2022 was some year for mobile gaming. From the arrival of legendary IPs to the continuing success of some of mobile gaming’s biggest developers, it’s been a bit of a “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of year. So join us as we rehash the big moments and those you might have missed, in a stellar twelve months for the future of gaming on iPhone and Android.
January kicked things off – as it often does – with one of the biggest takeovers in mobile gaming to date, with Take-Two beginning the process of buying Zynga for a tasty $12.7 billion. Yes, that does indeed mean that upon completion of the buyout in March, Farmville and GTA now technically fall under the same developer. Still, we don’t think we’ll see Niko Bellic popping on the dungarees and planting turnips any time soon.
Sticking with big-budget names, it also came to light in January that as part of James Cameron’s Avatar revival, there’s a mobile game coming from the series, with Avatar: Reckoning currently in development. While we haven’t heard much yet, besides that the title is still in development, if the wait for the game is anything like the wait for the second film, you might be able to find out more in our mobile gaming review of 2029.
The first month of the year also offered the surprise release of Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel – which we gave a solid 8/10 in our Master Duel review – a big reveal from Devsisters, the creators of the sweet treat title Cookie Run, announcing a slew of new titles from its tasty series, and content updates for Pokemon Go, Arena of Valor, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.
February arrived alongside Wylde Flowers and Gibbon: Beyond the Trees on Apple Arcade, helping to bolster the platform as a must-have subscription, with our Wylde Flowers review and Gibbon: Beyond the Trees review both heaping praise on the titles. The reason for the Take-Two takeover of the Farmville developer became a little clearer too, with Zynga announcing record-breaking revenues from 2021.
Outside of that, February was one of 2022’s quieter months for mobile titles. Still, behind the scenes, things were still going on, with Marvel game developers Netmarble US and Kabam merging to form something of a superhero development supergroup, and Call of Duty Mobile breaking $1.5 billion in revenue.
March made its way onto the scene in style, with Blizzard unveiling a new mobile game from the World of Warcraft universe – later revealed to be Warcraft Arclight Rumble – early access opening up for T3 Arena, and pre-registration campaigns for Brave Soul: Frozen Dungeon, Dead By Daylight Mobile, and Echoes of Mana.
The third month of the year also began a trend that amused the Pocket Tactics team for much of 2022, or as I like to call it, the year of ridiculous crossovers. March teased collaborations between Octopath Traveller Mobile and Nier Automata, Among Us and Halo, as well as Sonic and Candy Crush. Considering the year would end with Lionel Messi arriving in the world of PUBG Mobile, it really goes down as one of the wackier themes of 2022.
In April, we learned from Sensor Tower that US puzzle game spending had ballooned to over $5 billion from April 2021 to March 2022, in a 4.2% increase on the year before that gives even more context to the Zynga takeover. Meanwhile, developer Plarium celebrated the birthday of everyone’s favourite YouTube video sponsor with Raid Shadow Legends’ third-anniversary content, and UNO Mobile provided yet another wacky crossover by introducing an Assassins’ Creed Valhalla event.
May – Justin Timberlake’s favourite month – was all about big numbers coming from big names. Genshin Impact developer Mihoyo (now known as HoYoverse) revealed it hit $3 billion in revenue, Nintendo told us that its own mobile manoeuvring has pulled in around $2 billion, and PUBG Mobile posted lifetime revenue of over $8 billion. Not bad for an industry that just fifteen years ago was kept afloat by titles like Doodle Jump and Temple Run.
At the year’s halfway point in June, a new but recognisable name started to emerge in mobile gaming, with Crunchyroll looking to benefit from its role as the home of anime in the West. An Attack on Titan crossover helped to launch Bloodline: The Last Royal Vampire in mid June, with Eminence in Shadow arriving later in the year. We were so fascinated with the iconic anime brand’s turn to gaming, we even tracked down a representative for a Crunchyroll Games interview.
