Mobile gaming has had a phenomenal year, even though there haven’t been as many marquee games releasing directly onto the traditional App Store and Google Play Store platforms in 2020.
Instead, this year has seen alternatives and standout indie hits arrive on mobile, as well as older titles becoming big trends in the world of mobile gaming.
Cloud gaming has also become a far greater focus in 2020, and it’s sure to grow exponentially in 2021 as we see services like Google Stadia, Xbox Games Pass and Amazon Luna expand onto more devices and smartphones.
We’ve put together five of the biggest highlights of 2020 in mobile gaming, which has been a landmark year for games, even without the new PS5 and Xbox Series X console launches.
1. Google Stadia comes to mobile phones
The first big new trend in smartphone gaming was being able to play top-end titles on your phone through cloud gaming. Google Stadia may have launched in 2019, but it debuted on smartphones in February this year.
It was only compatible on a small list of smartphones including the Google Pixel 4, Samsung Galaxy S20 to begin with, along with some dedicated gaming phones. Then, in June, the rollout continued as we saw Stadia come to other Android devices.
Google Stadia has now debuted on iPhone, too – albeit through a very specific way – but it means that most smartphones can now connect to the service. It means you can play top-end titles like Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion on your smartphone via the cloud, which was unthinkable a few years ago.
2. Genshin Impact offers a Breath of the Wild clone on your phone
What do you get if cross Breath of the Wild with a massively multiplayer RPG? Genshin Impact, that’s what – a game which is on track to become one of the biggest mobile launches of all time.
Genshin Impact became an instant hit with players when it released in September, and it managed to generate a cool $60 million in revenue during its first week on sale. It’s now closing in on $500 million after less than three months on sale, and averages about $6 million a day for developer miHoYo.
Genshin Impact shows how China’s top publishers are having a greater say in the video games industry, with Tencent Interactive Entertainment, a division of Tencent, continuing to invest heavily in companies like Ubisoft, Paradox Interactive, PlatinumGames and Epic Games.
3. Among Us becomes a huge hit on mobile
In 2020, everyone’s been “sus” at some point or another. Despite being out for a couple of years, Among Us experienced a stratospheric rise in popularity in 2020, reaching 275 million downloads to date. The spike in interest began around August, and reached its peak in September, but it continues to be one of the most popular games around.
The very definition of a great party game, Among Us’ success is down to its mass appeal and the hilarious outcomes that occur when the wrong imposter is jettisoned from the space craft. With the world locked down due to Covid-19, it’s been a great social outlet for people to enjoy.
It’s hard to predict whether Among Us’ success will continue in 2021, though, especially as the game is now available on more platforms. However, the ease of use and ability to play anywhere is certainly an advantage that Among Us on mobile has over PC and consoles.
4. PUBG Mobile has another huge year
PUBG might have been somewhat eclipsed by Fortnite in the console space, but it’s transition to mobile has been an unbelievable success. The battle royale formula has attracted millions of players and, despite a surprise ban in India, continues to draw in users with its regular updates and new content. In fact, it made a staggering $2.6 billion in revenue this year alone, making it the highest grossing title.
The game has naturally been adapted to be more forgiving and less realistic on mobile, but all the core components of what makes PUBG so addictive are alive and well. From hot dropping into contested areas, to overcoming all the odds to win a hard-fought chicken dinner, the future for PUBG Mobile is extremely bright.
5. Xbox games come to mobile phones and tablets
Previously known as Project xCloud, Microsoft brought its Xbox Game Pass to smartphones this year with a similar cloud gaming experience to Stadia, give or take.
Debuting as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate in September, Microsoft’s streaming service lets you play top-end games like Forza Horizon 4, Doom Eternal and hundreds of others directly on your phone with the use of a controller. Some games are also touchscreen compatible.
Unlike Google Stadia, though, these are all included in one subscription cost. You’ll have to pay monthly for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to be able to access it, but it allows you to play the best titles on your smartphone or tablet no matter what your device’s processing power is.
Cloud gaming is set to be a big trend in 2021 and beyond, with Amazon recently joining the fray with Amazon Luna. So, if you’re after a cheap way to game without making a big investment on a new games console, this could be it.