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Top Mobile Games of 2016: Pokémon GO Conquered Clash Royale to Become the Year's Highest Earning New Launch

Year-over-year Q4 revenue growth for mobile games reached 70% in 2016, according to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence data.

2016's Top Mobile Games Hero Image

Mobile games continued to dominate revenue in the app ecosystem during 2016, accounting for more than 80 percent of all money earned through Apple's App Store and 90 percent of Google Play revenue. Following up on our report from last week analyzing the top non-game apps on both stores for last year, this report will rank the top mobile games in terms of downloads and revenue during the full year and Q4 2016 periods. We'll begin with a look at revenue growth in the games category for Q4 2016, which generated approximately $7.5 billion for developers during the last three months of 2016 worldwide.

Games Category Revenue Growth - Q4 2016

Worldwide net revenue from mobile games on the App Store and Google Play grew approximately 70 percent year-over-year in Q4 2016 to about $7.5 billion, up from about $4.4 billion in Q4 2015. Looking at this on a per-platform basis, Q4 games revenue grew about 62 percent YoY on the App Store, from approximately $2.7 billion to $4.4 billion. Essentially, App Store game publishers made as much net revenue in Q4 2016 as publishers on both stores made in Q4 2015. As for Google's store, Google Play games revenue grew approximately 84 percent for the same period, from about $1.7 billion to approximately $3.1 billion.

Q4 2016 Games Category Worldwide Revenue Growth

Worldwide mobile game downloads across both stores totaled approximately 8.2 billion in Q4 2016, an increase of about 33 percent from Q4 2015's 6.1 billion. For all of 2016, new mobile game installs on the App Store and Google Play totaled more than 31 billion worldwide.

Top Mobile Games by Downloads and Revenue - 2016

2016's Top Mobile Games by Downloads

Whether you want to say that it "went viral", became a sensation, or sparked an all-out international fever upon its release back in July 2016, it's all just a way of stating that Pokémon GO had the biggest launch of any mobile game in history. It rode this fervor all the way to become 2016's most-downloaded game with hundreds of millions of installs across both platforms—even on the App Store, where it faced that platform's runner-up, Super Mario Run, which itself raced to the 25 million install mark in record time.

2016 also saw the viral success of a simple web-game-turned-mobile, slither.io, a phenomenon created by one person in Color Switch, and the latest launch success for Supercell in Clash Royale. It's worth pointing out two more titles specifically on the iOS ranking above, King of Glory and Snake Off, which were catapulted into the top 10 almost singlehandedly by new installs in China.

2016's Top Mobile Games by Revenue

Hailing from Japan, Monster Strike continued to prove itself as a revenue giant throughout 2016, earning enough net revenue for publisher Mixi that the game placed first across all three rankings. Worldwide and on the App Store, it was a showdown for second place between Supercell and MZ with longtime top earners Clash of Clans and Game of War, respectively, and both publishers had two titles in the overall revenue top 10.

Speaking of historically well-monetizing mobile games, both GungHo Online Entertainment's Puzzle & Dragons and King's original Candy Crush Saga ranked in all three top 10 revenue lists again this year, while new to this elite group of top earning apps were the aforementioned Pokémon GO along with fellow newcomers Clash Royale (Supercell) and Mobile Strike (MZ), and Fate/Grand Order (Sony/Aniplex).

Top Mobile Games by Downloads and Revenue - Q4 2016

Q4 2016's Top Mobile Games by Downloads

Q4 downloads were unsurprisingly dominated by Nintendo's first mobile game, Super Mario Run, which eclipsed even Pokémon GO in terms of first-day downloads when it arrived on December 15. What's more impressive is that it did so while being available on only one of the two largest app stores (Apple's). New downloads of Pokémon GO continued to be strong throughout the fourth quarter as it launched in more new countries, while Electronic Arts scored a spot in the top five overall thanks to the world's love of football/soccer, which drove FIFA Mobile Soccer towards the No. 1 earner goal.

Q4 2016's Top Mobile Games by Revenue

As it was for full year revenue, Mixi's Monster Strike also came in as Q4's top earning mobile game worldwide across the overall and per-store rankings, as players in Japan continued to heavily monetize in the exceptionally popular game. Its closest rival overall, MZ's Mobile Strike, was launched in late 2015 and spent 2016 steadily climbing the revenue charts on both platforms to become a regular member of the top 10 highest earning apps.

Supercell's Clash Royale proved to be an excellently monetized offering for the publisher early on, as did Pokémon GO for Niantic, with that publisher introducing special events—such as its extremely successful first one for Halloween—to drive revenue back up each time the game seemed to be slipping down the revenue rankings. Outside of these globally well-known titles, Sony/Aniplex's Fate/Grand Order made a huge debut on Japan's top grossing charts, leading to its inclusion in all three revenue top 10s for the quarter. NetEase's Onmyouji also saw strong Q4 revenue, particularly on iOS, which earned it a spot at No. 9 overall for the quarter.

2016 was a landmark year for massive mobile game launches, but there was a lot more to the last 12 months that we've yet to cover. We're assembling our best 2016 and Q4 2016 insights—along with more data on the top apps, publishers, and categories—into our latest Store Intelligence Data Digest, coming next week. Keep an eye on the Sensor Tower Blog and our social media for the announcement of its availability.

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Randy Nelson

Written by: Randy Nelson, Head of Mobile Insights

Date: January 2017