#1: Voodoo is the most downloaded mobile game publisher
Voodoo recently announced via Twitter that it has exceeded 6 billion downloads, ahead of gaming behemoth Tencent and only lagging behind Meta and Google. That they were able to achieve this milestone in a scant 6 years since pivoting into publishing is even more impressive (Voodoo itself is actually 9 years old, but its first few years as a game developer did not see much success). With such an impressive milestone, let’s do a little dive into that very large number.
According to Sensor Tower, Voodoo’s top 5 most downloaded games of all time are Helix Jump, Aquapark.io, Paper.io 2, Crowd City, and Hole.io, with a combined download count of 1.5 billion. What may be more impressive is that these games were launched in 2018/2019 and are still able to generate millions of downloads per month, with the standout being Aquapark.io, with an average 5.5 million monthly downloads for Q1 2022. An interesting observation here is that out of these 5 games, 4 of them feature fake multiplayer (the other “players” you face are just bots), which is a testament to how even illusory social elements can boost a game’s appeal and longevity.
In terms of where those downloads came from, the top 5 territories for Voodoo were the US, India, Brazil, Russia, and the UK, and they represented around 45% of total downloads. The presence of Tier 2 and 3 countries so high in the list may be unexpected, as those territories typically have much lower CPMs. The flipside is that CPIs in those territories are also low, and it all comes down to a simple comparison of CPI vs LTV. As our resident UA expert Matej Lancaric notes, “At 100 million scale, a $0.02 LTV vs $0.01 CPI makes a lot of sense.”
So just how did Voodoo achieve this success?
First, they were purely data-driven. In this interview, one of Voodoo’s publishing managers recounts how the team realized early on that they had considerable skill in user acquisition and monetization but not necessarily development, so they decided to pivot to publishing instead. The selection criteria was simple - look at the data. This statement from that interview sums up Voodo’s attitude toward publishing: “…and from that we would analyze the retention and error logs. And purely on that we chose the game. Any game with high retention we would consider for launch.” This is all par for the course these days, but it was groundbreaking for the type of games being published by Voodoo back then.
Second, Voodoo invested in attracting and educating developers. To increase the number of submissions, the company ran competitions with large cash prizes to spread awareness. Voodoo also created a publishing platform that would allow developers to easily submit and test prototypes. Then, the company regularly held webinars breaking down the reasons why certain games became hits and also published articles on best practices for creating Hypercasual games. All this meant that Voodoo was increasing both the number and quality of game submissions it would receive, a critical edge over competitors. I believe these two factors were the reason why Voodoo has continued to see success even with the large influx of competitors into an increasingly crowded ocean.
So what’s next for Voodoo? The team hasn’t hidden its intention to enter the Casual and Hybrid-casual gaming space via acquisitions and investments (like that of the investment in Teskin and partnership with Electric Manta). Along with plans to invest in blockchain mobile games, it may seem that Voodoo is firmly deciding to diversify away from Hypercasual. However, by having a look at the job listings, we can see that jobs related to Hypercasual remains high at 32% of the 169 jobs listed. This is followed by Casual at 10% and Blockchain at 8%. This may not be a perfect indicator of the company’s plans, but it’s very likely that Voodoo fully intends on continuing its dominance in Hypercasual, using it as a foundation to foray into other gaming segments. If I were a competitor in those spaces, I’d be keeping a very close eye on Voodoo indeed.
#2: Gaming market to exceed $200 billion in 2022
In its 2022 Global Games Market Report, Newzoo forecast that the global games market will exceed $200 billion for the first time. In another important milestone, mobile games will exceed $100 billion in revenue, also for the first time, making up 51% of all gaming revenue and a growth of 5.5% YoY.
Something to take note of is the strong double-digit growth shown by the Middle East & Africa (MENA) and Latin America. It is not just a blip either, as over the past 3 years (2020-2022), the CAGR of Latin America and MENA has been 14% and 10%, respectively. According to this report on the mobile economy by GSMA, there will be 400 million new mobile subscribers by 2025. More than a quarter of them will be from South Asia, Southeast Asia, MENA, and Latin America. These emerging markets, while still small in the big scheme of things, will become increasingly important to the success of mobile game developers and publishers in the near future and should not be ignored.
Semi-related (although broader than mobile F2P), if you want to see how Naavik analyzes the true size of the video game industry, check out the essay we wrote in partnership with BITKRAFT Ventures.
Game Launch Radar
#1: Warcraft Arclight Rumble (WAR)
- Publisher: Activision Blizzard
- State: Beta Pre-registration (Android Only)
- Territories: Global
- Classification: Midcore - Strategy - Tactical Battler
- Based on the gameplay shown in the Developer Overview, the game takes elements from Clash Royale and Tower Defense. Like Clash Royale, you spawn troops near your base, and they move automatically towards the enemy. What sets WAR apart is the map design, with levels featuring multiple lanes and strategic objects of interest like Meeting Stones, Guard Towers, and Treasure Chests.
