Nokiaâ€™s â€œSnakeâ€ is probably the best-known mobile game in history. It was first released with the Nokia 6110 back in 1997, thanks to programmer Taneli Armanto, and became a surprise hit due especially to its simple controls and rudimentary multiplayer through the phoneâ€™s infrared port. Although it was indeed a success, it wasnâ€™t profitable directly (although thereâ€™s no telling how many people have bought the Nokia 6110 because of it).
Actually, mobile gaming as a separate branch of the global gaming industry hasnâ€™t emerged until â€œcamera phonesâ€ (feature phones with cameras, capable of running standalone applications) became a thing. The mobile gaming industry has first attracted the attention of analysts in the middle of the 2000s when it already generated close to $3 billion in sales. The revenues of mobile games got an unexpected boost with the release of the iPhone – by 2008, the reported revenues of the genre more than doubled. A decade later, mobile is the most profitable gaming platform, generating more revenues than PC and console games.
Mobile gaming keeps growing year after year, thanks in part to the ever-growing number of smartphones. Today, letâ€™s take a look at the biggest winners in mobile gaming, the apps that have generated the most profit for their publishers.
Honourable mention: PokÃ©mon Go
Niantic and Nintendo released PokÃ©mon Go in 2016, causing masses to rise from their cushioned seats and head out into the world to catch PokÃ©mon. In the year of its release, PokÃ©mon Go saw more than half a billion downloads and generated revenues of around $4.7 billion. The game is around to this day, offering its players the chance to catch and evolve around 500 species of PokÃ©mon.
5. Candy Crush Saga
King.comâ€™s â€œmatch 3â€ game has built a massive, dedicated following with its sympathetic visuals and simple gameplay. Released in 2012 on Facebook, the game successfully conquered all platforms, becoming one of the biggest hits of the mobile gaming industry. And one of its biggest earners, too: with almost 3 billion downloads, its gross revenue has grown to exceed $5.4 billion over the years.
4. Clash of Clans
Supercell has released quite a few popular mobile games but Clash of Clans was by far its biggest hit. Released in 2012 for iOS and 2013 for Android, the game quickly found its way to the top spots of the download lists and has remained there for years to come. And it made a ton of money, too – in 2015, it was estimated to make sales of up to $1.5 million each day, with its lifetime revenues growing to around $6.4 billion.
3. Honor of Kings (Wangzhe Rongyao) and Arena of Valor
Tencent Games released its MOBA â€œWangzhe Rongyaoâ€ in 2015 in China and its international version â€œArena of Valorâ€ in 2017. The game was a massive success, quickly growing its player base to more than 200 million worldwide. With this massive player base came its massive revenue: more than $6.75 billion to date.
2. Puzzle & Dragons
GungHo Online Entertainment released Puzzle & Dragons, its fantasy RPG-puzzle title back in 2012, to great success. It was the first mobile game with gross revenues to exceed $1 billion (in 2014). Today, it is the second most profitable mobile game in the world, with total revenues exceeding $7.7 billion.
1. Monster Strike
The most profitable mobile game of all time is none other than Monster Strike, released in 2013 by the Japanese social networking service Mixi. The game is often described as a physics-driven role-playing and strategy title with a cooperative multiplayer, often referred to as a cross between PokÃ©mon Go and Metal Walker. It is one of the few mobile games to break the mobile barrier: it was released on Nintendo 3DS with a more traditional role-playing twist and adapted into an anime series in 2015 (that was followed by feature film adaptations in 2016 and 2018). The game has generated revenues worth more than $8.2 billion as of last year, becoming the most lucrative of its kind in history.