Mobile Games Brought in More Revenue in 2016 Than PCs and Console Games

Last year mobile games brought in over 40 billion dollars in worldwide revenue. To put it in perspective, that's more than 2016's global movie box office revenue of 38 billion dollars, and the music industry's 15.1 billion dollar revenue. Cell phone games saw an 18 percent increase over the year before, with mobile gamers in the US alone, generating 24.8 billion dollars in revenue. The US is also the only country in the world where iOS gamers outnumber those on Android devices, despite the fact that Android gamers represent 78 percent of the global gaming market.

Related: MOBA Madness: The Top 7 Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas for iOS

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Granted, 40.5 billion dollars is an impressive figure; however, I strongly feel that we've barely scratched the surface in terms of how mobile devices will revolutionize the gaming world. These portable, handheld gaming devices are poised to bring in far more revenue when you consider the fact that premium games that charge top dollar for a premium experience have only barely begun to become available on mobile. Sure, there are some mobile titles that we've seen that have charged a relatively high dollar amount, in the $5 to $15 price range; a lot for mobile, but by and large, the majority of games make their money from in-app purchases, instead of a pay once for a full game approach. The in-app purchase model is obviously working well for mobile games, as they've outpaced traditional console games in profits for two years now. And unlike the console gaming platform, mobile games have brought in phenomenal profits without a lot of money being spent in purchasing the game itself.

While it can be said that not all free mobile games are created equal, there are many great ones out there, ones that don't employ an exploitive "freemium" or pay-to-play pricing model. But many of the freemium titles available for mobile do have what feels to me, like an often barely tolerable pay wall that either hobbles players and limits their gaming experience, or encourages them to invest in virtual currency to expand or enrich their access and enjoyment of said game. I believe that as the major gaming houses enter the mobile gaming market, which they are already doing we will see even greater revenue being generated by mobile games. As more games start charging for a premium, AAA gaming experience on mobile, fewer and fewer gamers will think to even raise an eyebrow at the cost of their favorite games.

Consider these not so subtle hints of things to come:

  • Several tremendously popular console games like Bioshock and Assassin's Creed have already been faithfully ported to mobile, although to mixed reviews.

  • Successful franchises like FIFA, Call of Duty, NBA 2K, are highly acclaimed premium staples of the App Store.

  • Activision's Blizzard recently acquired King, makers of the ridiculously profitable Candy Crush Saga; while more recently, gaming powerhouse Tencent acquired Supercell, maker of top-grossing games Clash of Clans and Clash Royale.

  • The iOS game with the strongest legitimate eSport community is mobile MOBA Vainglory, complete with multiple tournament events each year that award hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes and have attracted competitive teams from many of the world's top eSports franchises. Vainglory was built from the ground up to be the definitive MOBA for touchscreens (think Overwatch, DotA 2, or League of Legends) by alumni of Riot, Rockstar, and Blizzard.

  • Finally, and perhaps most notably, while mobile gaming brought in 41 billion in revenue, PC gaming brought in a respectable 34 billion dollars in 2016 and console games only brought in 6.6 billion dollars, a number that's up from 5.7 billion in console games for 2015.

In spite of recent research that indicates that the majority of mobile game have a serious problem retaining users for any length of time, I still anticipate that mobile devices will continue to revolutionize and transform the predominant way human beings game for the coming generation. I expect that mobile games will begin to generate a greater percentage of their revenue from AAA titles charging more for their full unlocked game, while the obviously successful in-app purchase, micro-transaction model for mobile games will continue to flourish. And as crowded as the App Store marketplace is, there is definitely more room for top-quality mobile games, and specifically, more room for premium mobile games (think VR for instance) that offer a truly console-caliber gaming experience and command a significantly higher price tag than what many are currently accustomed to investing in a mobile title.

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Dig Om's picture

As Senior Gear Editor at iPhone Life, Dig reports on the latest and greatest accessories built for the iOS ecosystem. From rugged gear and Bluetooth speakers, to headphones, unique iDevice cases, and iOS remote controlled vehicles, Dig's articles cover a wide range of great gear for the iPhone and iPad. A core gamer for over three decades, Dig also writes iPhone Life's Game Centered column, which focuses on the best iOS games and game related news. Additionally, Dig's company, iDoc Tech Support, offers web design and administration services as well as iPhone and iPad repairs. When not at his work desk, Dig loves spending time with family and enjoying the wonders of nature. You can follow him on Twitter @idoctech