By Shaan Khan
The business venture of mobile app games is a lucrative one, seeing as though it sits on a multi-billion-dollar industry that’s more profitable than any other entertainment sector.
We almost all own a mobile phone these days, so when in need of a distraction, it’s very convenient for us to open up the app store and dabble in some gaming anywhere, whether on public transport or hiding in the office toilets.
While these games garner lots of downloads, their true key to success is audience retention and most importantly—monetisation strategies.
Let’s look at the most successful games of last year and what earned them to be on this list.
1 – Subway Surfers
Screenshot Courtesy of subwaysurfers on Instagram
Released all the way back in 2012, this game where you endlessly run while dodging subways still holds the top place a decade later with 191 million downloads in 2021!
The game clearly offers an addictive grind. This is monetised by giving players the ability to purchase in-game coins with real money that can be used to unlock characters, hoverboards, and upgrades to improve the players’ chance of getting higher scores.
While 2021 revenue hasn’t been reported, it’s expected to be close to its 2020 revenue report, generating a crazy $30 billion USD that blows the rest of these games out of the water in earnings!
2 – PUBG Mobile
Screenshot Courtesy of pubgmobile on Instagram
Popular PC game that was ported to mobiles in 2018 has spiked in success since the release, with 182 million downloads in 2021 while generating $2.8 billion USD!
It’s an online battle royale game similar to Fortnite and COD: Warzone but was created before the two and arguably inspired both games. In 2021, the game amassed 520 million players at its peak, easily making this the most popular online game on this list.
3 – Honor of Kings
Screenshot Courtesy of honor_of_kings_tw on Instagram
One of Tencent’s most successful games and that says a lot with the expansive catalogue of popular games they own the licenses to. Sales for HoK increased over 14.7% year-over-year, generating $2.8 billion USD in 2021.
This multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) is catching up fast to becoming the most popular mobile game app—the League of Legends of mobile gaming.
4 – Roblox
Screenshot Courtesy of roblox on Instagram
The online social, child-friendly game with Minecraft-style graphics has blown up on the scene in the past few years on mobile. Roblox doubled its revenue between 2019 to 2020, going from $435 million USD to $920 million USD!
While its 2021 revenue report isn’t available, you can get a good idea of an estimate by keeping in mind that Roblox scored 158 million downloads in 2020 while now breaking that record with 182 million downloads in 2021! So it’s highly plausible Roblox broke into the billions for revenue.
5 – Genshin Impact
Screenshot Courtesy of genshinimpact on Instagram
This ARPG, with its anime-style graphics and open-world gameplay, has surged through the ratings while only being released in 2020! Even billionaire Elon Musk had tweeted about playing this game!
Genshin Impact amassed $1.8 billion USD in 2021 and makes its revenue by offering players in-game transactions that allow them to purchase cosmetic items, time savers to make the game less grindy and a form of loot box known as gacha that will select you a random prize.
The game received 182 million downloads which was the same amount as PUBG. However, it generated less money, proving PUBG’s items up for purchase were more appealing to players compared to Genshin Impact’s purchasable items.
6 – Coin Master
Screenshot Courtesy of coinmasterofficial on Instagram
Created by a game dev studio from Israel, known as Moon Active, Coin Master is a game driven by gambling mechanics. To build or destroy a village, you must earn coins by spinning a wheel. However, the number of spins is limited, so you purchase more spins with real money.
Well, clearly players love their villages and destroying others since Coin Master has achieved 100 million downloads in its lifetime and generated an impressive $1.3 billion USD.
7 – Candy Crush Saga
Screenshot Courtesy of coolboyankurrj14 on Instagram
Another giant in mobile gaming that’s still holding onto its relevancy despite being released in 2012.
It’s the king amongst casual games. While not being as popular as Subway Surfer that came out in the same year, Candy Crush has been increasing its popularity over the past few years, unlike Subway Surfer, which is a positive sign for the future.
Candy Crush saga managed to generate $1.2 Billion USD in 2021!
8 – Garena Free Fire
Screenshot Courtesy of garenafreefiremena on Instagram
The second battle royale game to be brought up in this list was once the most downloaded game globally in 2019, but in 2021 it managed to pull in 154 million downloads and generated $1.1 billion dollars USD.
The game was developed in Singapore and has a large market in Asia, and arguably its greatest competition is PUBG mobile.
9 – Among Us
Screenshot Courtesy of among_us_official.01 on Instagram
The online viral sensation was once the most downloaded mobile game in 2020. Among Us is an online social deduction game that is one of a kind compared to other popular mobile games.
While the game once amassed a shocking 264 million downloads back in 2020, the hype around Among Us has settled down slightly, with its number of downloads reaching 152 million in 2021.
10 – Pokémon Go
Screenshot Courtesy of pokemongoapp on Instagram
Another game that once was viral has still held onto success six years after its release and worldwide craze!
People still love to go outside and catch virtual Pokémon seeing as the game generated $905,000 million USD in 2021, but it seems like in the following year, Pokémon Go might be on its way to exit this list.
Bio: Shaan Khan is the Author of ‘Red Scales’, a mystery thriller novel available on Amazon.com, and a Freelance Content Writer that creates blog articles on almost anything—including Entertainment, Technology, Socioeconomics and Gaming!
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