As APAC countries have eased stringent COVID-19 control restrictions over the past year, economic and entertainment activities in this region are gradually returning to normal. Meanwhile, mobile applications, which profoundly changed people's lives during the pandemic, continue to bring innovative experiences and accelerate productivity.
Sensor Tower APAC Awards 2022 aim to honor mobile games and apps that have made outstanding contributions to the global digital economy in the past year. Based on estimated data and insights from Sensor Tower, we feature mobile games and apps that have significantly impacted local and overseas markets from China, Japan, and South Korea. By looking into how these mobile-savvy products have reshaped the competitive landscape, you can also gain an understanding of the latest trends in many genres of the industry.
Best Gameplay Innovation
Among the numerous mobile games released in 2022, Habby's Survivor!.io has stood out with its innovative gameplay. Since its launch in August, Survivor!.io has achieved worldwide success. It dominated the download chart of mobile games in South Korea in 2022, topped the mobile game download ranking in Japan in the second half of the year, and rose to become the No.3 most downloaded mobile game in the U.S.
Survivor!.io combines Roguelike gameplay with survival themes, creating a fast-paced and intense experience on mobile. Moreover, it has successfully adopted hybrid monetization with in-game purchases and advertisements to support its ongoing operation. Within just four months of its release, the game has been installed by over 46 million players worldwide and generated $200 million in user spending.
Best IP Based Game of 2022
Diablo Immortal, a mobile game developed by NetEase and Blizzard Entertainment based on the beloved Diablo series, commenced its global rollout in June 2022. It quickly climbed to the top of the free mobile game charts across the App Store and Google Play in the United States, Japan, South Korea, China, and many European countries. Since then, the game has garnered immense popularity worldwide.
As a classic IP with a legacy spanning 25 years, the Diablo series holds a special place in the hearts of players in both the East and the West. The mobile MMORPG iteration of this timeless franchise offers a stunning world and a captivating experience at players' fingertips. It has undoubtedly emerged as one of the most successful IP-based mobile games in recent years.
Best New Game of 2022
MARVEL SNAP is the latest mobile game emerging from the MARVEL franchise. Developed by Second Dinner and published by Nuverse, it dominated the download rankings in the United States for 12 consecutive days after its release in October 2022. By November, it gained further recognition from players, ranking second in the monthly active user list of card battle mobile games. By early 2023, it had already become the highest-grossing Marvel mobile game.
There are several factors contributing to this game's success, including the stunning artwork and card battle gameplay that allow users to collect characters from the Marvel Universe and strategically build their own team. These features have helped the game acquire a vast user base worldwide.
Most Creative Strategy Game
In 2022, global mobile players spent over 20 billion U.S. dollars on strategy games, making it one of the most lucrative genres.
Rivergame's TOP WAR innovatively integrates merge, upgrade, and build elements, creating a unique casual strategy game experience that effectively lowers the barrier for user acquisition.
Since its launch, TOP WAR has been installed by more than 90 million users worldwide and generated over $1 billion in user spending. It has successfully surpassed the performance of many traditional strategy mobile games and provided a brand new tactic for game publishers looking to compete in this genre.
Best Simulation Game
Family Farm Adventure, a farming-themed mobile game published by Century Games, has achieved a remarkable 60% increase in user spending compared to 2021. This growth rate was the highest among all top-grossing simulation mobile games worldwide.
Western publishers have dominated the simulation game genre for a long time. However, Family Farm Adventure has managed to break through this trend and rose to No.7 on the grossing ranking of its peers in both the United States and Europe last year.
Most Popular Shopping App Worldwide
SHEIN, the fast-fashion shopping app, has gained immense popularity worldwide. In 2022, it was the most downloaded shopping app by a significant margin in Japan, Europe, and the Middle East. In the United States, it became one of the top players in the category, ranking second in the annual shopping app download list.
As of the end of 2022, SHEIN has been installed by nearly 600 million users, making it the world's most popular shopping app.
Best New App of 2022
In September 2022, PDD Holdings launched Temu, a shopping app targeting North American consumers. Thanks to its extensive product selection, competitive pricing, and fast logistics, Temu quickly gained popularity and surpassed e-commerce giants like Amazon and Walmart.
According to Sensor Tower's Store Intelligence, Temu was the most downloaded shopping app in the United States during the fourth quarter of 2022. Today, the app continues to dominate the shopping app category and receives excellent user reviews.
