A fantastic twelve months for Mobile Games

As we approach 2024, it’s an exciting moment, especially considering the incredible developments we’ve witnessed in the mobile gaming industry. The dynamic movements and advancements have made this a remarkable time to be part of the gaming community. We have plenty of discussions to carry out in this regard, so, why wait? Let us explore the captivating world of mobile games, uncovering the standout titles, controversies, and more that defined the year, with this GamingonPhone’s Mobile Games Year in Review for 2023.

From Honkai Star Rail to Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis: A Year of Big Releases

Starting things off, it is a year of big releases we should say. Plenty of great game releases made their way into the industry, and some of them showed extremely great promises of being a stellar title much to impress the fans, let me be honest here, it did succeed. The overall idea of having multiple releases for the small screens was a delight, and when the quality of the game started to increase, these were nothing but great signs for the industry.

Honkai Star Rail Penacony Map release Mobile Games Year in Review 2023
Image via HoYoverse

Now, I’m lip-smacking while at looking some of the trend-setting releases we saw on mobile. The biggest is surely Honkai Star Rail, which was supposed to be a big yes, but it went out to be a blockbuster if I were to coin it purely in terms of the success and the aftermath reaction the launch got. The game broke several records and raked up $1 billion in revenue in no time while winning several awards, and is popularly loved in the same breath as Genshin Impact another creation by HoYoverse, which speaks volumes.

There have been some more of these fantastic releases coming across, so let us give them their flowers too. Gacha has been a huge hit, and most players turning to gacha games are something a trend that has been followed since Genshin’s launch. Gacha + RPG combo was very frequent among the releases this year, and games such as Reverse: 1999, Takt Op Symphony, Black Clover M, and more were good for the gamers as they loved these releases, and thus, happy faces for developers too.

Arena Breakout Guns Weapons Gunsmith Guide
Image via Tencent Games

The releases section showcased a collection of visually enthralling games that truly deserve commendation for their aesthetic appeal and great optimization for smartphones. Titles like Arena Breakout, Undawn, Ace Racer, Dawnlands, and Harry Potter: Magic Awakened stood out, making me marvel at the realization that we’ve reached a point where mobile games can deliver a console-quality experience. The graphics and gameplay of these picks were not only a treat for the eyes but also a testament to the remarkable advancements in mobile gaming, and it will get better.

No short of controversies

Well, let us talk some gossip, shall we?

This year did not leave anything short of some spicy stories that will be remembered for a long time. The year kicked off with Arknights issuing a cease and desist order against NFT Game Oldeus for plagiarism, but the hottest controversy of this year was the Epic vs Google trial verdict. This December, we saw Fortnite maker Epic Games winning their long-standing legal battle with Google as the jury declared the Google Play Store an ‘illegal monopoly’, which comes across as an expose of Google’s tight grip on app distribution.

Epic Games Google app store India, Epic Games Google Play settlement,Epic Games wins legal battle Google Mobile Games Year in Review 2023
Image via GamingonPhone

This case was very surprising as it unveiled a lot of new and hidden details between the two giants. We also got to know Google was looking to acquire Epic Games in 2018 while being open to collaborating with shareholder Tencent to finalize a buyout, while it was revealed that OnePlus and Samsung faced restrictions from Google on including Fortnite on their devices. It came after the European Commission announced six gatekeeper companies Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft, under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). 

It doesn’t stop there. Two top Indian Esports teams S8UL and GodLike popular for Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI), got involved in an online spat in October which involved the management and owners with intense toxicity being spread among its members, and much to a spicy controversy. Although these things are supposed to not get big, Indian Esports audiences are pretty large, and with a lot of fanbase, this was bound to happen.

Players unleash their anger on a lot of things, and they weren’t shy to do it this year either. While the protest over Niantic’s monetization policy was somewhat serious, what was pretty fun in one instance where players of Pokémon Go listed their in-game accounts on eBay to protest over controversial Remote Raid changes by Niantic that shook the community as a whole, and even though it was a serious note, it was pretty funny.

Pokémon Go Piloswine Moveset
Image via Niantic

Another popular game Limbus Company was review-bombed following false descriptions and swimsuit design controversy, and it was also something that lasted for sometime long. Another hilarious bit was about HoYoverse who reportedly attempted to avoid Apple’s 30% commission policy to achieve revenue growth, which seems to be too odd considering how the ties between the giants strengthened this March with Apple CEO Tim Cook‘s visit, but guess the Genshin makers wanted that cake by themselves.

As the year came to a close, Twitch made headlines by updating its policies regarding adult content by permitting what it terms as ‘artistic nudity‘, but tracked back on it within a day as many jumped ship to take advantage of this loophole. As we wrap up this section, you’ve probably taken a stroll through quite a collection of controversial stories. But seriously, who could have predicted the sheer abundance of drama this year, huh? It’s like 2023 decided to sprinkle some extra spice on the storyline just to keep us entertained, and I think it succeeded.

Friendships and Business: A 2023 Movie

Even though I am among the ones least interested in business deals, this year, I’ve written a pretty good share of such new business merges, brand collaborations, and rumors, and I do want to review them as they are helping and will surely help in the future changes to our industry landscape.

The most talked-about business deal of the year was undeniably Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard, a deal that had been in the works since 2022 and finally received the green light from regulators in October. Shifting gears to the world of mobile gaming, Rovio Entertainment, the brains behind Angry Birds, found itself in the acquisition spotlight as SEGA Europe sealed the deal for €706 million in August. This move not only solidified a substantial transaction but also opened up new realms of possibilities for both gaming powerhouses.

