China is making its move on the US mobile gaming market
Gaming is big business. This year, data from gaming industry recruitment firm TechNet Immersive found that the global gaming industry grew to more than $163.1bn in 2020, up from $78.1bn in 2017.
Today, gaming is bigger than the video (including movies, TV and OTT streaming) and music industries combined. According to the new data, there are more than 2.5bn gamers around the world. The largest demographic is the Chinese market, with approximately 500mn, followed by the US with 167mn, and the UK with 32mn. Combined, Europe actually outpaces the US with 243mn users, but they’re spread across more than twice the overall population.
Mobile gaming is a sizable slice of that even more sizable pie, employing 38% of the gaming industry workforce (compared to traditional consoles, which accounted for around 25%), and smartphone gaming revenues accounting for an estimated $63bn last year. The North American market alone has an estimated value of around $21.9bn.
Here Comes China
While US developers retain the largest market share in North America, Chinese developers are quickly carving out a large slice for themselves, particularly in the US.
New data released by Chinese market research firm Sensor Tower found this week that, of the estimated $8.4bn in revenue generated by mobile games across the Google Play and Apple App Store in Q4 of 2020, 20% went to Chinese developers, who netted around $780mn.
21 Chinese-made games found their way into the US’ Top 100 best-seller list. 31 titles were made by US developers, with the remaining 48 hailing from other markets like Japan, the UK and Romania. Immensely popular titles like Call of Duty (a property that trades off releases between US studio Activision and Chinese media technology giant Tencent) and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (also a Tencent property) have sat comfortably near the top of sales charts for years.
The top mobile game in Q4, however, was put out by a US publisher. Washington-based InnerSloth originally launched competitive murder mystery game Among Us in 2018, but the title gained absolutely stunning popularity during lockdown. Congresswomen Alexandria Orcasio Cortez and Ilhan Omar even to one of the biggest Twitch audiences in history late last year.
Courtesy of InnerSloth LLC
The report notes that, as a result of the pandemic, mobile gaming in the US (and abroad) has skyrocketed in the past year, but added that download figures declined slightly in Q4 as stay-at-home orders relaxed across several states.
Riot Games “Valorant” goes mobile
American video game developer Riot Games has announced that it is creating a version of its PC game “Valorant” for mobile platforms. The release comes at the same time as the game’s one-year anniversary.
The PC version of the game, which was launched last year, is played by an average of 14mn players every month, the company said, which hopes that the mobile version will be just as popular. Riot says that the new mobile version will be called Valorant Mobile, with the launch following the game’s biggest online competitive tournament to date, held on 31st May, which saw over 1mn viewers tune in to watch.
Talking about how the idea was introduced, Anna Donlon, Executive Producer at Riot Games, said: “We didn’t start out with ‘We’re making Valorant on mobile,’ we started out with ‘Can we make Valorant on mobile?’ with a lot of skepticism. For us, whatever you get out of playing on PC, you should get out of playing Valorant on mobile. But we have to recognize that the mobile player need is different”.
She added that the process for the game’s move to mobile started with a list of questions about the features that made Valorant easily recognisable, before deciding if re-creating this in a mobile-friendly way could be achieved. According to Donlon, the most important part of the project was ensuring that the game was not a comprised version of the PC format, but a “unique-to-mobile” experience.
Donlon said: “[In] the same way that we’re not going to deliver a subpar mobile experience for mobile players, we’re not going to compromise the PC experience either. We’re not trying to convert Valorant PC players into Valorant Mobile players or vice versa. We’re absolutely just as committed to keeping the PC experience at the quality level it is or higher, and we’re not going to compromise it in order to address the mobile market”.
What other games have been converted from PC to mobile platforms?
Earlier in 2021, Riot games also made a mobile spin-off of the game League of Legends, called Wild Rift. Another widely-played game Call of Duty also had a mobile version which was released in October 2019, two years after the game PUGB mobile was launched.
There are also reports that a smartphone version of the game Apex Legends is due to be released, although an official launch date is yet to be announced.
Details of Riot Games’ latest release haven’t been made in full, and Donlon says that the company is “not confirming dates” for the launch of Valorant Mobile, but that “hopefully that’s something we’ll be able to see in year two”.
In addition to the mobile version, Riot Games has also planned for a console version of Valiant. However, the company is still in the exploration stages of this idea and, if produced, it would not be the main platform for the game.