Sega Networks and Sensor Tower partnered to release their 2016 Mobile Gaming Trends Report. While it's worth noting that findings from these reports are often estimates that can vary by a lot based on the sources that various firms have for their data, this report contains something particularly interesting. There were two new games released in 2016 that crossed the $100m revenue threshold in the important US market: Clash Royale [Free] and Pokemon GO [Free]. But what's interesting is that no other game even came close, according to Sensor Tower's estimates. Next up would be Lords Mobile with an estimated $18.1 million in revenue off of 4.1 million downlaods in the US, and then Super Mario Run [Free] with an estimated $16.4 million in the US off of 16.6 million downloads. Which would suggest that Nintendo might have seen an exceptional 10-14% conversion rate on the full game unlock, and yet a traditional free-to-play game in Fire Emblem Heroes [Free] still earned more. Plus, look at Lords Mobile's downloads: a quarter of the downloads, and about the same revenue.

But this just goes to show how different the mobile gaming world is. When you talk about games-as-a-service, that means that developers aren't forced to constantly put out new games one after another because they need to keep the money flow coming in. When it becomes possible to spur new purchases by just adding new content and features to existing titles, new releases don't have to happen. Yet, it goes to show that it's tough to break in against the entrenched titles. The two games that did really well were a Clash of Clans [Free] spinoff and a unique Pokemon game. Some of the other data in the report, summarized in a Gamasutra post, points out that downloads for apps are spread out among the various rankings, while revenue is clustered twoard the top. As such, there are multiple ways to compete on mobile: go Ketchapp-style with many releases and aim for ad revenue and utilize cross-promotion, or go big with a free-to-play game. And if you're an indie, well...you're playing in a totally different ballpark.

  • korossyl

    Holy cow! So... if I'm reading this right... Super Mario Run had a 10% IAP purchase rate!? That's like, huge, isn't it? Okay, so F2P still might be king, but that's a mighty fine showing, isn't it?

    • PenelopeLandysh

      thats what i was thinking as well. i thought nintendo said that fire emblem was doing better than SMR and yet it's not on the list?!

      • korossyl

        Well, I'm pretty sure FE only came out this year.

      • BGB

        The list is only of games released in 2016. Fire Emblem Heroes was released in 2017.

  • BGB

    The big mistake Nintendo made with Super Mario Run is offering a free sample at all. They should have just made it a paid app with no IAPs. In the app store, there are only three charts for apps: Top Paid, Top Free, and Top Grossing. The latter two are dominated by exploitative microtransations and grind-filled games like Candy Crush. Super Mario Run, as a quality game that you only have to pay once for the full experience, really belongs on the paid charts alongside the Five Nights at Freddy's series, Square Enix's paid apps, and Minecraft: Pocket Edition. That way, they would have gotten a continuing stream of revenue from people who are actually willing to pay for a good game seeing it on the top charts. As it is now, Super Mario Run is smothered by a ton of ad-spamming and IAP-filled games, and it gets a bunch of negative reviews from people who were never going to buy it anyways (I saw some user reviews in the app store say things like "all iphone games should be free, so this gets a 1/5"). Square Enix doesn't have that problem, even though their games cost MORE than Super Mario Run, because in a paid app, only actual customers can rate it.

    • korossyl

      Interesting idea, but do people actually use top charts to find games? Especially paid ones? I always find figured that the type of people who pay for games are the type of people who don't rely on those charts -- that is, TA's clientele. SE may not have negative reviews from surprised idiots, but neither have their apps (that I know of) made anything close to SMR.

      Or I could be completely wrong!

      • MikeAK

        Ehh, I think a lot more people than you may realize use the paid games/apps charts. I still use them occasionally to see wats "trending" per se, tho I do always read reviews to see the legitimacy. I easily have 1200-1500$ of premium games and I would guess nearly half were found thru the App Store charts.

        Another EXTREMLY surprising bit on this is that Mario Run had what?? 7 weeks in 2016 to hit those numbers while many/most others on the list were released waaaay earlier in the year. Kinda neat, if accurate!

      • korossyl

        Hm, guess so! Another good argument why the app store UI itself BADLY needs reform.

      • Raj Satra

        Mario Run....maybe here....within 7 weeks.....but do u really think it gonna be there for more.....I dont think so.....Vlash Royale nd Pokemon Go has many future plans nd gonna rule next ateast 3 years.....though they are totally free apps over all devices.....nd I truely dont check trending page for games....

    • HelperMonkey

      Solid point.
      It might matter that the game came out in November; much later than others on the list. Maybe it has earned more since.
      Or maybe it hasn't.
      The trick with AppStore profits is in getting that long tail.
      Your example points to just one of the many decisions that can have big impacts. It's tough to predict, and tough to get right, and tough to adjust after the fact.

  • Misguided

    People keep acting like Super Mario Run was a failure and that freemium is dead, yet it was one of the top earners, beating out hordes of f2p titles.

  • Antonio Mercurio

    pokemon go and clash royale.. nice i play those two games heavely

  • Aaron C

    Erm... didn't Nintendo themselves publicly say they didn't hit the 10% conversion target? Which would make this report.. er.. wrong?

    • korossyl

      Well, at $10 for the IAP, 16.6 million downloads should have resulted in 16.6 million dollars, so they came up $200k short. That's a 9.88% conversion rate, so... yeah.

  • Zaraf

    Where are Game of War and Clash of Clans? Aren't they always around the top as well? I never see Lords Mobile anywhere near the top.

    • bones boy

      They didn't come out in 2016.

    • Stormourner of the Nature

      a simple answer: some games can't stay on the top for too long

    • Cameron Fenton

      If you look at the full report, Game of War made 518.5 million, and Clash of Clans made 414.2 million. So, both still made way more in 2016 than any new release.

  • bones boy

    I cannot figure out that Tap Sports Baseball franchise. People spend a ton of IAP on gold and other things to build up a great team, only for Glu to come out with a spanking new game the next year and then you have to start all over again. And people do it! And all for a game whose only claim to reall baseball and management is that they use real player's names. I mean, basically, you tap to hit. There are much more realistic SIMs out there endorsed by MLBPA, and I'm sure they are raking in the dough. But year after year, TSB is on the top of the list.

  • BeatingdownCam

    Go clash royale

  • Cameron Fenton

    For comparison, the only paid game I saw on the charts in any genre was Minecraft, and it made ~30 million in 2016.

  • Popsux

    Whaaaaat? Nintendo released an iPhone Mario game!!! I must have been sleeping under a rock or maybe I was born yesterday. Like they told me astronauts have been to the moon... yeah right. Well, maybe i should bring more iPhones to the Amish people! And start 4th grade over again and quit my janitor job. I'm done scrubbing toilet bowls!!