Last March was an update-filled month for mobile game markets, and especially the US market saw several interesting new games entering the US top 200 grossing list. Moreover, Japan’s market continues to be dominated by the quirky interactive story about derby horse girls that we first introduced in the previous Analyst Bulletin. But without further ado, let’s see what other mobile game market highlights our game analysts have picked for us this time.
The data and examples shown here are gathered from the GameRefinery service, which you can access here. If you’re interested in checking more than 2.5k unique, high-quality overview pages across our genre taxonomy & markets, you might want to pay a visit!
US Market Overview
- Brawl Stars revamped Power Play game mode into a Power League.
- Genshin Impact’s newest update revolves around The Windblume Festival. This event also includes multiple things, e.g., the event’s main storyline quests with a bunch of voice-acted dialogue/cutscenes and various mini-games types.
- PUBG Mobile celebrated its 3rd anniversary with an update filled with plenty of stuff, such as new limited-time Hundred Rhythms- mode and anniversary celebrations in the Cheer Park (the social hang-around area in the game).
- Roblox celebrated the 8th Annual Bloxy Awards event, which was definitely brought to the next level compared to the previous Bloxy events. The event contains a hangout hub with, e.g., a scavenger hunt for exclusive rewards, a spaceship that takes the players through different games in the Roblox metaverse, the awards, and a rock concert by Royal Blood.
- Mobile Legends introduced a Survival Nexus event with Battle Royale mode, in which players control the new hero Beatrix while looting, surviving in a shrinking map, and killing other players in the usual battle royale fashion.
- It has been a while since the last big Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes update so the latest update brought a welcomed new game mode addition, called Conquest, to the game.
- June’s Journey’s new loyalty card system offers players some extra rewards for all the purchases they make. Every time player makes a purchase, the card gets a stamp. To claim the rewards, players need to fill the card with stamps, and the reward amount is based on the money amount the player has spent.
- Coin Master’s new Teams-feature brings guild mechanics to the game.
- Candy Crush Soda Saga’s Bear Brawl is live, bringing PvP/competition aspects and loads of other related features to the game.
- Two Dots x Chobani collaboration event introduced a completely new event mechanics; word puzzles! Players must figure out what word the Chobani themed image represents and form the correct word from the available letters. Chobani is a Greek Yogurt brand, and various Chobani ads are running in between the event levels.
The ongoing Battle Pass trend is not weakening. More and more games added BP mechanics to boost retention and monetization (e.g., House of Fun: Casino Slots 777).
All in all, March was a busy month for new interesting games entering the US top 200 grossing list. Here are some of the most interesting ones:
- Royal Match (entered top 100 grossing)
- League of Legends: Wild Rift (US open beta release and instantly jumped top 50 grossing. If you’re interested in finding out more about LoL: Wild Rift, we wrote in December an analysis of the game’s soft launch version and compared the game to its competitors in the current market.)
- Match Masters (older game, but ground its way to top 200 grossing with constant feature updates)
- Magic: The Gathering Arena
Another highlight of the month was the release of Crash Bandicoot: On the Run by King. The game has been the top one in downloads for several days since the launch and recently broke into the top 200 grossing.
China Market Overview
- Battle of Balls (球球大作战) introduced asymmetric recurring PvP-mode.
- Call of Duty: Mobile (使命召唤手游) added new game modes. New game modes are
A) 5v5 “rage mode,” the team with more points wins the match, 1 point for a kill, but if a player is in “rage” state he can score 2 points with each kill, “rage” triggers after getting a kill
B) Battle Royale submode with small prison map
C) Battle Royale submode, where players can collect materials to build a tank for their team.
- In Popkart Mobile (跑跑卡丁车官方竞速版), players can now visit inside their houses at their home base and buy furniture, windows, floors, etc. to decorate their homes. The update also brought a new photo community mode. Players can share photos and upgrade their photo community level by completing tasks like liking other people’s photos.
- Rise of Kingdoms (万国觉醒) introduces guild competition PVP mode “Osiris League” (already exists outside of China), as well as collaboration event with Ninja Gaiden 3
- Langrisser (梦幻模拟战) included Clash Royale style PVP game mode in a live event.
New interesting games that entered the Chinese top-grossing and downloads list in March are sidescrolling ARPG WangChuan FengHuaLu (忘川风华录) from NetEase Games, and Kalpa of Universe (天地劫：幽城再临), an RPG with superior production values from ZlongGames, the same developer that developed Langrisser Mobile. Both games had their launch this March.
Moreover, Sky: Children of Light (光·遇) was again in China’s top 10 grossing list (due to Days of Bloom event update celebrating spring), which is very interesting considering how unique and lightly monetized game this is compared to the majority of the Chinese market.
Japan Market Overview
March’s big collaborations:
- Duel Masters Play’s (デュエル・マスターズ プレイス) had a collaboration event with WIXOSS, a multimedia franchise with a trading card game, anime, and manga.
- Monster Strike (モンスターストライク) had a collaboration event with Kamen Rider.
- Kotodaman (コトダマン-共闘ことばRPG) + Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba collaboration.
- Grand Summoners + Hatsune Miku -vocaloid collaboration.
- 実況パワフルプロ野球 had a collaboration with yakyuu-player Kenta Maeda and Japan’s most successful Youtuber Hikaru. In the update, both Kenta Maeda and Hikaru were made into playable event characters.