Best Office App
With over 30 years of technical research and development experience, WPS Office has maintained a leading position in the mobile business category. By offering free tools to process a variety of documents, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF, as well as rich templates, WPS Office has successfully acquired a large and loyal user base worldwide.
As of the end of 2022, WPS Office has been installed by nearly 400 million users across the App Store and Google Play. This makes it stand out as the leading office app from an Asia-based publisher.
Most Popular Mobile Game in Japan
Project SEKAI COLORFUL STAGE! feat. Hatsune Miku, often referred to as "Proseka," was the most downloaded mobile game in Japan in 2022. The game celebrated its second anniversary on September 30th of that year.
As a mobile music game, Project Sekai Colorful Stage! feat. Hatsune Miku topped the revenue ranking in its genre worldwide in 2022. It accounted for more than 50% of publisher Sega's global revenue from mobile devices.
Best Ongoing Mobile Game in Japan
Monster Strike, one of the top mobile games in Japan, celebrated its ninth anniversary in October 2022. With its unique "pull and flick" controller, designed for a better experience on mobile devices, the game surpassed $10 billion in lifetime revenue by the end of 2022. Even after nine years since its release, Monster Strike continues to maintain high user spending.
The game's publisher actively co-brands it with popular Japanese franchises. In 2022, the game collaborated with "Jujutsu Kaisen 0", "SPY x FAMILY," and "Chainsaw Man," attracting a wider audience and confirming its position as the best ongoing mobile game in Japan.
Best New Mobile Game in Japan
Among the newly released mobile games in 2022, Heaven Burns Red, which was available in February, topped the revenue growth ranking in Japan by a significant margin.
Despite not being a sequel to a popular title or based on an existing IP, Heaven Burns Red made a strong debut, entering the top 10 of the Japanese App Store's grossing chart on its first day of release. The game continued to maintain steady revenue growth, contributing to nearly 80% of publisher WFS' revenue in Japan.
Best Mobile Squad RPG from Japan
MementoMori, a mobile squad RPG game that boasts beautiful Live2D battle scenes, high-quality sound, and gorgeous voice actors, was released on October 18, 2022. The game quickly gained popularity and generated $23 million in global user spending within two weeks of its release.
Thanks to its success in Japan and overseas markets such as Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, MementoMori has contributed more than 90% of Bank of Innovation's revenue.
Best IP Based Mobile Game from Japan
Among the mobile games inspired by ONE PIECE, the popular Japanese franchise in both domestic and overseas markets, ONE PIECE Bounty Rush proved to be the most profitable in 2022.
In August 2022, the ONE PIECE FILM RED movie was released in Japan, becoming a blockbuster hit with over 13 million viewers and grossing more than 18 billion yen at the box office. This success greatly benefited Bounty Rush, which achieved record revenues of over $26 million in that month. Along with One Piece Treasure Cruise and One Piece Thousand Storm, Bandai Namco Entertainment's other mobile games from this franchise, the company generated $300 million in revenue from mobile users worldwide in 2022.
Best Navigation App in Japan
With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions and the distribution of nationwide travel coupons, tourism has returned to Japan.
As a navigation app, NAVITIME offers a multitude of convenient functions to guide people on their routes and public transportation. It provides information on over 7 million local spots in Japan, including stores and stations, as well as schedules and prices of various public transportation options to reach the destination. Moreover, users can reserve hotels, airline tickets, and train tickets within the app. As a result, NAVITIME has been the highest-grossing navigation app in Japan in 2022.
Best Entertainment App in Japan
ABEMA has created a buzz with its free live broadcast of all 64 matches of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The platform collaborated with TV Asahi to offer an exceptional soccer-watching experience. On December 2, 2022, during Japan's group stage, ABEMA set a new record of 17 million daily user views. The platform offers several features to enhance the user experience, such as the ability to playback missed matches and splendid moments. During the tournament period, both daily and weekly active user growth was significant.
ABEMA has cemented its position as an Internet TV platform that provides abundant content in various genres, including live sports broadcasts such as martial arts, mahjong, shogi, romance programs, and variety shows. Users can enjoy ABEMA's offerings anytime and anywhere they want.
Best Virtual Live Streaming App in Japan
Virtual live streaming, in which users take on the role of a virtual character, is becoming increasingly popular in Japan. However, this innovative form of entertainment would not be accessible to broader users without cutting-edge app technology.
Previously, creating virtual live streams required specialized software and a PC. Nowadays, with IRIAM, users can easily create virtual live streams with just a mobile device and an image of the character they want to role-play. IRIAM's technology allows the characters to act in sync with the user's movements. By providing such an interesting experience, IRIAM has become a favorite app among the younger generation in Japan, with a large user base in the 18-24 age group compared to other live-streaming apps.
