Back in the 1990s, a software developer at Nokia proposed something unusual: including a game into the operating system of the company’s upcoming 6110 handsets. The phone was released in 1997 to great success (like almost every other Nokia in the 1990s) introducing the concept of the “mobile game” into our collective consciousness. The following decade was pretty much silent on the mobile gaming front—until 2007, of course, when Apple released the iPhone. From then on, the history of mobile games is a series of insanely popular titles and constant growth on all fronts.
Today, you can play pretty much every genre on your smartphone, from role-playing titles and shooters to simple, casual games. Each year has at least one massive title that stands out with its huge player base or massive revenues. There are, in turn, genres that are continuously popular, constantly played by millions of players all over the world.
Slot machines are a type of game that defies logic: since their invention in the late 19th century, slot machines have stayed basically the same. You can find slots at the JackpotCity online casino that are strikingly similar both in form and function to the original slot machine built by Charles Fey in 1895. Of course, the ones at JackpotCity no longer rely on feeding them with nickels and pulling levers to play. Still, their popularity has remained unbroken for more than 120 years.
Today, these type of games—both social and real-money varieties—are very popular, especially on mobile. According to App Annie, this style of gaming made up a small but significant 1 percent of the total game downloads in the first half of 2020. At the same time, slots had impressive results when it comes to revenues, beating MMO, and party battle games in the process.
“Core” games are the ones that require more skill than just tapping a button or matching three symbols on the screen—this category includes several genres, from shooters to action games and racing titles. While these games are not played by massive numbers of players—in the first half of 2020 they represented 19 percent of the total downloads recorded by App Annie—they stand out with the long hours players dedicate to them: about half of all the time spent playing on smartphones and tablets.
Shooters seem to top the list of the most downloaded games in the last 12 months, with titles like Call of Duty: Mobile, Fortnite, and Sniper 3D Assassin topping the charts.
Casual games are, without a doubt, the most popular genre on mobile—after all, they are the games played by every demographic across every region. Among them, the most popular genres are puzzle games, covering everything from match-3 titles like Candy Crush to card games like Solitaire, arcade games like runners and music-related games, simulations like sandbox games and virtual pets, and racing games.
The most popular titles on mobile today are, in turn, hyper-casual games. These are the titles that are the easiest to learn—it usually takes seconds for players to become proficient in them—and easy to control, usually relying on simply tapping on the screen. Perhaps the best-known hyper-casual title of them all was “Flappy Bird,” a title that was cloned countless times since its emergence in 2017.
Hyper-casual games made up about a third of the total game downloads in the first half of 2020, App Annie says. Puzzle and trivia games were the most successful of them, followed by runners, and racing games.