The GameAnalytics crew dug out the crystal balls, consulted the oracles and tossed tea leaves all over the office. None of that helped and it was a pain to clean up, so we decided to ask our experts instead.
So after a lot of thought, consideration, and a couple of debates, here’s what our team predicts will happen in 2022 for the mobile gaming industry.
1. Augmented reality games and technology will grow
We’re going to see a surge of Augmented Reality (AR) games and technology in the next year. Over the last few years, AR has been simmering beneath the surface, getting ready to boil over into the mainstream.
It’s clear that big things are on the horizon. The biggest player in AR, Niantic, was recently valued at $9 billion and raised $300 million in investment, which it says it will use to build out a “real-world metaverse.” And there’s a huge market for AR games. Take Pokémon Go. Since 2016, it’s earned between $3.5 to $4.5 billion. They’ve also recently released Lightship, a new developer kit to build AR games (which is crucial for making this type of gaming more accessible for more developers). This is sure to give the industry a massive boost.
“Every year, I’m excited to see how new technologies drive creative gameplay experiences,” Allison Bilas, EVP, Operations and Growth of GameAnalytics, says. “I’m particularly watching the AR space, after Niantic’s investment. With more revenue pumped into Niantic, it’ll help them double down on its Lightship platform technology, hopefully inspiring other game developers to create amazing AR experiences next year.”
It’s not just Niantic making waves and proving that AR is coming. Jurassic World Alive, Ludia’s AR game, has earned around $100 million in revenue, and had 25 million downloads in just 3 years since launch.
This is an area of gaming that is going to keep growing. And we expect to see a lot of news in 2022.
2. The metaverse hype will slow down
The metaverse isn’t a new concept, despite taking the spotlight over the last couple of months (particularly because Facebook’s umbrella company changed its name to Meta). It’s become a hot topic, but it’s still a long way off before we’re in a world like Ready Player One.
But that isn’t to say that the metaverse isn’t developing. All eyes are now focused on the topic, with people talking left right and centre what possibilities the metaverse may bring.
“In 2022, we’ll see leaps and bounds in the tech powering the idea of the metaverse, with players like Unity and Nvidia making advancements and people adopting technologies like the blockchain,” says Allison. “But that tech doesn’t have an accessible consumer-facing experience yet, so the hype around the metaverse will become less fevered.”
Before we can even humor what the metaverse can do, we (as an industry) need to build the technology that will make it work. We’re definitely close. But over the next couple of years, we’re likely to see a myriad of unsexy miniature breakthroughs. So the hype is going to die down, at least for a while, until there’s an actual metaverse release (and content to accompany it).
3. NFTs will stay, but need a killer app
Despite the mixed feelings about NFTs, they’re going to be a large part of 2022. At the moment, they’re unregulated and there are clearly fraudulent services, which suddenly collapse as the founders leave with all the money. But the idea itself is one that will appeal to gamers… if done the right way.
“NFTs are here to stay. Everyone will want the coolest ‘art’ in their games,” says Roxana, our Director of DataSuite. “We’ll see new marketplaces to buy personalized skins across all your games, which will tie into your avatar for the whole metaverse.”
People already collect rare Magic the Gathering Cards or shiny Pokémon. Having a method to prove ownership and trade digital assets securely will be important.
“Unique ownership of digital items will be big business,” explains Nikolaj, our VP of Product. “It will become a regular mainstream news item as the topic has all the aspects that make a good story.”
But right now, it’s too difficult for the average gamer to get involved. It’s messy and confusing, because it needs a lot of technical experience to use.
“It won’t yet become mainstream to actually buy NFTs as the process isn’t user friendly,” Nikolaj adds. “To truly take off, it would need a killer app from a trusted store, and this might be difficult. Steam has already banned all NFT games. It remains to be seen how big players will approach the concept. Ubisoft introduced Quartz to a poor reception. Other developers likely have similar projects and are contemplating an optimal way to introduce without alienating their player base.”