Other major game updates:
- Hypnosis Mic -Alternative Rap Battle- (ヒプノシスマイク -A.R.B-) had a massive 1st-anniversary event and UI overhaul that caused a nice revenue spike.
- バンドリ！ ガールズバンドパーティ! celebrated its fourth anniversary.
- The Seven Deadly Sins: Grand Cross (七つの大罪 光と闇の交戦: グラクロ) celebrated 30 million downloads with a set of events. The Battle Pass (Hawk Pass) system was also revamped with currency and shop for this big update.
Japan market’s other March highlights include Uma Musume Pretty Derby’s (ウマ娘 プリティーダービー) ongoing domination of Japan’s top-grossing list’s top place and back-to-school medical exam themed event with thermometers, scales and stethoscopes as event currency in mahjong game Jantama (雀魂 -じゃんたま-).
Japan is also celebrating Hanami (means “flower viewing” in Japanese, the traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of cherry blossoms), so a few of the games in Japan market are having Hanami-dedicated seasonal events to celebrate festivities.
- Puzzle-RPG Gotoubun no Hanayome Itsutsugo-chan ha Pazuru wo Gotoubun Dekinai (五等分の花嫁五つ子ちゃんはパズルを五等分できない) celebrated Hanami with a seasonal event update that added a social element, teams, to the game for the first time.
- 暴走列伝 単車の虎 (Bike gang delinquent -game) added a Hanami-themed park area with event functions: a boost gacha, energy-refill onsen, event shop.
If you’re interested in different seasonal events that game developers usually use to find new and exciting ways to drive player engagement, check out this blog post on how to drive up your revenues with seasonal events.
New interesting games that entered Japan’s top 200 grossing list were:
- Shining Nikki (シャイニングニキ)
- Kin Iro no Koruda Starlight Orchestra (金色のコルダ スターライトオーケストラ), music-themed pretty boy adventures game
- Dynasty Warriors (真・三國無双), Action RPG based on Hack and Slash console game series by the same name
- Warau Arusunotoria (咲う アルスノトリア), turn-based RPG
Q&A with the GameRefinery’s Game Analysts
Our next interviewee in the Q&A series is GameRefinery’s Senior Game Analyst (Japan), Sonja Skoglund.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your current role and what it entails?
I have worked as a part-time analyst at GameRefinery in the Japan team for 4 years while studying and finally started as a full-time analyst around last Christmas. My background is in Japanese language and cultural studies, so I would consider my understanding of Japanese pop culture to be my strength as a Japanese market analyst.
My everyday work consists mainly of playing and analyzing games, keeping the market data up to date, and adding new games’ feature sets to the database, as well as together with the whole analyst team participating in developing and fine-tuning our game feature palette and genre taxonomy to better reflect the current markets. My expertise lies in the Japanese market, so I try to bring that viewpoint into our daily discussions and shared knowledge base as much as possible. I am also responsible for localizing our SaaS to the Japanese language.
How did you first get into games?
I fell in love with the Game Boy Pokemon Yellow and Silver as a kid. We were only allowed a PC at my childhood home and were not really encouraged to seek out PC games, so we kids went crazy whenever we could borrow our neighbours’ Game Boy or PS and play the Pokemon games or Crash Bandicoot and what not. After The Sims games, the next time I got really into playing was when I got introduced to the Final Fantasy series and remembered the incredible feeling of exploring a fantasy world, that was the biggest driver for me in the Pokemon games. Nowadays, it is very exciting to find something like that on mobile as well!
People are often intrigued about the unique nature of the Japanese mobile gaming market. Can you name something particular that would be useful or interesting to know about the market?
One major point, in my opinion, is the utilization of Characters with a big ‘C.’ Character driven TBRPG’s are the bread and butter of the Japanese market, but their secret goes beyond the genre’s inbuilt focus on characters’ battle prowess and strategic development. There is a lot of effort put into developing “soulful” characters, creating the background stories and visual styles, introducing visual novel elements, arranging voice acting, utilizing well-loved character archetypes and tropes, and mixing and matching those in a new way in order to create something that resonates – something you will get hooked into and want to see more of. When you combine this effort in detail with mechanics that “allow” (urge) you to unlock and collect more secrets of your favorite characters, the effect is very powerful.
In your opinion, what do you think mobile games will look like 5 years from now?
Whew, five years is a very long time! Gaming, in general, has become a very mainstream, whole family pastime while the generation that has grown up with games have already for some time been building their own families and a culture where gaming is not just a marginalized “nerdy” thing. Everybody has a smartphone now, so one thing we have already seen is complex, almost PC/console-level games developed for the mobile game markets for hardcore players to heavily engage in, while at the same time casual gaming has become a huge thing and the number of titles and effort put into them has grown substantially. I would imagine that we will see more and more variety in player demographic groups that will be open to targeting, and therefore more and more titles that will try and succeed(!) in covering different unassuming niches. Educational games and the gamification of learning processes are one thing I am personally very interested in and would like to and expect to see more on mobile gaming markets. There’s one line of approach for Finland’s education export projects!…
It is a cliche, but I would also guess that there will always be some level of ambition in developing special kinds of technologies (such as VR glasses) and new ways of utilizing existing technology (such as location tracking). Some of those will be buried in history as discarded gimmicks, but there is always a chance for something yet unimaginable to become an integrated part of (or at least an established way of spicing up) mobile gaming. Whether they will be successful or not, I am personally looking forward to seeing some crazy innovations!