Who’s playing mobile games in 2020? Top tips for app publishers

March 31, 2020

Tags: 2020, Publishers

Nicolas McConnell

As a gaming app publisher, it’s important to understand who is playing games today; understanding your audience can help you increase engagement (and in-app monetization). So who is playing mobile games in 2020? Hint: it’s everyone. Mobile has unlocked widespread accessibility and ease of use for gamers worldwide, and this has empowered the next generation of engaged gaming audiences. eMarketer concludes that “[boosted by global smartphone ownership], mobile has become the most popular channel for gaming—and this holds true for all ages and income levels.” Nearly everyone today has a mobile device on hand at any given moment, meaning there's very little barrier to entry (particularly when it comes to cost, time, and accessibility). 

Apps on MoPub attract mobile users across several demographics — whether or not they identify as a "gamer." According to internal MoPub data in conjunction with Factual research, mobile users on MoPub represent everyone from young professionals (20%) to big box shoppers (33%) to QSR diners (64%).

Keeping in mind the diverse audience for mobile apps and games in particular, let's get into exactly who's playing; understanding your audience will help you gear your game to their interests. 

Gender breakdown: how to turn previously underserved segments into your most valued users

Upending traditional gaming gender stereotypes
Despite the traditional stereotype that gamers are just “young guys,” the audience for mobile gaming today is broadening significantly. 

  • Over the past decade or so, there’s been a rise in the number of women playing games regularly, according to an article in The Gaming Economy.
  • Studies have shown that today, over 46% of all gaming enthusiasts — mobile, console, PC, and more — are women. 
  • Today, the mobile gaming gender split is 51% female, 49% male, and traditional notions about what constitutes a “gamer” are being upended. 

Time spent playing mobile games, by gender
What’s more, women play mobile games more frequently than men. 

  • Mobile gaming sessions last 25% longer on average for women than for men. 
  • As quoted in an article for Forbes, we learn that 43% of women play mobile games more than five times a week while only 38% of men play that often. 
  • Research has found that 4.5% of women spend in-game, compared to only 3.3% of men. 

#ElevateYourGame: With women making up such a large portion of your potential audience, consider engaging with more diverse themes and concepts (e.g. lived experiences and characters that are generally underrepresented in gaming) in your games. Since women play so consistently, you are in a great position to turn this previously underserved segment into your most valued customers.  

Age breakdown: an opportunity to experiment with different genres and paces 

A wide age range exists in mobile gaming today
As gender representation among players has broadened, so too have the age groups that play games. 

  • Today, the average age of a mobile gamer is 36.3 (compared with 27.7 in 2014).
  • According to a mobile gaming demographics report from MMA Global, “the 16-24 age group represents a mere 14.2% of mobile gamers, while people older than 45 years make up nearly a third. So mobile gamers are more likely to be middle aged moms than their teenage sons.” 

Different games suit different generations

  • According to eMarketer, “Fifty-three percent of internet users in the 45-to-54 cohort play games on their smartphone
  • These older players typically prefer online board/card games (12%), puzzle/platform (11%) and shooter games (11%).” Games represent a diverse range of gamers, and gamers in turn inform the games that find success. 

#ElevateYourGame: Look at audience age breakdowns as an opportunity to experiment with different genres and games with different paces — melding action elements into puzzle games or emphasizing RPG mechanics in an idle title.  

Games reflect gamers: mobile gaming has a place in nearly every market

At the end of the day, understanding your players is key to understanding where your opportunities lie. The uniquely diverse array of mobile app game players has resulted in an incredible diversity of games. This means that there’s a game for everyone; it’s a positive feedback loop that’s helped the mobile gaming business find a foothold in every market it’s touched. The stigmas and barriers of the past are vanishing in the face of mobile gaming. 

MoPub is here to help you #ElevateYourGame. Make sure to stay tuned for the next post in the series: a closer look at gaming genres and terminology for app publishers to be aware of. Questions, comments, in the meantime? Reach out to the MoPub team.

About the author: Nic McConnell, Publisher Solutions Manager

Nic is a Publisher Solutions Manager for MoPub. With a career spanning ad tech and market research as well as time with PlayStation, Square-Enix and more, Nic applies his expertise and his enthusiasm for gaming to help the industry's leading mobile game studios successfully monetize the games people love playing. When he's not at work, Nic is at home teaching his two baby daughters how to play Bust a Move on his prized Neo Geo cabinet.

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