Is the Cellular Shooter Market Saturated? High Tips about How you can Innovate in a Crowded Style

Video video games and shooters have been entwined for the reason that early ‘90s. The style shot into reputation with the discharge of id software program’s DOOM, promoting almost 10 million copies in simply two years and producing lots of of clones. Quick monitor a decade later, and in 2007, Name of Obligation turned a family title after the breakout success of Fashionable Warfare, with the blockbuster franchise amassing greater than $30bn in lifetime gross sales. 

As shooter video games continued to develop in reputation and spin out into new subgenres, it was solely a matter of time till builders turned their sights to the cellular market – however the largest barrier was the shortage of controllers. For a very long time, shooter video games on cellular had been a distinct segment style, and the touch-screen controls had been thought-about cumbersome in comparison with their console counterparts which use devoted controllers. 

In recent times, nevertheless, cellular shooters resembling Name of Obligation, Free Fireplace, and PUBG: Cellular have soared to the highest of the charts. A lot of that success is owed to gaming’s ‘Battle Royale increase.’ Fortnite has develop into a worldwide phenomenon, and battle royale shooters resembling Free Fireplace and PUBG: Cellular have established themselves as worthy rivals. Name of Obligation has additionally established itself on smaller screens with a cellular iteration of its blockbuster franchise, full with its personal battle royale mode.   

However is the market changing into oversaturated? Under, we take a deeper dive into the highest-grossing and most downloaded shooters on the cellular market to see which subgenres builders must be focussing on in the event that they wish to make an influence within the shooter house. 

The preferred cellular shooters

A snapshot of the US iOS top-grossing 500 shooter market (source: GameRefinery Platform).
A snapshot of the US iOS top-grossing 500 shooter market (supply: GameRefinery Platform).

Three titles dominate the US iOS shooter market: Name of Obligation: Cellular, PUBG MOBILE, and Free Fireplace. These three take up about 80% of the market share within the West, with the remainder (20%) being evenly divided throughout different titles. These three titles closely give attention to beauty in-app purchases (IAP). For instance, gamers can purchase ornamental skins for his or her characters, companions, automobiles, and weapons by means of gacha mechanics, battle passes, or direct purchases. 

Free Fireplace differentiates from the opposite two prime canines as although the primary focus of its in-app purchases is beauty, the objects on the market additionally present character and weapon buffs. The highest-end weapon skins, as an illustration, change the attributes of weapons barely to offer a slight edge in aggressive play, whereas characters and pets will be upgraded with varied expertise that modify gameplay. 

On condition that Free Fireplace doesn’t have the identical IP recognition that PC and console powerhouses like Name of Obligation and PUBG have, the builders probably felt the necessity to give gamers an additional incentive to purchase into the sport. The outcome speaks for itself; Free Fireplace has means greater income per obtain than its rivals, with round $29 ARPD in comparison with PUBG Cellular’s $12 ARPD and Name of Obligation: Cellular’s $7.30 ARPD.

Character development and weapon skin attributes in Free Fire.
Character improvement and weapon pores and skin attributes in Free Fireplace.
All-time revenue per download for the top three mobile shooters (US iOS). (Source GameRefinery Platform).
All-time income per obtain for the highest three cellular shooters (US iOS). (Supply GameRefinery Platform).

Concerning the broader market, most shooters among the many top-grossing 500 focus their monetization on upgrades and different highly effective in-app purchases—this will probably be attributed to the calls for of fuelling a purely beauty enterprise mannequin. 

Gamers should frequently be supplied with thrilling new playable content material alongside a raft of purchasable cosmetics to gas the in-game economic system. Titles like Name of Obligation obtain this each month with new courses, maps, sport modes, and extra as a consequence of being primarily based on a blockbuster franchise. Smaller studios would little question wrestle to maintain up, so that they go for energy development to achieve a better income per obtain and allow a extra sustainable, much less content-driven mannequin.

