Video games based on well-known and strong franchises are always on the crest of the wave and it’s no wonder that many of these IPs are reaching the mobile shores. We have already talked about the potential that this market makes available to software houses and publishers (you are just a click away from our special on how free to play companies earn), especially as regards the purely profitable aspect, but at the same time it is important go and analyze the trend in a more transversal way, to understand where this migration comes from.
How advertising becomes targeted
Let’s start with an important premise: the possibility of removing the Advertising Identifier (IDFA) introduced by Apple has represented an epochal change with regard to the mobile market and the ecosystem that revolves around smartphones and tablets. We’re talking about a random identifier assigned by Apple to each individual user who owns a device: advertisers, when IDFA is active, have the ability to track these identifiers by creating specific targets, sending personalized advertising to selected users.
In this way, those involved in digital marketing can intervene with targeted strategies so as not to waste the budget and have a concrete chance of communicating something to a specific audience. The particularity of IDFA lies in the fact that the device is depersonalized, therefore all the information collected is anonymous and it is the device that becomes the target, not the person who uses it. This system has changed the way advertising from a mobile point of view is conceived and reasoned, with publishers who have decided to focus strongly on diversifying the ways in which users are acquired organically. Likewise, the sheer amount of revenue generated by this type of market has attracted the inevitable attention of the major players in the gaming industry. In short, nothing could be easier, and we could end our analysis here too: large IPs arrive on mobile, not only for quick and immediate gains, but also because smartphones and tablets maximize the diffusion of intellectual property, allowing the catchment area linked to them is substantial.
The biggest franchises on mobile
Until last year, therefore 2021, the three franchises capable of generating the most revenue from the mobile dimension were Marvel with $2.2 billion raised between 2015 and 2021, Journey to the West, based on a Chinese IP of the 16th century, and Onmyoji, a Japanese-style turn-based RPG linked to a novel published in 1988. We are talking about 5.4 billion in revenue for the first and 1.1 billion for the second. Very high numbers, as you can see, which certainly struggle to keep up with Marvel, now the protagonist of this autumn window together with Snap (retrieve our review of Marvel Snap here), but which ensure their respective publishers an excellent income.
We specify that 99% of the revenues generated by Journey to the West, according to reports made by Newzoo, come from China and that 90% of the amount is connected to in-app purchases through Fantasy Westward Journey and Westward Journey, both NetEase MMORPGs . As regards, however, Onmyoji we are on the same wavelength: even the Japanese title is very popular in China. Marvel, for its part, generates a large part of the earnings thanks to Marvel Contest of Champions, known in Italy as Sfida dei champions, developed by Kabam and available from December 10, 2014 on iOS and Android. A fighting game, for those unfamiliar with it, which has kept a large part of the mobile market in check for 8 years. Over the years it has earned more than 700 million dollars in the United States alone, becoming the most popular game among those based on an IP.
A success that Kabam is riding and which in 2019 led the software house to introduce up to 150 characters. The market created around the product is such as to have huge support from the point of view of influencers and content creators. Marvel recently tried again with Strike Force, released in 2018: in 2020 alone it took home $90 million in revenue.
Between downloads and conversions
We have talked about earnings, but not downloads, at the moment: on the other hand, a downloaded game does not necessarily have to generate revenue, as we have already explained in our in-depth study on how earnings work on smartphones and tablets. Always remaining anchored to the Newzoo report, we find that among the five most downloaded franchises, in addition to the obvious Marvel, there are Despicable Me (do you remember the endless run that was fashionable in 2013 with the Minions?), Transformers and of course Disney , think for example of the success of Dreamlight Valley.
Now the market is buzzing with the arrival of Battlefield Mobile, expected for the end of 2022 and ready, in some way, to relaunch the DICE brand, which had communicated its intention to arrive on smartphones in April 2021. There will be initially limited access, as always happens for mobile launches, preceded by a soft launch in some countries, including Indonesia and the Philippines.
It will be totally free, with EA Mobile playing a lot on in-app purchases to hopefully obtain huge earnings: between cosmetics and items that will improve the experience – leaving pay-per-win items out of this territory – there it will also be the advertisements that will allow Electronic Arts to generate even more revenue with its Battlefield. This is not a novelty in the field of shooters, because Activision had already entrusted Tencent Games with its Call of Duty Mobile, released on September 30, 2019: in its first month of life, the game reached 148 million downloads with around 54 million dollars in revenue, marking the best launch in mobile gaming history.
In May of this year, downloads exceeded half a billion, a milestone that accompanied the stratospheric figure of 1.5 billion dollars collected worldwide, between microtransactions and advertisements. It is therefore not surprising that Battlefield wants to establish itself in this specific sector.
Who will be next?
Just a year and a half has passed since Sony admitted that it wanted to bring many of its IPs to mobile: a development plan that would last three to five years, so as to generate a much higher profit with in-app purchases and advertising revenue. We are talking about a strategy that has a key element of the analysis on its side: between the microconductor crisis and the impossibility of ensuring a PlayStation 5 in the homes of all gamers in the world, Sony will be able to attack the mobile market certain of the fact that everyone has at least one smartphone.
In short, over time the mobile market could continue to engulf parts of the console and PC market, with the new generations who, despite not having a computer and not knowing how to send an email, easily edit a reel to publish it on TikTok. Already today, mobile platforms are in possession of 53% of the earnings generated by the gaming world: more is played on the phone and it is certainly a game accessible to anyone. Newzoo completes its report by specifying that 59% of gamers in South Korea play on mobile, while there is a 10.8% growth in the Middle East and Africa in this specific segment. We are referring to continents and geographical areas that are full of individuals without a console but equipped with a mobile phone to play Marvel Snap and challenge you while you are on the subway in the morning to reach university. And it is there that the big IPs will soon land to attack a well that will find its bottom sooner or later, but not now. Obviously, it won’t be a condemnation for video games on consoles and as we know them, thanks also to all those who will continue to proudly carry the banner of complex playful recipes and intense narratives.