- WAR will feature both PVE and PVP, with the single-player campaign featuring over 70 missions. Your minis (what Blizzard are calling the heroes and troops) are upgradeable in PVE but will have their stats normalized for PVP play.
- According to this article in PocketGamer.biz, WAR will only have one currency in-game (Coins), and it is acquired both via the game and IAP. There are also no loot-boxes in the game, and items and minis can be purchased directly. This is an interesting choice and completely at odds with how most mobile games structure their economies. To me, this feels like a PR decision due to the less-than-enthusiastic response of Blizzard’s last mobile game announcement, Diablo Immortal, and the desire to distance themselves from the negative perception of F2P games on mobile. The team is basically screaming “We’re not like those games!” It will be interesting to see how they approach balancing the economy, because if they’re not careful, it can go very, very wrong.
#2: New Dawn
- Publisher: Seasun Games
- State: Closed Beta
- Territories: Limited
- Classification: Midcore - Strategy - Tactical Battler
- The cell-shaded graphics and open-world gameplay look heavily inspired by Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but crafting and building seem to play a bigger part of the game. See the gameplay trailer here and some closed beta footage here.
- Seasun is actually China’s first game studio and was founded in 1995, but until recently it has been focused on games for its domestic audience. Seasun’s games include the popular Chinese PC MMORPG JX Online 3 and the JX World series on mobile. New Dawn is part of the company’s big push into the western market, as it also has two games in early access, Cityscape: Rebuild (developed by Magic Fuel Games) and Origami Paradise.
- Fun Fact: Seasun’s parent company, Kingsoft, also own Hypercasual publisher Cheetah Mobile.
Other Game Announcements
- Genshin Impact surpasses $3 billion revenue on mobile. Link
- HoYoverse teased a new game, Zenless Zone Zero, which will be made public on May 13th. Link
- Gameplay footage of Valorant Mobile leaked. Link
- Applovin acquires Wordle!, but not the one you‘re thinking of. Link
- Fortnite is available on mobile again, courtesy of Xbox Cloud Gaming. Link
- A Lord of the Rings game developed by Capital Games, the studio behind Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, will be soft-launching this summer. Link
- A prequel to pixel-art shooter Soul Knight will perform its first beta test on May 16th . Link
- Riot announces that the first ever global League of Legends: Wild Rift championship will be held in Singapore later this year. Link
- Zynga President Bernard Kim leaves Zynga and mobile gaming to become CEO of Match Group. Link
- Netease opens first US studio in Texas. Link
- Ex-Space Ape devs form a new studio to explore “games people don’t know they want yet.” Link
- Kong Studios, developer of mobile RPG Guardian Tales, moved its HQ from Nevada to Santa Monica. Link
- Tencent opens a new studio in Liverpool. Link
- Embracer boss cautious on mobile after acquisition of 3 studios from Square Enix. Link
- Stillfront Group, parent company of developers Candywriter and Goodgame Studios among others, reports revenue of $172 million for Q1 2022. More than 75% of it was generated from its portfolio of mobile games. Link
- Nintendo’s mobile games surpass $1.8 billion in revenue. Link
- Mobile Legends: Bang Bang is the most streamed mobile game in April. Link
- Children banned from tipping and watching live streams after 10pm in China. Link
- Netflix’s Head of Interactive Games leaves to join Microsoft. Link
- EA and FIFA break up after nearly 30 years of partnership. Link
Content Worth Consuming
- Why in-app personalization, not probabilistic attribution, is the future of post-ATT advertising (MobileDevMemo): “To my mind, probabilistic attribution at the level of the channel, much less at the level of the campaign, is impractical to impossible using in-app behavioral signals. And if fingerprinting is policed, that activity will not be possible using device parameters, either. That leaves advertisers with one tactic for improving funnel conversion and thus the efficiency of advertising spend: in-app personalization.” Link
- Bringing a PC game to the mobile market: Azur Games' first experience (PocketGamer.biz): “Approaches for the mobile and PC markets are very different. There are simply no tests on PC other than the Early Access feature on Steam. Developers release a relatively finished game, look at reviews and then do some more work. In mobile, everything is built on A/B testing — we build hypotheses, release them to a small part of the audience, and look at the dynamics of metrics. As a result, only the updates that are guaranteed to improve the metrics go into the final release.” Link
- What is driving the insatiable demand in mergers and acquisitions (PocketGamer.biz): “The biggest games companies have become increasingly active in terms of studio and games company acquisitions as competition for talent and IP has escalated substantially over the last few years. The competition is coming from big tech, entertainment companies such as Netflix, and games publishers that are expanding globally, particularly Tencent and NetEase.” Link