SEGA x Rovio cover, SEGA acquire Rovio Mobile Games Year in Review 2023
Image via SEGA/Rovio

In tandem with these high-profile acquisitions, Savvy Games Group made headlines by successfully acquiring Scopely for an eye-popping $4.9 billion. There were also reports of Disney looking into potentially acquiring a significant game publisher, such as Electronic Arts, to become a gaming publisher with substantial first-party development capabilities.

These developments deserve a closer look, especially as they underscore the ever-growing significance of mobile gaming and developers in the industry. Such monumental deals serve as clear indicators of the trajectory that the gaming landscape is poised to take in the coming years.

Taking a retrospective glance at the past year, these acquisitions emerge as key milestones, shaping and reshaping the gaming industry’s topography. Looking ahead, these deals lay the groundwork for some exciting breakthroughs and innovations in the gaming world. It won’t be a shocker if we find ourselves witnessing more of such major moves with even bigger names jumping to involve themselves in the not-so-distant future.

However, there were some disappointments in the same “friendship” regard with the layoffs. Although I would coin this as a disappointment and elaborate more in my disappointment article, it’s disheartening to witness the industry taking a hit as individuals are severed from the work they’re passionate about.

Events galore: A mobile gaming forefront

Okay, let us jump back to the good part again. Undoubtedly, mobile gaming has firmly established itself as the most popular gaming platform but to back it up we needed more events that focus on mobile gaming. This year, in particular, marked a significant shift, as it witnessed a surge in the number of events featuring mobile gaming.

gamescom asia 2022 participating companies
Image via Koelnmesse

gamescom 2023 and gamescom asia 2023 were fantastic in this regard, both featuring a handful of mobile gaming experiences for the audience as well as the fans, and these showcases were delightful in an overall shift for mobile games. G-STAR 2023 is also something I would like to remember since it was very instrumental in demonstrating the games on mobile in a large showcase. The mobile gaming prominence was noticed in award shows as well, with dedicated categories awarding some of the best in our industry showcasing their excellence.

Being part of the gaming community during this time has truly been thrilling. The noticeable rise in both the frequency and scale of events featuring mobile gaming is fantastic to see, and this trend highlights the industry’s acknowledgment of the massive popularity and influence held by mobile gaming. Would I like to see more of such events? Absolutely. But the question is, will we have more of such events with mobile gaming being a lookout? A safe answer would be, that the future is bright.

Competition at its finest: A fun year for Esports

Fans have always cherished the competitive spirit within gaming communities, and the introduction of esports has brought an enchanting allure that has captivated everyone involved. Many fans were genuinely curious about this shift.

So, let’s pause for a moment and give credit where it’s due, let’s appreciate the numerous games that have truly shone in terms of esports excellence this year. Think PUBG Mobile, Clash Royale, Clash of Clans, Brawl Stars, Pokemon UNITE, Mobile Legends Bang Bang, League of Legends: Wild Rift, Free Fire, and the list just goes on. The diversity of games excelling in esports is seemingly amazing, showcasing the richness and vibrancy of the competitive gaming scene.

Mobile Legends M5 World Championship 2023 cover
Image via MOONTON Games

2020 to 2022 was tough and transitioning from the pandemic years to an arena filled with the audience is not easy, but with the love for the competitive mobile gaming nature, 2023 has been the year to speak about. Speaking of that, we were invited to a majestic showcase of the recently held Mobile Legends (MLBB) M5 World Championship 2023 and got a chance to witness the action live, it is a different experience, and the fun of being there is something else.

Plenty of games, be it existing or upcoming want this competitive spirit to be engraved on their games, and their wanting to have esports events for their titles being held speaks volumes about the culture of the mobile industry slowly shifting from fun and enjoyment to a more dynamic and thriving nature with winning-hungry mentality.

We all like this, don’t we? No doubt, it’s a testament to the continuous growth and evolution of esports helping in capturing the enthusiasm and support of fans across various gaming communities, and this is easily one of the major factors for the growth we are witnessing.

It is just getting started

In wrapping up, it’s safe to say that this year has been a rollercoaster of excitement for mobile gaming enthusiasts. But guess what? This is just the beginning. There is a lot of waiting for us players and fans, and it is a refreshing thing to look at all the simple yet defining moments. For the future, the 2024 lineup of games is amazing, and given the rumors surrounding the industry it looks like many big names are planning to venture into the world of mobile gaming, because why not?

I say taking a bold step into the mobile gaming scene wouldn’t be as tempting if the future didn’t look incredibly promising. What makes it even more thrilling is the massive untapped potential waiting to be explored. A plethora of IPs from Mangas, Anime shows, and even renowned names like Disney or Netflix making their way as mobile games with their movies or series, with the latter already trying it with the upcoming Rebel Moon franchise, with the streaming giant already confirming 90 games in development too. The mere thought of it is nothing short of mouth-watering for us fans.

Image via Netflix

The mobile gaming world is currently having endless possibilities. It’s as if we’re standing at the threshold of something genuinely extraordinary. With more games to come, the stage is set for an exciting chapter in mobile gaming, one that holds the promise of innovation, creativity, and a whole lot of fun. The future is bright and the possibilities are truly endless. 2024, it is time for you to shine.

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