As we’ve discussed, the Gen Z demographic has a collective buying power of almost $150 billion, representing a large and growing revenue opportunity for brands. Mobile games that can engage and retain Gen Z users have an opportunity to unlock revenue and scale in the coming years.
Below, we cover key mobile gaming app trends of 2022 to help you market your app to Gen Z users. We also dive deeper into the top Gen Z gaming apps that you will typically find on their mobile devices.
Mobile Gaming App Trends in 2022: The Gen Z User & Mobile Games
Gen Z’ers Are Avid Mobile Gamers
As the most digitally-savvy generation to date, it’s no surprise that Zoomers are avid mobile gamers. According to Tapjoy’s survey of mobile consumers between the ages of 18 to 24, 86% of Zoomers use their mobile devices to play games compared to 46% of Zoomers who use handheld gaming consoles. In fact, playing games is a top activity Zoomers use their mobile devices for; along with using social media and streaming entertainment. Gen Z’s mobile gaming use accelerated in the pandemic with 71% of Zoomers reporting that they played more mobile games in 2020. Finally, a majority of Zoomers (55%) are actively engaged in looking for new mobile games.
Receptive to Ads
As a generation that grew up surrounded by advertising in the mobile ecosystem, Zoomers are more receptive to mobile ads than others. According to Tapjoy, 52% of Zoomers will try a new game based on an engaging ad. That being said, they appreciate ads that drive value and don’t interrupt their gaming experience. In terms of top performing ad formats, 54% of Gen Z users prefer rewarded mobile game ads that provide a value exchange. In terms of brand messaging that gets their attention, Zoomers value content that is humorous, authentic and supports important social and environmental issues.
Top Gen Z Mobile Gaming App Trends in 2022 Takeaway
As 86% of Zoomers are already actively engaged with mobile games, all apps stand to gain from serving in-app ads in game apps. To engage the Gen Z user, focus on ad formats that provide a value exchange, like rewarded mobile game ads. Zoomers appreciate content that is humorous, authentic and unobtrusive. Ensure your ads do not interrupt their gaming experience and lean on lighthearted messaging to get their attention.
Top Gen Z Mobile Gaming Markets
Across markets in 2021, top mobile games were played by a majority of Gen Z users according to App Annie’s 2021 Mobile Gaming report. Player distribution by age group is most Gen Z leaning in South Korea, where 75% of players fall into the Gen Z demographic. France and the UK come in second, with 68% of players in the Gen Z age group. The U.S. and Australia both have a distribution of about 66% of Gen Z players.
Source: App Annie
The Top Mobile Gaming Apps Gen Z Has on Their Phone
App Annie’s 2021 Mobile Gaming Report also notes top games within the Gen Z demographic. While the specific distribution of top games differs across markets, clear frontrunners include ROBLOX, Among Us and Pokémon GO.
Top Gen Z Gaming App #1: ROBLOX
ROBLOX is one of the most popular metaverse titles in mobile gaming to-date. Made by Roblox Corporation, ROBLOX is not just a game, but a platform that allows players to play a vast array of games made by third party creators. It capitalizes on metaverse technology by fostering player expression in real-time through virtual avatars.
ROBLOX rose to prominence in 2021, generating 1.3 billion and ranking #4 worldwide player spending. In the US, it hit #1 for both consumer spending and active users. Roblox has driven the most revenue of any game app in the US and UK markets for 5 straight quarters since Q2 2020. Players spent an average 4.3 hours per week playing ROBLOX in 2021, beating out Minecraft and Call of Duty.
Source: Sensor Tower
Roblox’s focus on third party integrations has kept its content fresh, evolving and expansive. This was particularly well-timed as the pandemic extended into 2021 and demand for entertainment remained high.
Top Gen Z Gaming App #2: Among Us!
Among Us is a multiplayer social deduction game made by indie game developer Innersloth that was first released in 2018. What makes the game unique is that players must build their personalities and trust in each other to advance in the game.
Among Us reached peak popularity in the second half of 2020 when famous Twitch streamers like Pokimane started playing Among Us for their viewers to watch. Furthermore, the game has capitalized on key collaborations that stretch outside of gaming. In 2020, U.S Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez teamed up with top streamers to play Among Us on Twitch, in an effort to encourage young people to vote. This inspired hundreds of thousands of Twitch users to download the game.
Top Gen Z Gaming App #3: Pokémon GO
Pokémon GO by Niantic has been a consistently popular mobile game title since it’s sensational release in 2016. The game uses augmented reality technology and geo location data to inspire players to walk around the real world looking for Pokémon. In 2021, the game reached the $5 billion player spending mark and also celebrated its 5-year anniversary. This means the game has generated an impressive $1 billion annually since its launch.
The United States is the top market in revenue for Pokémon GO to-date. The game generated $1.9 billion, or 36.6%, of its lifetime player spending in the US. Japan is the second highest revenue-generating market for Pokémon GO, making up 32% of overall lifetime player spend.
The game's competitive advantage is its unique use of AR and geo location data to inspire play. Furthermore, Pokémon GO has maintained its success through the pandemic via key updates that have allowed more stay-at-home functionality during ongoing lockdown restrictions.
Takeaways on Top Gen Z Mobile Gaming Apps:
As 82% of Gen Z users are avid mobile gamers, all apps stand to gain from serving in-app game ads to engage and retain Gen Z mobile gamers.
- Serve rewarded ad formats. To engage the Gen Z user, focus on ad formats that provide a value exchange, like rewarded mobile game ads.
- Create messaging that is fun and funny. Zoomers appreciate content that is humorous, authentic and unobtrusive. Ensure your ads do not interrupt their gaming experience and lean on lighthearted messaging to get their attention.
- Top markets. Markets across the globe are Gen Z leaning when it comes to the distribution of age groups of mobile game players. South Korea has the highest distribution of Gen Z players (75%) followed by France and the UK (68%), and the US and Australia (66%).
- Top games. While the specific distribution of top Gen Z gaming apps differs across markets, clear frontrunners include ROBLOX, Among Us and Pokémon GO.