It likely came as no surprise the other day when Joe Hindy, our resident app authority, shared the news that 90 percent of Google Play revenue in 2016 came from games. Mobile games are big business and as such, are a particularly difficult market to crack. But every now and then a massive new game appears that dominates the charts. In 2016, two such games appeared: Clash Royale and Pokemon Go. But which one managed to make the most money?
Clash Royale arrived on the scene first, debuting internationally on March 2, 2016 with regional soft launches on iOS and Android a few weeks earlier. Clash Royale is made by Supercell, the gaming behemoth based in Finland that is also responsible for the money-printing machine that is Clash of Clans.
Like Clash of Clans, Clash Royale’s freemium model consists of getting players hooked with free gameplay that feeds on impatience. While you can play the entire game for free, impatience leads players to buy in-game currency to bypass chest-opening wait times, create tournaments and more quickly amass cards, gems and gold.
Pokemon Go uses a fairly similar strategy. Also free to install, Pokemon Go arrived much later in the year. While it was soft launched in select countries on July 6 with a very slow roll out after that, some major markets like India only managed to get the game in mid-December. Published by Niantic, maker of Ingress, the game shares a similar modus operandi of physical activity as a part of the core gameplay.
Needless to say, Pokemon Go’s rollout was a much less polished affair than Clash Royale’s with server crashes, lockouts, botched updates and more muddying the waters of its money-making potential. But Pokemon Go’s simple mechanics of walking and waiting can likewise be bypassed with in-game micro-transactions.
That said, Pokemon Go has proven itself a force to be reckoned with where revenue is concerned. So much so that despite coming out later in the year with a very staggered global launch, suffering countless problems in its early days and offending its most fervent fans at almost every update, Pokemon Go still managed to generate more money in 2016 than its closest new-game rival, Clash Royale.
According to worldwide data from Sensor Tower, Pokemon Go was the fifth most profitable game in 2016, one spot ahead of Clash Royale in sixth position. The four games ahead of both new titles were stalwarts of mobile gaming Clash of Clans, Mobile Strike, Game of War and Monster Strike. On iOS, Clash Royale was more profitable than Pokemon Go, while on Android, Pokemon Go dominated.
The difference boils down to active users. Clash Royale was a massively popular mobile game. Pokemon Go was a global phenomenon. Pokemon Go had the highest number of monthly active users on both iOS and Android, according to App Annie, with Clash Royale occupying fifth spot on iOS and sixth on Android behind classics like Candy Crush, Subway Surfers and Clash of Clans.
It just goes to show that even a game with as horrendous a launch as Pokemon Go can, through a combination of nostalgia, community, activity and novelty, elevate itself above petty concerns like inadequate server capacity. Supercell may have perfected the freemium model with several of its games, but to make the most money on mobile, you need to create something more than just a game.
Which game do you think you spent more money on?