11 Mobile Game Trends of 2021

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Year 2020 set a new mobile game trends. In one hand, COVID-19 complicated working processes. In the other, the game market increased because many people were bored at home. People have more time to watch TV, read books and play games.

So, while the market demand is growing, game developers have chances to profit on it. But what games will be popular in 2021 and what genre you should focus on? Let’s do a market research to find mobile game trends.

The longer the game is, the more they like it

We found out that mobile players mostly like games with infinite gameplay or slow progression. We assume that they play games in short sessions for a few weeks or months, so the simple gameplay doesn’t get to boring. Also, trendy mobile games offer the player achievable goals in order to make progress. The players know, that if they invest some time, they’ll get new mechanics and levels in return.

gardenscapes mobile concept

Here are few examples of “infinite” games: RollerCoaster Tycoon Mobile, Manor Matters, Gardenscapes, Candy Crush and many other mobile games.

Manor Matters core gameplay mechanic is a primitive hidden object game. But the players get addicted to it because of a smart story-telling system based on stars. The player needs to complete a few levels and earn stars in order to exchange stars for the next bit of the story.

RollerCoaster Tycoon is an economic strategy game, one of “Tycoon” series. The mobile version is artificially stretched with timers, energy and other pay to play mechanics. Despite the average ratings, many of iOS users enjoy it. They build amusement parks, wait 5-10 minutes to build one wall and pay to make things faster.

What do these games have in common? Only one thing: in order to win and progress further the players must invest not the skills but their free time. And if they don’t have time, the game forces them to pay.

Minigames as the core gameplay mechanic in game trends now

Minigames appeared in big RPG games to make the players rest from main gameplay mechanics. Then minigames appeared in shooters, action-adventures and other genres.

The best example of a minigame is hacking in Fallout 4. The players mainly wander around with their brain relaxed and shoot wild ghouls. But when they need to hack a computer, they can take a break from thoughtless shooting and concentrate their mind on finding a right password.

fallout hacking minigame

So, the minigame isn’t an important element of gameplay. It’s more like a side quest with interesting mechanics which difficulty can be easily adjusted. It isn’t obligatory to complete every minigame to get to the credits.

Mobile game developers can turn a mini-game mechanic into a fully functional game. For example, to hack something in Bioshock 1 the player had to connect the pipes while the fluid slowly flows. Gamedevs can make a simple game about connecting the pipes because why not?

Simplified graphics is the common trend of mobile games

Mobile hardware is getting better and better, but almost no developers are trying to push the limits and make a next-gen game but for smartphones. Mobile gamers have Fortnite, CoD Mobile, Asphalt and other games with PS3 level of visuals. But do mobile gamers really care about graphics?

mobile game simple graphics

In TOP-10 games on iOS we have Legends of Runeterra, Dandara, Sneaky Sasquatch and other games that can easily run on 5-year-old smartphones. It seems like players don’t care about polygon count and texture resolution as much, as they care about visual style and colors schemes. Why? Because those polygons won’t be visible on 6-inch phone screen.

So instead of making detailed 3D models and drawing textures you may suggest to focus on style. Cell shading and rich colors are a new mobile game trends of 2021.

Target audience is getting older

While we talk about a typical mobile gamer we imagine a teenager. But no — mobile game core audience are the Millennials and not the Gen Z. Report by AdColony shows that younger generation prefers social apps like TikTok and Instagram over games. On the other hand, millennials have more free time to spend in games and more money to pay.

resident evil 3 remake game trend

So, how do you appeal to the millennial audience? You may use nostalgia: copy game mechanics from games popular 10-15 years ago, copy their art design, story and else. Big developers are working on remakes, reboots and HD-versions of Resident Evil, Mass Effect, Diablo and other games which were popular 10-20 years ago. You may take part of this 2021 game trends and revive some classic game by yourself.

They watch games, but don’t play—streaming game trend

Neilsen company reports that 71% of young gamers prefer to watch streamers rather than to play by themselves. Video games have truly become a sport and only 1 of 4 of millennials will watch professional football than a guy beating Sekiro with no damage.

girl streamer art

It sounds strange, but we may suggest to make games understandable for the spectators too. Make the color palette look less acid, turn the contrast up for the characters and interactive objects, use big and simple icons instead of fancy ones. Make the gameplay easy to follow even for the spectators.

Games may be social networks too

If you want to develop a multiplayer game, don’t forget to add social network functionality. This feature must include search, friend list, chat rooms and account personalization. According to ESA (game research company), more than half of gamers play multiplayer games and say that online games help them to have fun with friends. 

social network game trend

Some game developers are already using this fact. Communix made a mobile poker game called Pokerface: a Texas Hold’em with live video chat. The game became popular both on Android and iOS and got average playtime of 42 minutes by user per day. Why don’t use this concept and add videochat for common table games, turn based strategies and other games where the player’s turn isn’t limited by the time? Just imagine Among Us 2 with videochat feature on emergency meeting.

