Mobile Puzzle Games: Popularity, Revenues & Opportunities Across East and West

We recently worked with Pangle on a report titled Puzzle Games: Comparing & Contrasting Eastern and Western Markets.

As the title suggests, the report analyzes the puzzle game market across East and West, focusing on the U.S., U.K., Japan, and South Korea.

Puzzle games are seminal to the games market. Most classic games were puzzle-based, and the core puzzle gameplay engaged players’ by testing their problem-solving skills. Over the past forty years or so, the puzzle genre has evolved and found its home on mobile.

The match-3 genre, which is the most popular puzzle genre on the platform, has spun out into various innovative subgenres.  And mobile players are happily engaging with and spending on the puzzle genre as a whole.

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To that end, puzzle games accounted for $6.9 billion in mobile game revenues in 2020 (via consumer spending, excluding ad revenues), representing 8% of last year’s $86.9 billion mobile game market.

The U.S. accounts for the highest share of these revenues ($2.0 billion), followed by Japan ($1.2 billion) and China ($0.9 billion). Together, these three countries account for more than half of global revenues for mobile puzzle games.

Puzzle games thrive on social engagement. These social aspects, coupled with proven acquisition and retention strategies, keep players retained on the genre—in the East and West alike.

Notably, more and more puzzle games are adopting hybrid monetization models, featuring a mixture of in-app purchases, in-app advertising, and subscriptions. Annaka Tetsuya, Planner & Director of Translimit, recently shared his thoughts on hybird monetization for puzzle game publishers:

“Puzzle games are ideal for increasing revenue by implementing hybrid monetization models, since they benefit from a blend of both IAA and IAP monetization. Their LTV is also relatively easy to increase, and the games generally do well all around the world. We think that hybrid monetization (using IAA and IAP) will become more and more common moving forward, with plenty of room for growth for mobile game developers worldwide.”

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Consumer Insights also point to the prevalence of puzzle games. We asked mobile gamers which genres they played on the platform in the past six months. As you can see below, puzzle was the self-reported most-played genre for the U.S., U.K., Japan, and South Korea.

We dive even deeper into our Consumer Insights in the full report. We found that puzzle games are typically more appealing to female gamers, but there are some differences between the gender splits in each market.

We also compare and contrast other demographics for mobile puzzle players, including age, household income, work situation, education, and more. The U.S., U.K, Japan, and South Korea share plenty of similarities but also some notable differences.

Highest-Grossing Puzzle Games & Publishers: Google Play & iOS Spending

Finally, the report looks at the genre distribution across 2020’s top 50 highest-grossing titles on iOS and Google Play. As you can see, puzzle games account for a significant number of top-grossing titles in the West (e.g., U.K. and U.S.) while in South Korea and Japan, role-playing games are more dominant.

The above image also shows the puzzle games among the top 50 for each market. There is plenty of crossover between the markets, with Western publishers dominating in the U.K, U.S., and South Korea. But not everywhere.  The Japanese market has more of an appetite for games developed by local companies.

All in all, puzzle games are clearly a global mainstay of the mobile games market, and the genre is full of opportunities for mobile developers across East and West alike.

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