With the heat of summer and the news coming out of the real non-game world, you could have been forgiven for thinking you’d woken up in one of the seven circles of hell back in June, especially if you were one of the many to pick up Diablo Immortal, the debut mobile title from the series. While we didn’t have massive problems with our experience – as you can see in our 7/10 Diablo Immortal review – it seems that die-hard fans of the series didn’t have the same impression.
Looking at the Diablo Immortal user scores on Metacritic, you can see that few managed to find a guiding light in the dark and dingy dungeons of Sanctuary, with the prominence of micro-transactions, especially in the competitive late game, far too apparent for the series’ loyal contingent. Ending the year with an average user score of 0.3/10, you might assume that Diablo Immortal is an experiment gone wrong for Activision Blizzard, but the $300 million in revenue means that the corporate bigwigs probably aren’t losing too much sleep over a few (thousand) bad reviews.
It was also in June that Sensor Tower, our favourite data people, reported an estimation that the mobile gaming market would be worth more than £100 billion before the end of the decade (a good bit before the end of the decade in fact, with the prediction made for 2026). Considering the numbers we’ve already talked about for titles like Candy Crush, PUBG Mobile, and more, it’s not a massive surprise to see this kind of estimation, and it drives home how important the mobile market is to developers in this day and age.
Sticking with figures, Fire Emblem Heroes became the first Nintendo mobile title to breach $1 billion dollars in revenue in July, helping to distract the Japanese developer giant from the untimely demise of Dragalia Lost. Another icon of the entertainment industry also had a good July, with Disney Mirrorverse picking up steam after its June release thanks to introducing fresh content and the arrival of my personal favourite fictional orphan, Simba. The Disney battler iss one of our favourite mobile titles of the year, as you can tell from Kayleigh’s stellar 9/10 Disney Mirrorverse review.
To match massive revenues, August presented the PUBG Mobile World Invitational 2022 with an eye-watering $2 million going to the winning team Vampire Esports. The peak of the summer holidays month also saw Nexon Mobile, publishers of FIFA Online and MapleStory, report record profits while PUBG alternative Garena Free Fire held a big summer bash celebrating five years on the market.
September came around with the prospect of another ridiculous crossover, with PUBG Mobile detailing a future invasion from the cast of Dragon Ball. As of writing, we still haven’t seen Goku pop up in Tencent’s battle royale – in fact, the Saiyans ended up making their way into Fortnight first – but the buzz is that it’ll arrive sometime this year. The first of the -ember months also saw a big change to Mario Kart Tour’s gacha mechanics, introducing an easier way to pick up your preferred kart or costume, Riot revealing $750 million in revenue for Wild Rift, and Ubisoft announcing a partnership with Netflix to bring an Assassins Creed title to the platform in the near future.
As well as being stacked with new titles, 2022 marked the sixth anniversary of Pokémon Go, but there’s no sign of Niantic and The Pokémon Company’s money spinner slowing down any time soon. Being the biggest mobile site on the internet – we don’t mind reminding you – we took it upon ourselves to celebrate the milestone, with our Pokémon Go interview reaching out to Niantic themselves, Joe Merrick of Serebii, and other active members of the community.
Outside of the sixth-anniversary celebrations, Pokémon Go provided another busy year for its loyal players. As well as the milestone events taking place in Germany, Japan, and beyond, the last twelve months for Pokémon Go included the introduction of Hisuian Pokémon from Pokémon Legends Arceus, the water festival, Tapu Lele’s debut, and finally, the long-awaited arrival of ultra beasts to the AR title.
The spooky season that is October rolled around with all the anticipated festivities, including a PUBG Mobile Dead by Daylight collaboration, a demon-slaying Diablo Immortal alternative arriving in the form of Undecember, and Halloween content for Mario Kart Tour, Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds, Ensemble Stars, and Free Fire. It wasn’t a scary month for some though, with the news that the Harry Potter mobile games have managed to conjure up over $1 billion dollars in player spending.
