Tabletop gamers struggled during the pandemic. It’s hard to get folks together to play a board or card game safely when you’re under quarantine or without a COVID-19 vaccine.
In the U.S. and other places, folks are rolling the dice and shuffling the cards again (though some are pausing as the Delta variant is gaining steam). And others just kept playing video games or over webcams for fear of getting others sick.
And the stats from Sensor Tower confirm it. In a report today, the mobile research firm said that tabletop mobile gaming rose 40% over the past 12 months in the United States, bringing in $703.8 million between August 1, 2020 and July 31. Sensor Tower‘s analysis includes paid tabletop games, such as 7 Wonders, Ticket to Ride, or Splendor as well as free-to-play apps like the variants of mahjong, spades, Yahtzee, and Uno.
I was curious about what Sensor Tower calls its “game taxonomy” for tabletop games and what fits the category.
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“Our game taxonomy defines tabletop games as titles that largely incorporate the use of dice, tiles, cards, dominoes, and turn-based gameplay in solo or multiplayer competitions,” Sensor Tower’s Craig Chapple said over email. “Essentially, this generally means games that have historically been played on physical tables with physical pieces.”
Research like this from companies such as Sensor Tower gives developers, publishers, and investors highlights a couple of pieces into the jigsaw puzzle that is mobile gaming, the industry’s biggest market. Free-to-play dominates, and while the same games tend to remain on top, it’s helpful to break the industry down by segments and subgenres to find other strong performers. And this can help folks make decisions on what sort of games to make, acquire, or invest in.
The big winners
Sensor Tower’s research says that Solitaire: Grand Harvest was the top game by player spending for the period. This game from Supertreat is in the solitaire/mahjong segment, and it generated $115.3 million. Solitaire: TriPeaks from GSN was No. 2, with Scopely‘s Yahtzee with Buddies Dice at No. 3.
For premium games, the top 5 are:
- Monopoly (Marmalade Game Studio)
- The Game of Life 2 (Marmalade Game Studio)
- Clue: The Classic Mystery Game (Marmalade Game Studio)
- The Game of Life (Marmalade Game Studio)
- Ticket to Ride (Asmodee Digital)
Downloads were, um, down. U.S. players installed 202.7 million games during the period, which is 12 percent less than the previous 12-month period (which includes the worst months of pandemic shutdowns and quarantines). While still down year-over-year, board games fared better than the other categories of tabletop games.
This isn’t much as a surprise, as while people are still playing a lot of games, they may not be looking for as many new ones as they were when COVID-19 first hit the world. The games with the most downloads for this period are Happy Color from X-Flow (a drawing-and-coloring game with 8.3 million installs), Uno, and Chess from Chess.com (the classic has seen a resurgence since the pandemic).
The solitaire/mahjong subgenre, Sensor Tower says, is the top revenue generator of its four tabletop subcategories (card, board, and drawing-and-coloring). Player spending increased 44 percent year-over-year, hitting an approximate $310 million. It was also the top genre for downloads at 76.8 million installs.
Card games were the fastest-growing genre, thanks to the likes of Phase 10: World Tour and Spades Plus from Zynga. Player spending rose 83.6 percent to $101.3 million.
When it comes to revenue per download, the board game subgenre is king. It generated $6.3 per download for the period. Card games were next, followed by solitaire/mahjong.
The period for this report (August 2020-July 31) overlapped with when the United States starting vaccinating its population. As of July 31, the Mayo Clinic shows that 49.7 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. With more people able to play games in person, I asked Chapple how this affected spending and downloads from the spring to July 31.
“Like other genres, mobile tabletop games saw revenue surge in 2020 during the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. Interestingly, however, player spending in the genre has hit record highs this year,” he said. “In the United States, mobile tabletop game revenue was up 41.7 percent year-over-year during H1 2021 to approximately $389 million. July 2021 also represented the best month ever for player spending in the genre, generating $70.5 million in the U.S.”
So it looks like mobile tabletop game companies are finding that the habits people picked up during the pandemic are sticking around for at least one more turn.
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