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MONOPOLY GO! is the king of IP in mobile games

With attracting players becoming a more expensive proposition, many developers and publishers are turning to the mass appeal of intellectual properties. In this post, we examine the performance of top IPs, IP media types, corporate parents, and more over the past few years.

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What you should know — key takeaways: 

  • MONOPOLY GO! is the highest grossing IP (intellectual property) mobile game in the world. Thanks to this, Scopely is the #1 publisher by revenue driven from IP mobile games, and Hasbro is the #1 IP corporate parent in mobile gaming.

  • A wave of IP collaboration in app events have brought the mass appeal of IPs to non-IP games.

  • This year has seen huge IP launches in PC/Console as well, led by Warner Bros.’ Hogwarts Legacy.

As user acquisition costs have risen over the past few years, the mass appeal of intellectual properties has come under renewed focus from mobile gaming publishers and developers. Over the past year we’ve seen the rise of several interesting trends, including huge IP mobile releases, in-app event collaborations, and shifts in which IP media type is dominant. Let’s break down the landscape as it unfolded in 2023.

Top 20 IP corporate parents by revenue

Corporate parents are further divided into IP operators and individual IPs. For example, Disney is a corporate parent who owns the IP operator Lucasfilm, which runs the Star Wars IP. IPs are color coded by IP media type, which is the type of media the original intellectual property came up in. For example, Star Wars is a Film IP and Monopoly is a Board Game IP. 

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Looking at the graphic above, we can see that Hasbro was the #1 IP corporate parent in the world thanks to the Monopoly IP in MONOPOLY GO!. Second place goes to South Korean game publisher NCSoft, whose Lineage RPG games have proven incredibly successful. It should be no surprise to see Nintendo making this list with Pokemon GO. Hitotsubashi Group, as the corporate parent of Shueisha, the publishing company that has consistently pumped out anime/manga hits like One Piece and Naruto takes #3. Hitotsubashi Group bucks the trend of top IP corporate parents being carried by a single huge hit IP, with several strong IPs under its belt. Disney takes a somewhat surprising #5, but also bucks trends with not only more than one strong IP, but a variety of IP media types.

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In 2021 and 2022, BANDAI NAMCO, Japanese publisher whose mobile success comes from its Dragon Ball Z games, and NCSoft, the previously noted South Korean publisher of the Lineage series, have taken the top 2 spots in the top publishers by IP mobile gaming revenue. Scopely was on the list these years, but just barely at #10, with Star Trek Fleet Command and Marvel Strike Force, among others. With the launch of MONOPOLY GO!, Scopely took the #1 spot, moving up 9 places. Another interesting trend is Tencent moving up the list into #2 on the back of League of Legends Wild Rift. While the mobile MOBA hasn’t picked up much steam in the west, it has been incredibly successful in China, which shouldn’t be very surprising given that the highest grossing game in the world, Honor of Kings, is a mobile MOBA inspired by League of Legends and also owned by Tencent. On the other hand, CyberAgent’s hit anime RPG Uma Musume Pretty Derby has declined in recent years.

However, another avenue for IPs in mobile gaming beyond creating an IP focused game has risen recently: in-app event collaborations. For these events, a mobile game teams up with an IP to drive downloads, revenue, and engagement. 

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For example, Roblox has been prolific in its collaborations, partnering with Canadian circus production company Cirque du Soleil, Japanese game show Takeshi’s Castle, celebrity Paris Hilton, and K-pop group BLACKPINK in the past few months alone. Of these collaborations, the BLACKPINK collaboration seemed to drive the most revenue, showcasing just how engaged and dedicated K-pop fans can be.  Still, if the primary goal of these partnerships isn’t to drive consumer spending as much as advertising revenue, then any observable increase in consumer spending is simply a cherry on top for Roblox. While the other collaborations didn’t show a noticeable revenue increase, the wide variety in partnerships Roblox is willing to do showcases its versatility as a platform.

On the other hand, being specialized is not necessarily a disadvantage. In fact, having strong synergy between a mobile game and its IP partner can be a huge catalyst for revenue. For example, mobile game Goddess of Victory: Nikke recently drove significant revenue by teaming up with PC/Console game IP NieR:Automata for an in-app event. 

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Goddess of Victory: Nikke is a sci-fi anime mobile RPG with attractive characters, which lines up perfectly with Niers Automata. This overlap made it quite likely that Niers Automata fans will enjoy Goddess of Victory– and pay to get their favorite Niers Automata character. The resulting revenue spike speaks to just how much the audiences of these two games overlap.

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Returning to BLACKPINK, the group hasn’t been successful in in-app events alone. The group has its own mobile game, which is one of the most successful in the admittedly shrinking Celebrity IP mobile games category. The Celebrity IPs that drove the most US downloads include Ellen DeGeneres (who released a series of party games on mobile) and kids’ YouTube channels like Ryan’s World.

The renewed interest in IP has yielded significant dividends for those willing to make an informed, strategic bet on them this past year. As privacy concerns make it more difficult to target players effectively, IPs have become a proven way to drive attention, and not just to IP focused games. It will be exciting to see where we go from here.

Want to learn more? Download the report below. In the report, we look at the opportunity IPs represent to IP holders and publishers, breaking down trends and looking at the IP mobile gaming market’s size and saturation. We also include a dive into the top PC/Console launches of the year.

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Sam Aune

Written by: Sam Aune, Gaming Insights Analyst

Date: January 2024