Mobile gamers number is growing, but whale population stays the same

Let’s be honest with ourselves: game development isn’t an art, but a job. Developers and publishers expect the gamers to pay, so the programmers, artists and managers will get paychecks. 

There are many ways of mobile game monetization: ads, microtransaction, DLC and paid games. Roughly speaking, game developers use ads to lure players to their game and make them pay for cosmetic items, resources and time savers. The effectiveness of ads is measured in $ per getting a player and $ per getting a player who pays. 

game ads meme

GameRefinery research shows a new mobile game trends: the cost of getting a user who pay rose from $35 to $44. Mobile game developers expect that this will lead to even greedier monetization system and slow death of free to play games. Most free hypercasual games are flooded with ads. In 2021 the number of ads per minute of gameplay may rise. We expect that the players who have money to pay will switch to paid games, like it currently goes on consoles and PC.

If you have plans to make a mobile game with deep game mechanics, interesting graphics and story, but fear of not getting the money from the audience, then these 2021 mobile game trends may help you. 

Puzzles all the way

Dotcominfoway says that 57% of mobile users play puzzle and arcade games. Action and racing game are on second place with 30-35% users playing them and other genres have less than 15% users interested in them.

puzzle mobile game trend

Conclusion: hypercasual games have the biggest player base. The development process is less expensive because it’ easier to write a simple physics engine in Unity3D than to make a chess supercomputer in  Unreal Engine.

We knew it before, that the mobile gamers prefer hypercasual games over complicated strategies. Now we are sure that this mobile game trend won’t change in 2021.

Pre-registration is the new marketing game trend

NewZoo called pre-registration as a one of the best promotion strategies for mobile games. We do agree with them.

Pre-registration is just like pre-order, but free. The user just types his email to receive news about your game development process and “You can download it now!” notification. Why does it work? Because pre-registration lets you to assess the audience’s interest before spending too much money on development. You can also boost interest with pre-registration bonuses.

But it doesn’t mean that you may forget about buying advertisement, App Store and Google Play page optimization and other promotion methods. They work too.

China isn’t the largest mobile game market in the world

In 2020 US citizens spent on mobile games $36,87M, while players from China spent a little less—$36,54M. But don’t forget that there are only 209 million players in US and 586 million in China.

china panda mobile games

If we calculate the amount of money an average player has spent on mobile games in 2020, we’ll get the next numbers for the biggest mobile markets:

  • China—$62;
  • US—$176;
  • Germany—$448;
  • South Korea—$516;
  • Japan—$592.

As we can see, the most generous players live in Japan, South Korea and Germany. That’s one more argument to why you need to localize your game for Asian and European audience. And, if you are making a multiplayer game, pay attention for this game trend: China isn’t as great market as it seems.

Augmented reality isn’t dead

If you’ll try to name some augmented reality (AR) games, you’ll only come with Pokemon GO. Most players think of AR as a some kind of gimmick: cool to try for 5 minutes, not cool to play every day. But CD Project Red is working on a mobile AR Witcher game, and maybe they will invent a new concept of AR games and start a new mobile game trend.

oldest augmented reality game

If you want to try yourself in AR game development, we suggest you to search about the first AR games on Symbian 9.4 mobile operating system. It was installed on first Nokia touchscreen smartphones and died shortly after, but game developers have made some good concepts. For example, an AR game where zombies are crawling towards the player, and he has to shoot them by pointing camera. Or pirate game where you just throw a couple of coins on a table and the phone draws an island based on their location.

And the best augmented reality game idea ever—ghost hunting AR game. It also seems logical: the human eye can’t see ghosts, but the camera can. If you want to use this idea—contact us, we have some frightful ghost art concepts in our desk.

The most important of mobile game trends of 2021

The most important trend is to make good games. Even those casual games that are based on one mechanic and full of ads have good technical and visual quality. How did their developers manage to achieve quality with low budgets and strict deadlines? They used outsourcing studios like Kreonit.

We are skilled game developers, artists and writers from Ukraine. Our specializations are full cycle game development on Unity3D and Unreal Engine, 2D art, 3D models, visual effects, animations and every other operation needed to make a game.

We will help you to develop a game from scratch, to make specific art or to write a chunk of code—just contact us and tell what you need.

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Our game development studio is based in London. With over 13 years of expertise in design, marketing, 3D animation, and programming, we are a cornerstone of the koloro.group of companies. We craft games tailored for clients and also passionately drive our in-house projects. Our commitment is clear – delivering premium content and deriving revenues from games, all while adhering to the highest moral standards and valuing people’s interests. If you’re looking to craft magnificence and reap monetary rewards, we’re your destination.

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