Gaming, specifically mobile gaming, is a broad area, one that really can’t be boxed into a specific genre. Certainly, with the capacity for gaming offered by smartphones like the iPhone XS Max and Asus ROG Phone, there has been a bit of a shift in the expectations of gamers and the ambitions of developers. Yet, bigger and bolder is not always better, and a great game can always be developed by shrewd concepts and clever design without needing to blow the veritable roof off in terms of graphics and gameplay.
The point is that “the best” is a flexible notion, one that depends on the esoteric tastes of the beholder. For that reason, you might disagree with the five picks we have made below showing the five best developers of mobile games. It’s just an opinion, of course, but we have tried to highlight some elements that distinguish these developers from others. Without further ado:
Okay. Starting with a developer that is turning into some of a behemoth on the global stage. The creator of Clash of Clans and Hay Day is said to be valued around $10 billion. Chinese conglomerate Tencent, which is cited as the world’s biggest gaming company, bought a controlling stake in Supercell three years ago for a cool $8.6 billion. Supercell’s business model is all about those freemium games like Clash of Clans, offering the free downloads and then reaping in the cash with micro-payments. The key, of course, is longevity, with Clash of Clans still captivating players several years after its release. In 2018, it generated more revenue than any other App in the history of the Apple Store. Keeping players interested is quite the feat, especially in a market with such a glut of alternative releases. Initial reviews of Supercell’s major new release, Rush Wars, suggests that the cash will continue to roll in.
The jewel in South Korea’s mobile gaming crown, Netmarble is much closer to traditional big budget video gaming than Supercell. Its catalogue of games is vast, with highlights including the brilliant Lineage series, a successful MMORPG franchise. In recent years, Netmarble has acquired some of Disney’s big guns, releasing Marvel Future Fight and Star Wars: Force Arena. The company was founded back in 2000 by the enigmatic Bang Jun-Hyuk, who bucked the trend of South Korea’s elite educated tech executives by rising to the top of his industry despite dropping out of high school.
A bit of a leftfield choice here, as Playtech is a casino games developer. Yet, it is product is so incredibly polished and popular that it deserves some recognition. Playtech creates all types of casino games and software solutions, from a classic Premium French Roulette game to dazzling slots like Gladiator, it is one of the biggest developers of casino solutions in the world. It is the latter – branded slot games – that really sets Playtech apart from its rivals, however. The software developer has, for example, formed a partnership with Warner Bros. to create the vast range of DC Superheroes casino games. Moreover, Playtech is not shy of creating its own superheroes, such as the Age of the Gods series. These games look fantastic on mobile; not just slots, but “gaming experiences” bursting with bold graphics, bonus games and special features. The weaving of video footage from Warner Bros./DC films like Justice League and Superman into the games is masterful, and the graphics would not look out of place in a PS4 game.
Tencent was not the only gaming company to get its hands on the seemingly endless amounts of cash generated by freemium games models; Activision Blizzard, which owns everything from Call of Duty to World of Warcraft, bought King for $5.9 billion, and, as a consequence, at the time ran the world’s largest gaming network. Although, that’s obviously been challenged by Tencent today. What did Blizzard get with King? Some of the most annoyingly addictive games around: Candy Crush Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and Pet Rescues Saga. Look, we might turn our noses up at these games, but their popularity is no fluke. They appeal to children and adults alike, and the success speaks for itself.
GungHo Online Entertainment
GungHo is best know for the Ragnorak games created for Nintendo platforms, but the company has to thank the mobile phenomenon, Puzzles and Dragons, for much of its success. That game, at one point, was providing an estimated 91% of GungHo’s revenue. Much of this success is limited to Japan, and it ties in with the popularity of card trading battle games in that country. As of October 2018, Puzzles and Dragons was estimated to have generated a staggering $7 billion in revenue, at the time making it the second-highest earning mobile app in history (after Monster Strike, which was just narrowly ahead). The fact that those figures absolutely smash the sales of Pokémon Go, tells you all you need to know.