4. Privacy concerns will mean more restrictions
While Apple officially launched SKAdNetwork (SKAN) in 2018, it wasn’t used much. It wasn’t until 2020 that Apple announced their App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which was then rolled out in 2021. Now, SKAN v2.0 changes how ad networks and advertisers track information about their players. Instead of tracking an individual, you get an aggregated result – an average of all your players – for things like impressions and clicks.
This is much better for a player’s privacy. And it looks like Google will be following suit, as they’ve introduced a new policy which they’ll start to enforce in 2022.
“Even with the Apple changes, it’s still possible for certain attribution services to get the information they need to profile players,” Nikolaj says. “I believe Apple will slowly introduce iOS functionality that will make it more and more difficult to profile. If they do that, it will make other services based purely on SKAN more interesting. The question is how fast will this happen?”
Privacy is exceedingly important and developers are going to need to change how they’ve been measuring their success. There will be ways, but they’re going to be more anonymized and restricted than before. So it’s worth future-proofing your game and setting up your analytics with these restrictions in mind.
5. Games will add more social features
Over the last few years, with the pandemic and several lockdowns, the gaming industry has seen a surge. But it isn’t just to fight boredom and kill time, it’s to connect with friends and family.
“Those new players wanted to fight solitude. The social element in gaming became even more important and has contributed to an increase in user retention and engagement,” says Yannick, our Marketing Director (and your author). “This is a win-win situation for gamers and game developers, so I see this trend getting even more traction in 2022.”
In fact, if you look at the top 50 games in the App Store, they all have social features in some form or another. Multiplayer games like COD mobile, Fortnite, and Among Us are clear contenders. But others have user-generated content, like in Brawl Stars. While others are developing leaderboards, in-game chat, guilds.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that developers need to focus on creating a multiplayer game. But adding in some social elements to make sure that their players can feel connected to their friends and family can go a long way to making sure that they keep coming back.
6. More brands will turn to gaming
Gaming has always been one of the highest-earning industries. In 2020, global revenue was around $180 billion. That’s nearly twice the global film industry ($100 billion). As the metaverse begins to emerge, it’s going to be a no-brainer for the top brands to get involved.
“Marketing and cross-media experiences will obviously be the first use cases, as we’ve already started to see with Netflix extending their TV show experiences with mobile games,” explains Yannick. “More recently, we’ve had The Matrix Awakens: An Unreal Engine 5 Experience, which was a marketing trojan horse to grow hype with a younger generation, who might not have seen the first installments of the saga.”
If brands want to get involved in the metaverse, and they will, they’ll first need to get involved in creating games. This isn’t particularly new ground, either. Back in 2013, the Australian Metro released the Dumb Ways to Die mobile game as part of a safety campaign. It now has over 360 million installs.
There are plenty of other examples, even dating back to 1993 with Cool Spot on the SNES by 7 Up. But it’s always been a bit of a niche and rare event. Now, with the metaverse on the horizon, we’re sure that brands are going to start being more adventurous once again.
We’re already seeing the beginnings of this today, like how Fornite has a Spider-Man skin or how Vans introducing a skatepark on Roblox, complete with outfits.
7. Header-bidding will kill off the Waterfall model
When you sell the advertising space in your game through a mediation platform, you can either use Header-bidding (programmatically pick the highest bid from a group) or Waterfall (go through a list of networks until one hits a price you’re willing to accept). Header-bidding is relatively new and is much fairer to the developer. With Waterfall, you could miss out on a decent price, just because it’s low on your list of ad networks. That doesn’t happen with Header-bidding.
“With the advanced ability to run fair auctions using In-App Header-bidding, Waterfalls have become a thing of the past,” explains Ahmet Genc, Business Director at HyperBid. “It’s essential for publishers and studios, new and old, to phase over to Header-bidding.”
This has already begun. It’s already the dominant model, with AppAnnie reporting that Header-bidding reached 70% adoption by the end of 2020. In 2022, we believe that we’ll see Waterfall decline to irrelevancy.
Did we miss anything?
If you have a prediction of your own, let us know. Tweet us at @GameAnalytics and tell us your thoughts. Until then, we’ll put the tarot cards away and wait and see what happens.
Have a great year.