Nonetheless, this does include sure downsides. Tying participant development to monetization is commonly criticized by gamers for being ‘pay-to-win,’ notably in genres closely centered on aggressive multiplayer. If a fragile stability isn’t achieved, there will be backlash amongst gamers, which may result in adverse evaluations flooding in in your sport.

Call of Duty: Mobile’s engagement events over a two-week period. (Source: GameRefinery Live Events Tracker.)
Name of Obligation: Cellular’s engagement occasions over a two-week interval. (Supply: GameRefinery Reside Occasions Tracker.)

Which shooter subgenres ought to builders pursue? 

With Name of Obligation, PUBG, and Free Fireplace dominating the cellular shooter market, many builders could surprise if competing within the shooter style is worth it. 

Whereas it’s undoubtedly crowded, those that dig deeper will discover a shocking quantity of uncovered floor on this style. In reality, roughly 4 classes may very well be explored extra within the cellular sport market: extraction shooters, RPG-like looter shooters, survival shooters, and tactical FPS video games. Let’s take a deeper dive into these subgenres. 

Extraction shooters

Extraction shooters are one of many much less crowded shooter subgenres and transfer slower than different titles. The purpose is to enter a match, loot objects, kill enemies inside a time restrict, and extract from the realm earlier than or when the time runs out. These video games are normally PvPvE (participant vs. participant vs. enemy). In style titles on the PC and console market embrace Escape from Tarkov and Hunt: Showdown.

Arena Breakout
Enviornment Breakout

One of many few extraction shooters to make headway on cellular platforms (notably within the Chinese language market) is Enviornment Breakout — a realistic-style FPS sport with some survival parts, resembling a extremely advanced well being system. 

Gamers take part in PvPvE matches in opposition to NPCs and different gamers in two sport modes, both with pre-equipped objects or with out owned objects. Throughout the match, gamers should take into account their bodily well being degree, discover tools and objects to loot, kill off enemies and evacuate safely throughout the time restrict.

Snapshot on the Chinese iOS top-grossing 200 shooter/survival market (source: GameRefinery Platform).
Snapshot on the Chinese language iOS top-grossing 200 shooter/survival market (supply: GameRefinery Platform).

Enviornment Breakout has a particular monetization mannequin. In contrast to different shooters, it doesn’t give attention to cosmetics or energy development however as an alternative on gathering objects that may be traded and misplaced within the battle. Pushing gamers in direction of buying security packing containers to save lots of their most valuable objects from being stolen differentiates Enviornment Breakout from the extra power-orientated development shooters, as even when weapons will be considerably upgraded, there may be nonetheless a must buy a security field to maintain objects safe. Whereas within the match, if the participant has not saved their objects within the security field and so they die in the course of the match, the participant will drop all objects they carried with them to the pre-equipped objects sport mode for different gamers to steal. 

There haven’t been too many comparable examples within the cellular sport market but of extraction shooters, though PUBG Cellular has an identical mechanic in a recurring gameplay mode Metro Royale (which additionally attracts inspiration from Escape from Tarkov).

Items can be stored in safety boxes in Arena Breakout.
Objects will be saved in security packing containers in Enviornment Breakout.

Survival shooters 

These shooters revolve round a survival theme, typically in a post-apocalyptic setting that includes zombies or different threats. These video games normally function detailed climate, starvation, and well being mechanics (amongst others), which should be thought-about in the course of the sport to outlive. Exploration and resource-gathering play a giant half in these video games along with fight, with some survival video games additionally implementing shooter mechanics. 

There are only some cellular titles within the Western market that particularly give attention to survival gameplay, and presently, there are not any shooter survival video games among the many top-grossing ranks on the US iOS platform. Nonetheless, some top-down survival video games, resembling The Final Day on Earth: Survival, have managed to achieve reputation.

