’t yet have high-level characters.
  • Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ゼロから始める異世界生活 リゼロス) held its first ever story event, Summer Party. Part 1 of the Summer Party event included nine stages, each with about 3-6 battle levels to clear. Some of these levels also had a story chapter depicting the main characters on a beach outing battling octopi, splitting melons, etc. A few stages also forced event characters in the party, allowing for a test drive before purchase from the event gachas.

As we can see, the Japanese mobile game market seems to have been full of event after event in August. In addition to previous events, our JP analyst spotted some end-of-season festivities, which are usually related to watching fireworks (Summer Hanabi events). These types of events were at least in the games like The Symphony of Dragon and Girls (ドラゴンとガールズ交響曲), Saint Seiya Rising Cosmo (聖闘士星矢ライジングコスモ), and ディズニー ツムツムランド.

Collaboration events

Kotodaman x Kamen Rider collaboration event
Kotodaman x Kamen Rider collaboration event included whopping eight collaboration gachas
Chain Chronicle's collaboration event with Sword Art Online
Chain Chronicle’s collaboration event with Sword Art Online made the game pop up from 300’s to 100’s in top-grossing.
  • In Japan, FFBE幻影戦争 WAR OF THE VISIONS’ collaborated with Final Fantasy XV in August. The battles featured enemies from FFXV, and players could unlock special weapons belonging to collaboration characters through the battles. Special Chocobo Expedition location was available for slowly accumulating collaboration materials. All players got a free Prompto from a special gacha banner, while Noctis and Aranea could be obtained from other banners.
    • If you didn’t know yet, voice actors are highly regarded in Japan. To celebrate the marriage of one of the game’s voice actors, War of the Visions FFBE offered a free 10x gacha pull for all players, which gave the players the character she voice acts, one set of awakening materials, and a special max awakened ring accessory.
War of the Visions FFBE
To celebrate the marriage of one of the game’s voice actors, War of the Visions FFBE offered a free 10x gacha pull for all players.
  • Puyo Puyo!! Quest (ぷよぷよ!!クエスト) organized a month-long collaboration event with Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu! Fourteen characters from the series make an appearance, and seven of the normal Puyo Puyo!! Quest characters dress up in Re:Zero style for the event. The characters can be obtained from two event gachas (one free 10 pull offered for both), and all players get the character Subaru as a gift.
  • Ash Tale (Ash Tale-風の大陸-) had a collaboration event with Nonyaara. Nonyaara is a Taiwanese cartoon cat with content mostly on social media platforms. The event included, for example, collaboration prizes, tasks, offers, and two minigames.
  • LINE PokoPoko collaborated with manga and anime series Urusei Yatsura. Players were able to play event levels with Urusei Yatsura’s Ramu as a puzzle piece.

Anniversary events

  • Umamusume Pretty Derby (ウマ娘 プリティーダービー) celebrated its half anniversary with a generous login calendar including gems (2400 in total), event support cards, and 3000 gems gifted to players (for perspective, ten gacha pulls cost 1500 gems), and a one-time half anniversary gacha guaranteeing a 3-star character for 1500 paid gems.
Umamusume Pretty Derby's anniversary event
Umamusume Pretty Derby’s anniversary event came with a very generous login calendar.
  • NieR Re[in]carnation celebrated its half anniversary in Japan. There was an event storyline with a surprisingly heartwarming plot for a NieR game. Even the enemies wore birthday cake hats. By farming the event quests, players got event currency that could be used to exchange a special max rarity costume version of the main character. Using featured event characters and their weapons gave additional event currency as a drop.
NieR Re[in]carnation’s anniversary event
NieR Re[in]carnation’s anniversary event included an event storyline with a surprisingly heartwarming plot for a NieR game. 😉

New on the market

Finally, let’s take a look at new interesting games that entered Japan’s top 200 grossing list in August:

  • State of Survival was released for Japan’s mobile game market. If you didn’t know, the game was discontinued for Japan in July, pending a new release on a separate ID. The game is currently ranking around top-grossing 125.
  • Marvel Future Revolution also made its debut on Japan’s top-grossing 100 list.
  • Another interesting top-grossing entrant, peaking in the top-grossing 35, is Nogizakateki Furakutaru (乃木坂的フラクタル), a musical auto-battle RPG featuring the girl group Nogizaka46.

Get our latest news in a monthly digest into your inbox!

Trusted by leading game studios and publishers

Zynga logoWooga logoG5 Games logoRovio logoUbisoft logoWargaming mobile logoFunplus logoGameInsight logoludia grey logoMag Interactive logoPixonic logo