Best Korean IP Based Game
Since its launch in March 2022, Dungeon & Fighter Mobile has generated more than $130 million in revenue, making it one of the highest-grossing mobile games in the Korean market. Additionally, it was the No.1 IP-based game by download growth in 2022.
Instead of simply implementing the original characters and storylines from Dungeon & Fighter, Nexon, the game's publisher, optimized this action RPG game for mobile devices and succeeded in providing an intense battle experience for fans on the go.
Best International Popularity
GODDESS OF VICTORY: NIKKE, developed by Shift Up and published by Level Infinite, is undoubtedly one of the best mobile games from Korea. Since its launch, it has taken the primary markets by storm, including Korea, Japan, and the United States, with 25 million installations within three months of release. In Japan, the home of anime games, it was the highest-grossing mobile game from a Korean developer.
The immersive storyline and attractive characters, embodied with excellent illustrations, play a significant role in capturing the enthusiasm of anime fans. Level Infinite's efforts to localize the game into multiple languages have also driven its success in global markets.
Best Game Localization
Heroes Tales, an MMORPG game published in Korea since July 2021, has managed to secure a spot among the top games in this highly competitive market. With revenue of over $100 million in 2022, it was the 6th highest-grossing mobile game in Korea, ranking first among mobile games from overseas publishers.
Although the game was available in Greater China, North America, and many European countries before entering Korea, the Korean market contributed 44% of its revenue, making it the game's largest market. Its publisher, 37 Mobile Games, invested significant effort in crafting the game for this market, including content localization, promotions during local holidays, and commercials featuring local celebrities.
Best Storytelling Game
Launched in August 2022, Uncharted Waters Origin quickly topped the download charts across the App Store and Google Play in Korea, grossing more than $9 million in revenue within four months of its release. In addition, it dominated the revenue growth ranking of mobile simulation games since its launch.
The colorful storylines and characters, which reflect the Age of Discovery, play a key role in leading the success of Uncharted Waters Origin. The game's great graphics implement medieval ports, costumes, and architectural styles. Real-world details, such as wind direction and speed, are applied to the game to complete its storytelling and provide users with an immersive experience.
Best Card Game from Korea
DoubleDown Casino is a Korean mobile card game that has achieved long-term success in the West since its launch in 2010. In 2022, it generated over $220 million in annual revenue, ranking sixth globally among mobile card games. By the end of 2022, its lifetime revenue had surpassed $1.6 billion. The largest contributor was the U.S. market, accounting for 87.7% of its revenue, followed by Canada with 6.9%.
The game has attracted North American users with its 3D implementation of downtown Las Vegas and featuring local traditional events such as Halloween and Christmas within the game. Additionally, publisher DoubleUGames' continued development of new content has also been vital to its success.
Best Local Community App in Korea
Karrot, the most downloaded social app in the Korean market for the past two years, has proven its popularity within the community through its stable monthly active users (MAU)
Its users have highly praised the app for its ability to bring about positive changes within the local community. Karrot is instrumental in raising awareness of the importance of resource reuse and encouraging local residents to participate in resource circulation to reduce waste. As of the end of 2022, Karrot had been installed by nearly 40 million users across both the App Store and Google Play.
Best Travel App in Korea
In 2022, Yanolja emerged as the most downloaded mobile travel app in Korea (excluding navigation apps). It also remained among the top 5 in the Travel and Regional Information category on Google Store throughout the year, firmly establishing its position as the premier travel app in Korea.
With Yanolja's plans to expand into overseas markets, it is poised to achieve even greater success on the global stage.
Best Wellness App from Korea
Alarmy is an alarm app developed by the Korean publisher Delight Room, providing wake-up missions like squats, taking pictures, and solving math problems to users in over 95 countries, helping them have a successful morning.
As of the end of 2022, Alarmy's lifetime revenue from global user spending had exceeded $10 million, making it the highest-earning lifestyle and utility app from a Korean publisher. In the United States, its largest market, Alarmy's monthly active users (MAU) continued to rise in 2022. Alarmy is expected to further solidify its position as a wellness app leading the global market.
Congratulations to the team behind these winners! We hope you enjoy your well-deserved victory. Sensor Tower cultivates rich market insights into the trends shaping businesses in the global digital economy. Stay tuned for more in-depth analyses and actionable insights to help you stay ahead in this competitive market.