Your predictions for 2023 in mobile games: more cross-platform play and new monetisation models

 

We asked a load of smart mobilegamer.biz readers for their 2023 predictions to kick off the year.

Elsewhere in this week’s run of 2023 prediction posts, we’ve covered the rise of generative AI, a stormy economy, more M&A, plus what’ll happen in web3, advertising, hypercasual and other areas like sexist ads, AR, TikTok, live ops and more.

Here, more familiar faces discuss mobile games going increasingly cross-platform, potential new monetisation models and more:

Super Evil Megacorp CEO Kristian Segerstrale:
I predict a great normalisation – with a twist. For the last decade or more the game industry has split into ‘traditional platforms’ – PC and console, and emerging platforms with entirely unique characteristics – mobile, online etcetera. The distinction has been eroding for some time, but in 2023 we are truly a single industry.

The unique production value and distribution characteristics of mobile are well and truly gone, working with publishers is increasingly the norm, the funding environment is favouring teams that can build great games cross platform and navigate the funding maze that is required to get there. The twist comes from the rapid evolution of AI – where we will likely see novel adaptations of the technology that will make studios much faster in all phases of development.

Naavik cofounder Abhimanyu Kumar:
Even though 2022 hasn’t been the best year for the gaming industry at large, especially with mobile F2P seeing its first negative growth year, that’s not stopping mobile F2P from constantly innovating and evolving. Many new trends are starting to take root in a post-COVID and post-IDFA context, but if I were to pick one that I am most excited about, it would be ‘multi-platform play’.

We’ve seen this begin with games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, Genshin Impact, League of Legends: Wild Rift and Marvel Snap. But it is essential to call out some nuance to this trend that breaks out into three types of multi-platform play:

Cross-platform: Every platform port will be a standalone product with the gameplay/controls optimised for platform-specific audiences, does not have cross-play enabled and does not carry over player progression. An example would be PUBG or League of Legends: Wild Rift.

Cross-play: Every platform port would not be a standalone product with gameplay/controls optimised for the platform-specific audience. Instead, a straight port of the original game will exist across all platforms. Player progression will also carry over between platforms. An example would be Fortnite or Marvel Snap.

Cross-progression: This is a relatively new idea we’ve internally thought about at Naavik and is now starting to be picked up by various studios. Every platform port would be a standalone platform-specific product that optimises gameplay/controls for the platform-specific audience; fair gameplay exists across players of all platforms, and player progression plus cosmetic/non-cosmetic rewards sync across all platforms. In other words, player progression and rewards will carry over between platforms, even though gameplay/controls can be platform-specific. The most recent game example exploring this idea is Call of Duty: Warzone.

Netflix has spoiled us with on-demand access to whatever entertainment content we want, wherever we want, whenever we want. Currently, I see no strong reason for this nature of consumer behaviour to increasingly become the expectation of gamers from their games. Multi-platform play will likely be implemented in many different ways in the future.

The right strategy will depend on what fits best to the unique business goals of every game development studio. It will begin with big PC/console IPs coming to mobile and increasingly move the other way around too. Interestingly enough, many web3 game studios are thinking about multi-platform play from the get-go.

Kristian Segerstrale, Abhimanyu Kumar, Ruby Spiers-Unwin, Max Bevilacqua.

Pocket Tactics editor Ruby Spiers-Unwin:
I don’t believe the mobile game scene will change too much in 2023, which isn’t inherently a bad thing. With Hoyoverse’s Honkai Star Rail and Zenless Zone Zero on the horizon, I think the developer will continue to dominate phones without much competition. Though I do hope Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis succeeds much more than Square Enix’s ill-fated Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier.

Bandai Namco Mobile game lead Max Bevilacqua:
I predict more of what we’ve seen in 2022: cross platform, AAA immersive releases, big IPs releasing on mobile – plus generative AI being adopted for game development at a larger scale and maybe 1-2 crypto gaming breakthroughs since funding has been steady and large for quite some time now.

Lava Labs founder and CEO Kaya Tilev:
The industry is going into a transition where services offered by Unity and Unreal, alongside huge leaps in tools and, in particular, AI, enable a lot more to be done by fewer people. This reduced barrier to entry, particularly on the technical side, will lead to a lot more creativity in game design, which will be a massive benefit to the players creating new and compelling IP, while new fun mechanics are discovered from traditional game makers to carry across to lite-web3 games.

GameRefinery chief game analyst Erno Kiiski:
A super interesting trend to continue next year is the innovations in monetisation models.

Brawl Stars and Mario Kart Tour recently removed gachas and changed their monetisation models, Marvel Snap innovated with it its gacha-less monetisation. If these models can sustain and tackle the loss of spend depth for a longer period, we’re gonna see more experiments with them on suitable genres. Especially with the continuing gacha legislation talks in different markets.

Webstore monetisation will be important too. We saw the first movers this year, but I’m expecting it to get more sophisticated and more widely utilised in 2023.

I think we will also continue to see the ripple effects of the changed marketing landscape on the mobile market. I’m expecting, for example, more IP utilisation to help scale new games, but also through collaboration events with established games.

Genres with high revenue per download but more niche audiences, such as 4X strategy, continue innovating on how to appeal to wider audiences after the sniper marketing tactics are lost. Genre-hybrids plus elements and features infused from other genres will continue. Hypercasual companies will continue to look at hybrid casual games to bring higher LTVs, hybrid monetisation and longer lifecycles to hypercasual games.

Kaya Tilev, Erno Kiiski, Matthew Warneford, Phillip Black.

Bildrs.io and Dubit founder Matthew Warneford:
Roblox and Fortnite will have a combined 450m MAU. Why? They’re both following the YouTube playbook from 10 years ago. At the time, broadcasters assumed YouTube was not a threat. Fast forward, 2.5 billion people watch YouTube every month. It turns out UGC is hugely disruptive.

Roblox and Fortnite are UGC platforms. Those platforms have the same flywheels that powered YouTube. Players spend money, money attracts creators, creators build experiences, and experiences attract players. I expect UGC game creator platforms to grow significantly and take share-of-time from professional studios.

Game Economist Consulting boss Phillip Black:
2023 will be the year of the ‘dual SKU’. Genshin, Fortnite, and Roblox have shown that all platforms are better than some, and players agree. Mobile hardware and development engine advances make it easier than ever to ‘port’ an HD game to mobile. But both ends of the stick will meet in 2023; Marvel Snap and Star Trek Fleet Command do sizeable business on PC, and we’ll see more mobile developers wander the other way. What was once two paradigms will converge into one.