No doubt you’ve heard of Facebook Messenger, the top non-game app of 2019 in terms of downloads. But how about Free Fire, the battle royale mobile game made by a Singapore company named Sea and its Garena business division? Free Fire was the most downloaded game of 2019, according to mobile market data and analytics firm App Annie.

The top apps and games of 2019 are a mix of both the familiar and the surprising breakout hits, said Amir Ghodrati, director of market insights at App Annie, in an interview with GamesBeat. He said the data shows that consumer demand for mobile apps is at an all-time high.

Overall, consumers worldwide are on track to download a record 120 billion apps across iOS and Google Play in 2019, a 5% year-over-year increase (excluding third-party Android). This is particularly impressive given these are net new downloads and do not include re-installs or app updates. Consumer spend is set to grow even faster at 15% year over year and will approach $90 billion worldwide in 2019 (excluding third-party Android).

“It’s an extremely successful year,” Ghodrati said. “We had some very good game launches with Mario Kart Tour and Call of Duty: Mobile, and you have Candy Crush and Monster Strike, where you have these dedicated fan bases that keep coming back. Those game developers keep finding new ways of creating new content, new ways of engaging with the game in various seasons.”


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Above: The breakout apps and games of 2019 by consumer spend.

Image Credit: App Annie

Outside of games, this growth was mostly driven by the Photo & Video and Entertainment categories. That growth should continue with the launch of new video streaming services like Disney+, as well as increased use of subscription services across the board that will create alternative revenue streams for publishers.

Within games, the established titles now compete with hypercasual games, which last several seconds to maybe a minute. These games sometimes pop out of nowhere, Ghodrati said.

“Hypercasual games do have shorter cycles or quicker cycles, but some can last for a month or quite a few months,” Ghodrati said. “In those cases, the developers transition the audience from one game to another game. Players rotate from one game to another.”

He added, “We have both hypercasual games, with short game sessions, combined with the complexity of massive battle royale games like PUBG Mobile and Free Fire, and both types of games are very successful. If you don’t have a lot of time, you won’t spend a lot of time on a battle royale session. But if you do have the time, you’ll play something longer.”

The most popular and lucrative apps of 2019

Above: The most-downloaded games and apps of 2019.

Image Credit: App Annie

As for the nongame apps on the top 10 list, Ghodrati said the names are familiar.

“Social media and entertainment make up so much of the top 10,” he said. “Facebook is strong as expected, but we saw strong performance from TikTok and Snapchat. We are seeing them put more ways to engage the consumer. Snapchat is moving into interactive gaming. People use these apps to be entertained.”

2019 has been a landmark year for mobile, with the steady rise of short-video apps like TikTok and new entrants to the popular hypercasual and battle royale genres like Fun Race 3D and Call of Duty: Mobile, respectively.

Looking back at The State of Mobile 2019 report, Likee — a short-video creation and sharing app — was the sole new entrant in 2019 to the top apps by downloads list. There has been more volatility in the Games category, as seven out of the top 10 apps were new to the top 10 Games by downloads in 2019.

Breakout apps and games of 2019

Above: The breakout games are the ones with the largest absolute growth in the year.

Image Credit: App Annie

Breakout apps and games are those with the largest absolute growth in downloads or consumer spend between 2018 and 2019. Photo- and video-editing and sharing apps had strong representation, as four of the top 10 breakout apps by downloads, with Likee taking the No. 1 rank. The social gaming app Hago — which is particularly popular with Gen Z in Indonesia — placed fourth on the list of breakout apps by downloads.

This was mostly driven by its adoption in India. Video streaming apps dominated the consumer spend breakout apps chart with YouTube, iQIYI, DAZN, and Tencent Video all featured in the top 10.

Hypercasual games continued to be extremely successful in 2019, accounting for seven of the top 10 breakout games. Mario Kart Tour and Call of Duty: Mobile — two of 2019’s most anticipated releases — also made it into the top 10 most downloaded breakout games. Call of Duty: Mobile made the top downloads list for the year even though it debuted in October.

Top breakout games by consumer spend were made up of more core games, with Game for Peace and PUBG Mobile — Tencent publishes both — taking the top two places.

2019 has marked all-time highs for app downloads and consumer spend, and 2020 is set to be even bigger with consumer spend projected to be over $30 million on apps and nearly $80 million on games.

“We’re definitely excited for 2020,” Ghodrati said.

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