As the end of the year approaches, it’s now safe to say which mobile games made the biggest impact in 2015. Breaking into the top 10 global app chart is a big ask, as it’s normally dominated by apps, but all the games mentioned here managed to do just that. Find out what made them so successful and your game could be on next year’s list. These are the 7 most popular mobile games of the year.
Candy Crush Soda Saga was the follow-up to the hugely successful Candy Crush Saga and was one of the most downloaded mobile games of the year on both major platforms. In January, it was the 5th most downloaded app globally and spent 5 months in the top 10 app chart for 2015.
A large part of the games’ success was due to a massive initial push for new users. Game publisher King spared no expense as it splashed out to have the launch of the game announced with their game trailer on over 100 million Facebook feeds. Despite this early success, Mark Zuckerberg announced in November that he plans to put a stop to game invites being sent on Facebook, with some critics squarely pointing the finger in Candy Crush Soda Saga’s direction.
They also made a sizeable investment in production and had the games’ soundtrack recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra in the world famous Abbey Road Studios in London. As well as this, they regularly update the game with new levels and in-game content (you can do so too in your game easily with V-Play’s in-game level editor!). Their development team is streamlined to make sure that every update meets their high standards for what a level should be like. It was this dedication to quality control that kept them in the charts for so long.
Despite being released way back in 2012, Subway Surfers is still one of the most popular mobile games on the market. In fact, Subway Surfers reached a major milestone this year by crossing the 1 billion download mark.
Just like Candy Crush Soda Saga, Subway Surfers release game updates on a regular basis and styles them on different worldwide locations like Tokyo or Rio de Janeiro. These updates continually provide existing users with new content and are one of the major factors that made Subway Surfers the 4th most downloaded mobile game of all time.
According to the creator’s themselves, the key to the games’ massive success was their co-development. Kiloo teamed up with Sybo Games to make Subway Surfers and credits their success to this partnership. They split the project in two with Kiloo taking care of the game’s UI and Sybo Games creating the gameplay.
By focusing on what they do best, both studios were able to come together to make a hugely successful game.
In February, Crossy Road climbed 7 places and made its way to 5th in the global app chart. This Australian Indie title was developed by Hipster Whale, a company formed by two struggling game developers in 2014, and saw them earn $10 million in 90 days.
Matt Hall, the game’s creator, found success by having his players in mind. While working on earlier titles, he printed a photo of a girl that would be interested in his horse-ownership simulator. He wanted to have a clear idea in mind about the type of person that would play his game. It was this approach that led Matt Hall to work on Crossy Road instead of a title that he would play himself.
Besides being one of the most popular mobile games of the year, it also did a great job monetizing itself. With many people drawing early comparisons to Flappy Bird, Crossy Road made sure that it capitalized on its success. At one point, the game had made $1 million on incentized video ads on the iOS platform alone.
Crossy Road managed to be one of the most successful indie titles of the year by having a clear idea of who its players were and how to take advantage of that user base.
Despicable Me: Minion Rush, a game based on the popular film series, was one of the world’s most downloaded mobile games for the month of July. The endless runner game experienced massive success during the summer months hitting 50 million downloads by the end of August.
The catalyst for this success was the release of Minions, the film that the game was based on. Timing also played a huge factor as the early July release date saw the start of school holidays for children, the game’s target audience, in many countries.
The game also managed to be a monetization success without driving away players. Gameloft, the game’s development studio, didn’t gate gameplay in anyway, allowing for free flowing fun without interruptions. Instead, they simply offered a large range of in-app purchases that took advantage of the film’s content.
Although no one was raving about the game itself, Despicable Me: Minion Rush was one of the most popular mobile games of the year. It just goes to show how much easier it can be to find success when you have a pre-existing audience.
Angry Birds 2 is the second sequel on the list and its launch in August saw the game gain 20 million players in its first week of release. The game is the first full sequel to the original Angry Birds game and was released during a year that saw the first trailer for an Angry Birds movie.
Even though this game was almost guaranteed to be a success, that didn’t make Rovio complacent. In order to make sure the game was as popular as possible, Rovio made a huge effort to A/B test its app store pages to find the best performing screenshots and videos.
A large part of the Angry Birds 2 success, was the cross-promotion that Rovio has been involved with since the launch of the first game. With Angry Birds Star Wars, Angry Birds Transformers, and Angry Birds Epic all being released in the last few years, Rovio have managed to keep their flagship game in the public eye while they worked on the much anticipated Angry Birds 2.
Along with the extensive merchandising of Angry Birds, this meant that they had a large and eager audience waiting to play Angry Birds 2.
Agar.io is perhaps the most unique game on this list and saw huge success in the month of July when it climbed above Despicable Me: Minion Rush to 5th in the global app store chart. First launched as a Flash title for Desktop, Miniclip brought the title to mobile in early July.
With an already existing player base, Miniclip claimed not to have spent any money on user acquisition, even though they gained 10 million players in their first few weeks of release. If this user acquisition strategy is a bit of a fluke, their player retention strategy definitely isn’t.
Agar.io does a fantastic job of retaining its players because it has very simple controls and you can begin playing straight away. The aim of the game is also very simple yet hard to achieve. You need to consume as much food as possible and become the biggest player in the game.
Agar.io is the most addictive game on this list and it was this trait that made it one of the most popular games of the year.
Although Clash of Clans never made it into the top ten charts for global downloads, it spent the majority of the year as the game that brought in the highest revenue. From January to August it claimed the number one spot, only slipping to second place in September.
A large part of this success can be put down to fact that Supercell splashed out and created one of the most watched adverts of 2015. They spent $9 million to make an ad staring Hollywood star Liam Neeson and aired it during the Superbowl. The ad went on to have 88 million views on YouTube.
With such a high user acquisition cost, it’s only natural that Supercell do everything possible to monetize their game. In fact, they’ve designed the game to funnel users into a monetization mindset from the first time they play.
They do this by creating a game loop that involves players collecting in-game currency, using this currency to enjoy the game but also making sure that they will eventually run out of this currency. The key is that by the time players run out of currency, they’ve advanced themselves in the game, which makes them willing to invest and continue advancing.
It’s this simple but effective loop that made Clash of Clans one of the most popular games of the year.
It’s Up to You for 2016
So those were the most popular mobile games of 2015. We hope you’ve had a great year and are ready to replicate the success of these games for yourself in 2015. We are here to support you in making your game a success and save time in production as the cross-platform engine with biggest time savings!
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