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 IPHONE FEATURE

What will be the first mobile game to hit $10 billion in sales?

It's a big number world
Product: Arena of Valor | Publisher: Tencent Games | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad
 
Welcome to the latest in our series of Pocket Gamer columns. We're taking the best games writers in the industry and giving them a platform. Veteran journalist Jon Jordan is here each week examining the trends shaping your mobile games scene.

This week, he's thinking about mobile games' big numbers.


Although I'm clearly not the target audience, I take appropriate amount of pride from the one download I contributed to the eight billion downloads that Outfit7 announced its Talking Tom Cat apps have accumulated since 2010.

Even spread over a dozen or so apps, it's a phenomenal number - 8,000,000,000 downloads.

No wonder the developer sold for $1 billion last year.

You need a bigger boat

Working in the mobile games space, it's easy to become blasé about big numbers.

Even mobile games I've never heard of are racking up 100 million downloads. Indeed, I'd suggest unless your game is operating at this sort of level, its download total isn't going to get much media coverage.

Announcing one, five or even 10 million downloads could even be seen as being a bit embarrassing given that Subway Surfers followed up the news it was the first game to be downloaded over one billion times from the Google Play store to confirm it has now been downloaded two billion times in total.

Better than downloads

Of course, downloads are one thing. Keeping millions of players engaged and playing your mobile game is something else entirely.

And getting them to spend money in your game is entirely 'something else entirely'. It's significant, however, to note these highly downloaded games aren't the top grossing games. They make their money from in-game advertising - not in-app purchases.

Indeed, top grossing games don't need a lot of downloads to perform very well.

For example, GungHo Online's Puzzle & Dragons is likely the top grossing mobile game of all time to-date at over $6 billion of revenue, and the majority of that cash has come from just 50 million downloads in Japan.

It probably doesn't have enough momentum to become the first mobile game to hit $10 billion of lifetime revenue total though. Its annual sales are now a mere $500 million.

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But the first mobile game to generate $10 billion has almost certainly already been released.

My money is on either Mixi's Monster Strike, which continues to be a top five grossing game in Japan since its 2013 release (and may even have outperformed Puzzle & Dragons in terms of lifetime revenue), or Tencent's Honor of Kings (aka Arena of Valor in the west).

It generated almost $200 million in April alone, which suggests it could be the first mobile game to make $2 billion in a single year.

Now that really is a huge number.

If this column has given you food for thought, share your comments below and bookmark Jon Jordan's page for more of the same next Monday. Remember to also check out words of wisdom and mirth from experienced games journalists Susan Arendt and Harry Slater each week.
 

Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan 4 June 2018
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