The Top-Five Grossing Mobile Games of 2020 and The Markets That Contributed to Their Success

According to Sensor Tower, five game studios found 2020 to be a very lucrative year for the mobile gaming sector. With the iOS and Android platforms combined, the following five mobile games earned over $1 billion in grossing revenue last year: PUBG Mobile (developed by PUBG Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea), Honor of Kings (developed by TiMi Studios based in Shenzhen, China), Pokémon GO (developed by Niantic based in San Francisco, California), Coin Master (developed by Moon Active based in Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel), and Roblox ( developed by Roblox Corporation based in San Mateo, California).

PUBG Mobile, the highest-grossing revenue game, generated close to $2.6 billion by the end of 2020. For March 2020, Sensor Tower reported that 61% of PUBG Mobile’s revenue was generated from China, and 11% came from the US market. 

PUBG Mobile's 2020 Revenue Per Market

Languages PUBG Supports

The second highest-grossing mobile game in 2020 was Honor of Kings by Tencent, also known as Arena of Valor in western markets, which earned almost $2.5 billion. A large portion of their revenue was generated from Taiwan, accounting for 36% of their total earnings, and their second-highest earning market was Thailand at 30%.

Even though Honor of Kings has experienced great success in Asian markets, their counterpart, Arena of Valor, wasn’t nearly as profitable inside western markets producing only 3.5% of their total revenue. Researchers believe it was due to the game losing much of its glamour from poor localization: “By being stripped of China’s unique cultural and market context, Arena of Valor lost much of what made Honor of Kings work, and has suffered in the process.” (Source: Culture clash: Why Arena of Valor is struggling in America.)

“By being stripped of China's unique cultural and market context, Arena of Valor lost much of what made Honor of Kings work, and has suffered in the process.”

Jeff Sue, General Manager of the Americas for Mintegral

Arena of Valor's 2020 Revenue Per Market

Languages Arena of Valor Supports

Niantics Pokémon GO, part of the Pokémon franchise that has withstood the test of time. This augmented reality mobile game has gained tremendous popularity and landed the third spot on our list. Niantics gained almost $1.2 billion in revenue in 2020. The US market accounts for 36.3% of their total revenue gained, Japan came in as the second-highest-grossing market at 31.3%, and Germany accounts for 5.7%.

Pokémon Go's 2020 Revenue Per Market

Languages Pokémon Go Supports

Next on our list is Coin Master, developed by Moon Active, which generated close to $1.1 billion in revenue last year. At this time, Moon Active hasn’t released data to Sensor Tower showing how each market performed individually for the game in 2020. However, the game’s 2019 revenue showing that the US market contributed 51% of their earned revenue, Germany 10%, and 14.5% came from the UK, we have some insight on which markets are the game’s top contributors.

Wrapping up our list as the fifth top-grossing mobile game of 2020 is Roblox developed by Roblox Corporation. Roblox accumulated close to $1.1 billion last year – the US market accounted for 65% of their total revenue, 8% from The United Kingdom, and 4% from Canada.

Coin Master's 2020 Revenue Per Market

Roblox's 2020 Revenue Per Market

Languages Coin Master Supports

Languages Roblox Supports

How You Can Improve Your Localization ROI

The top ten languages mobile games studios localize in are:

Yes, it’s profitable to have a presence in the major markets. Yet, many game developers choose to send off their babies into these competitively saturated markets, newcomers may find it difficult to stand out in those arenas. However, these reports are bringing to light new trends for emerging markets outside of the historically standard top 10 languages, we have an indication that markets like Taiwan and Thailand have the potential to be advantageous. Players in those markets are hungry for multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games since their mobile devices are improving in capacity to handle these content-heavy games.

In our industry, we witness countless missed opportunities for mobile games to really take off. It’s vital to not only research and understand which markets will yield the highest return on investment for your game but to also ensure it’s adapted and localized properly with creative linguistic freedom so that context isn’t lost in translation – one lesson learned from Arena of Valor’s performance in western markets.

We would love to hear your thoughts on these reports, if you have any feedback please email games@glyphservices.com!

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