The online gaming industry has grown significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stuck at home during lockdowns, following the social distancing rules, people reached out to online gaming as one of the preferred ways to spend their time off.
Looking at only China, the first country to impose lockdowns, mobile game downloads increased to 284.3 million in February of 2020.
This trend spread out to Western countries as well, paving the way for a golden age in mobile gaming.
Mobile social games like Among Us, Pokémon GO, and various Bingo chat games were among the most popular ones we played since the pandemic started. With that in mind, we decided to explore the reasons behind this trend and explain why we expect the mobile game industry to only grow stronger in the upcoming years.
What Are Mobile Social Games and Why Do We Love Them?
Mobile social games are mobile games that incorporate social features, allowing players to interact with each other during gameplay.
The social moment is achieved through features such as the chat function, friend invites, video chat, and competitive multiplayer.
The reason mobile social games are so popular is that users are almost three times more likely to stay in the game because of the sense of belonging to a community.
This is one of the key reasons mobile games with social features have better retention rates than those that don’t.
Social Features in Games That Boost User Engagement
Game developers use several tactics to incorporate social features in their mobile games, including:
- Activity feed
Adding an activity feed to a mobile game is an excellent way to engage users. Since they can view other players’ activities, progress, and experience, players can learn more about the game and get the motivation to keep playing.
- In-game chat
In-game chats became increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic since people lacked interaction with other players. Giving players the platform to communicate within the game will boost their gaming experience and save them the fuss of switching apps to message their friends. It can be great for finding co-op or dueling partners, getting answers to gameplay questions, and more.
- Push notifications
Push notifications can be used for various activities within the game. Players can receive notifications when they’re mentioned in a post or comment, when it is their turn to play when they receive a gift from their friend, and so on. Push notifications are a great tool for decreasing player churn, and they also help in getting users back into the game.
Why Is Social User Engagement Beneficial for Game Developers?
Social features in mobile games come with a wide array of benefits. Firstly, they create a sense of competitiveness that keeps players invested in the game longer.
Secondly, social components in mobile app games improve player retention. Since they can communicate via the game, players are more likely to stay in the app longer. Furthermore, social components in mobile games keep users more motivated. In-game rewards, for instance, and the ability to share content and post on other players’ feeds keep users engaged.
Lastly, social components in games build a stronger sense of community. When they play together and have the ability to invite their friends, players have a greater sense of belonging to a community that consists of people with similar interests and experiences.
How Will Social Components Improve Social Mobile Game Expansion?
Mobile gaming had a significant expansion in 2020 due to a mix of social components that many games started incorporating and a worldwide pandemic confining many people to their bedrooms.
According to an App Annie report, global spending on Apple’s App Store and Google Play reached a new high in 2021: $135 billion, compared to $112 billion in 2020. The same report that gave these estimates stated that gamers contribute the vast majority of Google Play’s income (80%) and two-thirds of the total income on Apple’s App Store (60%). In 2021, mobile gaming earned around $90 billion in revenue, with casual games at the top of the chart.
Popular Mobile Social Games in 2021
Having explained what mobile social games are and why they’re so attractive to people, let’s talk about a few such games we enjoyed playing over the past year.
- Among Us
“Among Us” is one of our favorite mobile social games. In this game, the players are stuck in a spaceship and divided between crew members and imposters, who look the same but have a different objective. The crew members have to complete various tasks on the ship, while imposters have to either sabotage the completion of those tasks or kill the crew members trying to finish them. The chat function within the game helps players discover who’s the imposter among them, and this social aspect, combined with the paranoia of not knowing who the imposters are, is what made the game so popular.
- Pokémon GO
Pokémon GO was popular long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This mobile game uses AR to allow game players to catch Pokémons in their real-life surroundings. This game allows game players to trade in-app purchases, gifts, and Pokémons among friends. The game allows four stages of friendships: Good Friend, Great Friend, Ultra Friend, and Best Friend. These levels allow players to unlock more trading possibilities which is a great social moment.
- Clash of Clans
Clash of Clans is a mobile strategy game where players are tasked with defending their village and planning attacks on enemy clans. Numerous social features can be found in the “Clan Wars” segment, which places users in matches with clans of similar strength and size and allows them to join large-scale fights with their friends.
The number of mobile social games is only expected to increase in the following years, given the revenue possibilities that this game genre brings. Increased player engagement, the sense of belonging, and the inherent competitiveness of all multiplayer games all draw in players and keep them engaged. Game developers should embrace this trend and include social components in their games to drive revenue growth. That said, without a good gameplay loop, even the best social features won’t keep players interested for long.