Popularized by Fortnite, season passes are now present in half of the most lucrative mobile titles in the world.
Analytics group Sensor Tower has released a new report examining monetization trends in the mobile gaming industry. According to the data, half of last year’s top-grossing games used the season pass business model, highlighting the continued evolution of free-to-play monetization.
The report cites fortnite like the title that popularized the season pass model, in which users can purchase a suite of in-game rewards that unlock over time as they play. As influential as Epic’s Battle Royale megahit was, the season pass quickly expanded into other games in the shooter genre before expanding beyond that.
Today, season passes can be found in other major titles like PUBG-Mobilewhich generated $2.9 billion in 2021, honor of kings ($2.8 billion) and Genshin Impact ($1.9 billion). Even legacy games like candy Crush Saga ($1.3 billion) and homescapers ($894 million) implemented season ticket models with great success.
For Craig Chapple, mobile intelligence strategist at Sensor Tower, the seasonal subscription business model is not just a monetization tool, but a method of user acquisition and retention.
“It’s not always successful and could potentially cannibalize player spending in other areas, but at best it offers a player-friendly way to earn rewards in free games based on playtime” , Chapple told GameDaily. “Given how lucrative this can be, it’s likely we’ll see season passes tailored to even more games and genres in the future, although it requires strong live ops support to work. “
Elsewhere in the report, Sensor Tower discussed the rise of IP-based games in the gacha segment. Gacha games – named after the popular gashapon capsule machines in Japan – offer players random rewards in exchange for in-game currency. In most cases, players can purchase this currency with real money. A striking example of this monetization method is Genshin Impact.
According to Sensor Tower rankings, half of the top 10 gacha games are based on popular IPs. For example, Star Trek Fleet Command generated $222 million in 2021, and Marvel Strike Force grossed $216 million. Other top 10 titles include Marvel Contest of Champions, Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battleand Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.
Chapple noted that while gacha doesn’t necessarily require IP to be successful, it can certainly help a bit, especially in Western markets.
“For gacha monetization to work, there has to be a solid, deep roster of characters that players will want to get,” Chapple explained. “In this regard, some popular IPs like Marvel, star trekand star wars provide an ideal foundation for a gacha game, as they are multimedia franchises with deep lore and a host of notable characters.
Monetization in the mobile gaming market is constantly changing, and Sensor Tower’s report highlights some of the most notable trends. As the largest and most lucrative gaming industry, mobile developers are constantly re-evaluating methods to capture users and their dollars. Expect further developments as the audience grows.
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