Industry News

The 10 most popular stories on the AppLovin blog in 2018

by Lewis Leong on Jan 3, 2019

As 2019 begins, it’s a good time to take a look back at the most popular stories we covered in 2018. We’ll also revisit some of the trends we identified for 2018 to see how they fared.

Looking at this list, it’s clear that 2018 was the year of hyper-casual. We first defined what the hyper-casual genre was all about in our three-part series on in 2017, but 2018 was the year the genre dominated headlines.

Whether you’re reading stories you missed or revisiting stories with new insights, here are the biggest mobile game trends and stories we covered in 2018.

Hyper-casual: Mobile gaming’s newest genre

Hypercasual mobile game genre blog post


Mobile gaming was dominated by the rise of the hyper-casual genre in 2018, and we dove into what defines the genre. Starting at the genesis of gaming, we looked at the critical moments in mobile gaming history that birthed the hyper-casual genre. We also dove briefly into the common monetization strategies of hyper-casual games.

Read the full story.

Dissecting the hype over hyper-casual games


With the genre defined and its history covered, we dove into what made hyper-casual games such a knockout success in 2018. In short, the genre was a result of the free-to-play movement combined with the decline of in-app purchase revenue for some mobile games. Audiences gravitated to hyper-casual games for their simplicity, challenging but addictive gameplay, and short sessions.

We predicted that the hyper-casual space would face fierce competition, and we were right. But even with increased competition, hyper-casual continued dominating the top free games charts with the genre clearly at the top, even as we enter 2019.

Read the full story.

Hyper-casual games will lead a shakeup in the top app charts in 2018


We predicted that hyper-casual would continue dominating the top free app and game charts in both Google Play and iOS, but what about top grossing? Since top grossing is calculated by in-app purchases, incumbents like Netflix, Tinder, Candy Crush, and Fornite ruled the roost in 2018.

Going into 2019, not much has changed, though we did see some hyper-casual games jump into the top grossing charts thanks to their mixed monetization model of in-app purchases and ads. Throughout 2018, it was clear that hyper-casual’s success was propelled by the ad monetization model, allowing anyone to enjoy these addictive and challenging games for free. We expect hyper-casual to continue being one of the big mobile game trends that will continue into the new year.

Read the full story.

Top 5 mobile gaming trends from GDC 2018


GDC is one of the biggest game trade shows of the year. In 2018, we identified five trends that emerged from the event:

  1. Console-quality mobile games are now a reality
  2. Game communities need cleaning up
  3. AR is slowly going mainstream, but VR is still for enthusiasts
  4. Game discovery is a challenge for everyone
  5. Everyone’s trying to reach the next billion gamers

Fortnite and PUBG showed that there is a demand for console-quality games and that players are ready to pay. Game communities also became vastly more important, especially since studies showed that they can increase player LTV by 20x. While AR definitely made headway in 2018 thanks to ARKit and ARCore, we’re still waiting on the next wave of mobile AR games that can match Pokémon Go’s success. Developers like Dumpling Design are leading the pack, creating innovative AR games like Smash Tanks.

Read the full story.

The best user acquisition practices for hyper-casual games


With hyper-casual dominating 2018, it only made sense for us to cover the best practices for monetization. The ad model was the most popular for the genre, but developers need to be considerate about where to place them. Best practice for displaying an ad is at the end of a core game loop in conjunction with offering rewarded video for in-game items. Cross-promotion also plays a big part in the success of monetizing.

For more monetization best practices, read the full story.

Apple slowing down iPhones was a communications failure, not a technical one


Apple saw one of its biggest PR nightmares unfold in 2018 when it was revealed that the company was purposely slowing down iPhones to prevent random shutdowns and reboots. Users were furious that Apple slowed down their phones without letting them know why. Even though Apple was technically in the right for slowing down iPhones with aging batteries to prevent random shutdowns, its failure was in communicating the problem to its users. From the outside, it looked like Apple was forcing users to upgrade to new handsets instead of simply replacing the battery. Apple offered discounted battery replacements as a mea culpa, and it attributed this to lower than expected earnings going into 2019.

Read the full story.

iPhone X becomes a hit


Apple’s first $1000+ iPhone was released in late 2017, and there was much uncertainty going into 2018 whether or not the market would be receptive to the most expensive iPhone ever. In January, we found that the iPhone X was on track to surpass the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus in ad impressions going into the new year. Our data was corroborated by reports that the iPhone X became the world’s best-selling smartphone in Q1 2018.

Read the full story.

The use of minimalism in hyper-casual game design


One of the biggest reasons for the dominance of hyper-casual games in 2018 was the use of minimalism in game design. This extends to art and game mechanics, forcing developers to distill hyper-casual games down to the parts that make them fun and challenging. Developers had to think about storytelling and character building in minimalistic terms as the genre demanded it. While players of hardcore RPGs may have the patience to allow story and character development to take place over hours, hyper-casual games have seconds to do so.

Read the full story.

Fortnite doesn’t want to play with Google

Epic Fornite Google Play fight

2018 was dominated by two things: hyper-casual and Fortnite. Epic’s battle royale game became one of the biggest mobile gaming trends of the year and turned into a cultural phenomenon. Children and teens replicated the character’s dances (which artists are now suing for), and the game pulled in a staggering $300 million on iOS alone in the first 200 days of release.

But the bigger story was that Epic circumvented Google by distributing the Android version of its game on its own website. This showed that a large developer like Epic could get around Google’s 30% cut. The company continued to put its money where its mouth is by announcing it would be creating its own games store for PC which would only take an 11% cut, taking on Steam’s monopoly.

Read the full story.

Infographic: Everything you need to know about mobile ad formats


It can be confusing when deciding which ad formats you want to integrate into your app or game. That’s why we created this handy infographic to help explain the pros and cons of each mobile ad format.

See the full infographic.

Lewis Leong is AppLovin's Content Marketing Manager.