It also emerged in October that Roblox users were down year-on-year for the first time in the platform’s history, asking some serious questions about the future of the home of titles like Rainbow Friends, Piggy, and more. Despite this, more and more media brands are choosing to partner with the blocky phenomenon, with He-Man, Mariah Carey, and Sonic the Hedgehog all finding their way into Roblox at some point in 2022.
November was a month of big reveals, with Capcom teasing a future Monster Hunter mobile title in development alongside Timi Studio Group, Mario Kart Tour’s Berlin Byway inexplicably sharing the fact that communism is canon in its own world, and Candy Crush showing off its tenth-anniversary celebrations with a very snazzy drone show amid the New York City skyline. Oh, and most importantly, Kermit found his way into Disney Mirrorverse, giving a whole new meaning to the term “duelling banjos”.
The penultimate month of the year also saw a financial earnings report from mobile developer Netmarble, with mixed news of massive revenue, but also big losses. This was one of the first signs of the impending global recession in the gaming market, with Netmarbles’s report showing a slight downturn on its previous trends. Still, CEO Young-sig Kown didn’t seem despondent at the latest results, sharing a statement alongside the report that points to a return to form in Q4. Whether that is the case is yet to be seen.
With the holiday season right around the corner, December delivered the usual festive flair, as well as some more, uh, let’s say, interesting, crossovers. The first day of advent calender opening was also the day Terminator icon Arnold Schwarzenegger emerged as a playable character in World of Tanks in a strange Christmas collaboration, before Mario Kart Tour, Marvel Snap, T3 Arena, and more all jumped on the holiday bandwagon with seasonal content.
There was one surprise left for the year though, with developer Poncle using the Game Awards to announce a Vampire Survivors shadow drop on mobile for its roguelike title. While not news to all, those of us who had been jealously watching people play the garlic-infused title on PC went on to spend much of December pouring endless hours into the title. Well, I’d rather do a thirty-minute run in the Inlaid Library than hang out with my gran on Christmas day anyway. My gran can’t shoot holy bibles.
Looking back on 2022 as a whole for mobile gaming, it’s clear that Marvel Snap comes out of the year looking like the title most likely to continue thriving through to the end of 2023, especially with the coveted Mobile Game of the Year award going to the Second Dinner developed title at the Game Awards 2022. If you’d have told me in September that I was going to have over 100 hours logged before the end of the year, I wouldn’t have believed you, but Ben Brode be damned, Marvel Snap is one of those games you just can’t put down.
So what’s up for 2023? Marvel Snap developer Second Dinner is looking to cement its title as one of the best experiences on mobile, something I heartedly agree with in our Pocket Tactics awards mobile games of the year list, especially with a DC mobile card game still on the horizon. There’s other anticipated titles to look forward to as well, with the Monster Hunter mobile game, Avatar: Reckoning, Call of Duty Warzone Mobile, and Peridot all set to land this year.
In terms of the industry, things aren’t looking as bad as some might have anticipated in the thralls of 2022. Just a few days into 2023, Sensor Report provided us with the information that Genshin Impact is up 5.6% on its revenue from the year before, with over $4 billion in spending from the launch until now. Of course, Genshin isn’t emblematic of the whole mobile industry, but with Marvel Snap and Pokemon Go reporting solid profits too, and even the much-maligned Diablo Immortal making more than a few bucks for Activision Blizzard, it’s safe to say that mobile gaming is here to say, and with the news that Fornite is set to return to iPhone this year, 2023 is set to be another year of delight for developers and gamers alike. Bring it on.
For more reflective pieces on gaming in 2022, check out the Pocket Tactics awards for Switch games of the year, mobile games of the year, as well as pieces covering 2022 in digital CCGs and the best indie games. Or, for a slightly funkier take on the last twelve months, check out PT writer Ben Johnson’s 2022 year in review.