Quite the opposite, the PC and console market has various survival shooters, together with the zombie-filled DayZ and post-apocalyptic Rust. Each titles function a large space to discover with different gamers, combining PvE and PvP parts. DayZ has monumental maps, with the primary menace stemming from zombies, with occasional encounters with different gamers. In Rust, the primary hazard is different gamers, although there are additionally some PvE parts. The most important differentiator between the 2 is Rust’s base-building focus, which will be performed solo or with others.

Enviornment Breakout, LifeAfter, and Undawn within the Chinese language cellular sport market incorporate some parts into their gameplay. Undawn is attention-grabbing as a result of it’s a brand new survival title that not too long ago hit the Chinese language and Western cellular markets. 

Round its launch within the CN iOs market, the sport peaked on the top-grossing place 6 however has since dropped outdoors the CN top-grossing 200, presently sitting on the top-grossing rank of 371 and sustained obtain rank of 183. Within the US iOs market, the sport is lingering within the sustained top-grossing rank 324 and the sustained obtain rank 260, however has not fairly but reached the top-grossing 200.

The core gameplay of Undawn.
The core gameplay of Undawn.

Undawn is a third-person survival shooter with MMO traits the place the participant is making an attempt to outlive the zombie apocalypse. It’s just like the survival MMO LifeAfter, which has even been visiting the US top-grossing 200. 

In Undawn, gamers accomplice as much as survive the punishing world to finish varied duties. There’s a heavy storytelling side, with cutscenes frequently interspersed between gameplay that includes a number of important characters. The sport additionally contains detailed survival mechanics. Gamers should take into account their character’s bodily well being, hygiene, and sleep degree, in addition to put together for altering climate situations to outlive.

Undawn has a detailed survival system, which includes aspects such as sleep deprivation.
Undawn has an in depth survival system, which incorporates facets resembling sleep deprivation.

Typical of a Chinese language midcore sport, Undawn has loads of beauty objects for the character and a house system, which will be adorned with varied buildings. Upgrading the house system is an important a part of development, because the participant can’t proceed upgrading their character if their dwelling degree is simply too low. This, and lots of different facets of the sport, require lots of useful resource gathering—resembling gathering berries from the forest or capturing animals. Collected supplies are then used to create many objects wanted within the sport, together with weapons and meals.  

The sport has two important focuses for monetization: beauty economic system and materials buying. Beauty objects (for the character and their dwelling system) will be bought instantly or with gachas. Materials objects are wanted for crafting tools objects, resembling weapons and armor, that are tied to energy development. These things can both be collected or bought instantly from the shop. 

This kind of monetization differs considerably from that of the highest US iOS shooter video games for the reason that focus is on supplies moderately than upgrading or gathering characters and weapons. 

Looter shooters 

RPG-like looter shooters are one other subgenre absent from the cellular sport market. The concept of those video games is to have some RPG parts (storytelling, character development) mixed with looting and capturing. There may be normally an enormous open space to discover, and the primary purpose is to kill off different gamers and AI-controlled enemies. Within the PC and console sphere, these embrace titles resembling Future and The Division, the latter of which has formally introduced a cellular model.

Destiny 2
Future 2

This kind of shooter might reply a few of RPG gamers’ motivations. When our motivation information, we usually discover a couple of motivations which are being uncared for by builders or don’t function in excessive positions within the US iOS top-grossing shooter video games. These embrace the exploration of recent worlds, gathering treasure, role-playing and feelings.

Missing motivations in the top-three shooters
Lacking motivations within the top-three shooters.

Trying on the above image, discover how these three motivational facets are usually not highlighted in the preferred shooters:

  • If the main target had been shifted extra in direction of storytelling, RPG gamers would discover it simpler to develop into immersed within the sport by means of its narrative. 
  • The motivation to gather treasure already has fairly a excessive place in lots of prime shooter video games, however the open-world expertise might improve this side even additional if the participant might loot objects on a bigger scale. 
  • The third motivation, exploring new worlds, must be added to most top-grossing shooter video games. Having a bigger space to discover would scratch that itch.

