In reaction to rising inflation, customers became more cost-conscious in their purchase selections last year, which led to a decrease in spending on mobile games, according to a survey from app analytics firm Data.ai.
Data.ai, formerly App Annie, reported Wednesday (January 11, 2023) that worldwide expenditure on mobile games decreased by 5% in 2022 to $110 billion. The paper also examines the general condition of industries including social networking apps, mobile advertising, and retail.
Nevertheless, first-time installs of mobile titles rose 8% to a record 90 billion, with so-called “hypercasual” titles leading the gains.
“We are seeing this major theme emerge of people being more price sensitive and financially more conservative,” Lexi Sydow, head of insights at Data.ai, told CNBC, adding that the “biggest hit” to spending on apps was in gaming.
People are limiting their discretionary spending as a result of economic challenges like rising prices and borrowing expenses. Gaming especially has come under pressure.
Global sales of games and services, including console and PC games, were expected to contract 1.2% year-on-year to $188 billion in 2022, according to a July research note from market data firm Ampere Analysis.
Major publishers have made significant bets on mobile game developers in recent years, making the expansion of mobile gaming the dominant story in the games business.
Early last year, Take-Two bought mobile gaming firm Zynga for $12.7 billion. In 2016, the maker of Candy Crush Saga, King, was purchased by Activision Blizzard for $5.9 billion. U.S. tech giant Microsoft, meanwhile, is banking on continued growth in mobile gaming with its proposed $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard.
However, recent macroeconomic challenges, such as an increase in the cost of living and increased borrowing rates, have hampered that expansion.
Microsoft and Sony will each release their newest game consoles in 2020, increasing the rivalry for mobile.
A return to in-person activities and a relaxation of travel regulations from the Covid-19 pandemic’s peak in 2020, when most of the world was holed up at home, were also observed last year.
Non-gaming apps proved more resilient in 2022, according to Data.ai’s research, with the value of purchases in such apps rising 6% year-over-year to $58 billion. The growth was driven mainly by subscriptions and in-app purchases in streaming platforms, dating apps and short-form video services like TikTok.
Downloads of non-gaming apps grew 13% from the previous year, to 165 billion.
That did little to offset the slump in mobile game spending, however, with spending across app stores slipping 2% to $167 billion. The figures include installs on third-party Android marketplaces in China, where Google’s official Play app store is banned.
In 2023, the market will continue to confront challenges, and Apple’s recently enacted privacy regulations are projected to put more pressure on app developers.
Apple launched its App Tracking Transparency feature, which gives users a prompt asking whether they wish to be targeted by advertisers, in 2021.
Data.ai expects global app spend on games specifically to drop a further 3% to $107 billion this year as a result of decreased disposable income and changes to privacy.
Google intends to implement privacy restrictions that would prevent monitoring across Android apps, much like Apple does.
“With limitations on your targeting capabilities from an advertiser standpoint, it becomes harder to attract the big whales who spend the most in games,” Sydow explained.
The changes spell trouble for Meta, owner of the Facebook and Instagram social media platforms. Meta Chief Financial Officer David Wehner warned previously that Apple’s ATT could decrease its 2022 sales by $10 billion. The company made most of its $117.9 billion revenue in 2021 from advertising sales.
Meta faces tense competition from rival firm TikTok. The Chinese-owned short video app last year reached $6 billion in overall lifetime spending and is only the second non-game app to achieve that milestone after Tinder, according to Data.ai.
Sydow said the effects of Apple’s privacy measures hadn’t yet appeared in the 2022 numbers with total spend dropping across both iOS and Google Play but was likely to have a much greater impact this year.
Despite the overall spending slowdown in 2022, there was still “more demand for mobile service than ever before,” Sydow added. First-time app downloads grew 11% to 255 billion, Data.ai said, while hours spent in apps climbed 9% to a record 4.1 trillion.