You’ve heard that there are hundreds of mobile games releasing every week. You see them when you browse your favourite app store. They look cheap, small and most of them look like a crash grab. Have you ever wondered how much money does the average mobile game make?
In this article we’ll take a look at the average revenue for a mobile game released in 2021 and we’ll do our very own math for various types of releases. By the end of this article, you should gain a pretty good perspective on the matter at hand. So, how much money does the average mobile game make?
Your answer up front:
An average mobile game with a good freemium monetisation model that has less than 50 000 downloads can expect to earn about $1 for every 4 users it has, leading to about $12 500 in revenue. The more downloads and users a game has the more revenue it can generate, especially once players known as “Wales” are taken into account. Wales generate ~50% of a game’s revenue while accounting for less than 1% of the player base.
We made a case study game and released it on the App Store with no marketing done on our side. If you’re curious to find out how many downloads you get from just being available on the app store, check out this article titled “How Many Organic Downloads Can Your Game Get Without Marketing?“.
How much money does the average mobile game make – according to public sources?
The average game with a good monetisation strategy and good retention figures can earn around $61.07 per user (lifetime). In 2020 there were 46 billion game downloads on the Play Store, according to statista.
Google play hosts around 1.5 million apps marked as gaming apps or games in total. If we divide 46 billion by 1.5 million we’ll end up with a value of 36 000 downloads / google play game.
Here’s where we start talking about retention. An average Day 1 retention for average games, according to udonis, lies between 14% and 25%. Retention is calculated by the amount of people who return to a game after trying it once. Day 1 retention calculates how many people started the game at least twice since installing it. Let’s assume that 1 in 4 users who download a game become users/players.
We take out “average” 36 000 downloads / game on google play and multiply it by 0.25 and we end up with 9000 “lifetime” users for a game.
This brings us to the $61.07 revenue per active user and multiply that by 9000 leading us to a total of $549 630 in revenue / average game.
How much money does the average mobile game make – according to reality?
But that does not sound right at all. If that was the case, I would be building a mansion out of yachts from the 60 mobile games I released last year.
I believe our culprit is the $61.07 ARPU that statista mentions. I have no doubt that it’s true, however – you have to remember that average quite means average.
On the low end you have games with $0.5 ARPU while on the other end lies Pokemon Go with a $5 Billion lifetime revenue and 100 million installs or Subway Surfers with it’s 1 billion installs tilting the scale.
And do not forget about the mobile gaming industry biggest love – the so called “WALES” which generate about 50% of the revenue of a game while accounting for less 1% of the players.
So let’s re-check our math. If wales account for 1% the user base and generate more than 50% of said revenue we can take down statista’s number to a more realistic number: $1.
Which is still 2-3 times the ARPU I saw in all of the mobile games I’ve been involved with over the past 5-6 years.
Our average game with 36 000 downloads and a Day 1 retention of 25% percent ends up earning a more realistic figure of $9000. Now that’s one drastic change.
I’ve written a new post titled “Is mobile game dev profitable?” and it contains my own income report and the breakdown on how I make money as a Mobile Game Developer.
How much money does an average hypercasual game make?
As I mentioned in various blog posts, in 2020 I helped design about 60 casual and hypercasual mobile and released them on both the Google Play store and Apple’s App Store. In the article titled How do free mobile games make money I shared my experiences from the trenches how we were targeting a CPI (Cost Per Install) of $0.21. That represents how much money we wanted to pay to bring 1 user into our game.
The reason for it is that we would see an average ARPU of $0.31 to $0.40. Or better said, for every user we brought into the game, if we managed to keep him playing multiple times a day for 7 days, we would make $0.1 in revenue. It seems little, but once you start scaling it starts to make sense. Imagine having 10c profit / user and having a game with 10 000 000 users. That’s 1 million dollars in revenue. Not to shabby right? Well, that’s if we managed to hit the golden goose CPI of $0.21. Out of the 60 games I helped develop, I think maybe 2 even came close to it.
Off-course this applies to hyper casual games which are mostly monetised via advertisements in the early stages. In-App purchases arrive a bit later and they can increase the ARPU.
Where To Next?
You’ve reached the end of this article. I write extensively about the mobile gaming industry, their tactics and how greed influences a game’s design. I believe that you might be interested in more articles on game monetisation. So if you want to stick around, you can check out “How Do Free Mobile Games Make money“, “Why Do Mobile Games Have Fake Ads” and “Why Do Mobile Games Have In-App Purchases“.
There’s also a monster post (about 4000 words) that answers the question: “How Hard Is It To Make A Mobile Game“. It goes in depth with actual examples on how Experience, Resources and Financials affect the difficulty of developing and releasing new mobile games!
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