Tactical FPS video games 

One other style hardly ever seen on cellular is tactical FPS. Much like extraction shooters, these focus extra on tactical, slow-paced gameplay. Gamers normally kind a workforce of 5 and compete in opposition to others in purely PvP gameplay. Within the PC and console sphere, among the most well-known titles embrace Counter-Strike and Valorant, the latter of which is rumored to be launching a cellular model quickly. 

When trying once more at our motivation information, we observed that the highest three shooter video games are lacking one side which options prominently in tactical FPS video games: strategic planning.

The missing motivation in the top-three shooters
The lacking motivation within the top-three shooters.

Out of all of the subgenres we’ve listed, tactical FPS is probably going essentially the most hardly ever encountered on cellular, though some examples stay. Crucial Ops is a aggressive FPS sport just like Counter-Strike with easy gameplay and sensible graphics. The main focus is on extremely aggressive, skill-based gameplay with a excessive studying curve, and the sport additionally has eSports and stay tournaments, which sometimes provide real-money prize swimming pools. 

Regardless of being probably the most profitable tactical FPS video games on cellular, it has not appeared within the top-grossing ranks for a considerable time frame. That is probably all the way down to the sport being developed by a reasonably small studio, which lacks the required assets to amass new customers and encourage development. A bigger studio with extra capability would probably fare higher.

Critical Ops
Crucial Ops

One to keep away from: Battle Royale

The overwhelming reputation of Fortnite has meant that the battle royale subgenre has develop into an enormous side of cellular gaming, and shooters are not any exception—with every of the top-three shooters dominating the market. Consequently, it has develop into more and more troublesome for brand new titles to ascertain themselves.

A main instance of that is Apex Legends Cellular. As a smartphone model of the favored PC and console sport, Apex Legends Cellular launched with a breadth of thrilling options and content material owing to its large display screen counterpart and featured distinctive ‘Legends’ characters that differentiated it from different battle royale video games available on the market. Regardless of this, the sport couldn’t acquire a steady place out there and was finally shut down.

Whereas we are able to solely speculate the explanations behind this, we suspect it might have been all the way down to the calls for of sustaining the sport’s LiveOps technique (which ran individually from its console counterparts) combined with the immense competitors it confronted from the three shooter giants. With that in thoughts, we’d advocate smaller studios to keep away from this subgenre for now.

Legends (characters) in Apex Legends Mobile
Legends (characters) in Apex Legends Cellular


With an 80% share of the Western market, Name of Obligation: Cellular, Free Fireplace, and PUBG Cellular share a agency maintain on the cellular shooter throne. Their resource-heavy beauty monetization mannequin, mixed with their reputation on different platforms (not less than within the case of Name of Obligation and PUBG), will make it difficult to knock these three titans off their podium. 

Different shooters can have the very best likelihood of breaking into the market if they will introduce some recent core gameplay concepts. Given the energy of the ability three and different cellular monoliths resembling Fortnite, that may imply most builders ought to keep away from the Battle Royale style – or else risking a destiny just like Apex Legends. 

Looter shooters are a comparatively untapped market on cellular and will tie into the motivations of many gamers by that includes narrative parts and exploration by means of a big open-world. That being stated, Ubisoft plans to convey The Division to cellular, and Bungie appears to be like set to observe with Future, which means this house could quickly develop into crowded.  

Survival and extraction shooters have a handful of well-liked titles within the Chinese language market, however these subgenres are but to make a huge impact in Western markets regardless of their reputation on console and PC platforms, suggesting there are various positive factors available. 

Tactical shooters are additionally nearly remarkable on cellular, suggesting it is perhaps troublesome to translate any such gameplay onto a small display screen efficiently. Crucial Ops has confirmed it may be performed, though this title hasn’t made a lot influence when it comes to income. We suspect a bigger studio with the capability to additional push UA, and even maybe collaborate with different IP to drum up curiosity, would fare higher.

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