Behind the Screen: Why Is Mobile Gaming on the Rise?

Hint: it’s more than just because they are fun.

The mobile gaming sector is booming these days. A report by Newzoo, a leader in video games and gamer data, stated that revenues from mobile games surpassed those of PC and console games combined as early as 2018. Since then, the gap has only widened. As of 2023, mobile games make up almost half of the entire gaming market’s revenue, raking in about US$92.6 billion. That number is expected to climb to US$100 billion by 2026.

With mobile gaming taking over, more and more people are getting in on the fun. The number of mobile gamers has shot up from 1.1 billion in 2017 and is expected to hit more than 1.8 billion by 2027. This exponential growth prompts a question: What’s behind this incredible growth? Let’s dive into the reasons why mobile gaming is booming and what keeps millions of players hooked.

More people online and more smartphones

To play mobile games, you need these two things: a smartphone and the internet. With 5.44 billion people—or about 67.1% of the global population—now online and smartphone ownership soaring in emerging economies, the mobile gaming market is rapidly expanding. Countries like Brazil, Indonesia and India are quickly becoming some of the largest smartphone markets globally. In fact, India’s smartphone market is growing even faster than that of the US, with 659 million Indians now owning smartphones compared to 276 million Americans.

This surge in smartphone accessibility is transforming the mobile gaming industry, with each new smartphone user potentially becoming a gamer. This trend is particularly significant in developing regions where smartphones are often the primary means of internet access, making mobile gaming a popular form of entertainment.

The evolution of mobile game design and technology

Over the years, mobile devices have seen significant improvements in hardware, such as more powerful processors, accelerometers, gyroscopes and high-resolution displays. Today’s smartphones come with features like high refresh rates for smoother visuals, optimized gaming modes and better cooling systems to keep the fun going even during intense play. 

Software upgrades have also played a part, with enhanced user interfaces (UIs), intuitive touch controls and new tech like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) transforming gaming experiences. AR, for example, blends the digital and real worlds, creating interactive experiences in popular games like Pokémon GO. On the other hand, VR technology, such as Apple’s Vision Pro and Meta’s Oculus Quest, immerses players in three-dimensional worlds, offering an unparalleled depth of engagement. These tech advancements have opened the door to one-of-a-kind and engaging gameplay mechanics that were once only possible on high-end PCs and consoles. 

The appeal of free-to-play models

Let’s be real—who can resist a good deal? Especially when it comes to entertainment, the appeal of getting something for nothing is nearly irresistible. This is particularly true in the world of mobile gaming, where free-to-play models have revolutionized how games are consumed and monetized.

According to Fortunly’s data in 2020, a staggering 85% of the gaming industry’s revenue comes from free-to-play games, with mobile games leading the market in adopting this pricing strategy. In 2022, each of the top ten most downloaded mobile games utilized some form of free-to-play model

These games typically combine in-game advertisements, which gently nudge players towards watching ads for rewards, and in-game storefronts, where players can purchase anything from skins to performance enhancements. This strategy creates a dynamic revenue model that is less reliant on large upfront purchases and more dependent on ongoing player engagement. As a result of such a flexible approach, players can choose to pay as they go, making mobile gaming more accessible and manageable.

Connecting players: The social side of mobile gaming

Gaming has always been about more than just the mechanics. The social aspects play a huge part in keeping players engaged. Mobile gaming, especially multiplayer games, takes this to a whole new level by making it incredibly easy to connect with fellow enthusiasts and foster communities, no matter where they are.

Today, the community-building aspect is deeply embedded in mobile games. Features such as activity feeds and in-game chats allow for constant updates on each other’s gaming milestones and real-time communication. Additionally, many games encourage forming guilds or groups that bring together players with similar interests and promote a sense of belonging and teamwork. 

These social features are essential elements that keep players coming back, logging an average of 4.2 hours each day. They turn gaming from a solitary pursuit into a rich communal experience, proving that sometimes, the joy of connection can be as satisfying as winning the game itself.

Flexibility of the microtransactions model

One of the most significant benefits of mobile gaming is the microtransaction model. Players no longer need to pay substantial upfront fees to access games, making mobile games more accessible to those who might find traditional console and PC games financially out of reach. 

Players can start games without any initial cost and choose to spend money only if they want to. Whether it’s buying cosmetic items to personalize characters, unlocking special abilities to advance quicker or accessing new levels for extended play, these purchases are usually small. Hence, they are more manageable for a wider audience.

Mobile esports: breaking barriers in competitive gaming

The explosive growth of esports has also contributed to the mobile gaming boom. Esports, which involve competitive video game tournaments watched live by millions, have historically featured complex games that required high-end hardware to run. Hence, they have long been dominated by PC and console games like League of Legends, Dota 2 and Overwatch. This limitation kept the esports phenomenon relatively niche, confined mostly to regions with access to such equipment.

However, the introduction of mobile titles like PUBG Mobile and League of Legends: Wild Rift has dramatically changed the scene. These games have brought the thrill of esports to the palm of your hand, significantly lowering the barriers to entry. To demonstrate the massive appeal of mobile esports, the most popular PUBG Mobile event—the PUBG Mobile Global Championship Season 0—had 3.8 million viewers

The rise of mobile esports has not only democratized access to esports but has also expanded its reach, particularly in developing countries where mobile connectivity far surpasses PC or console availability. The accessibility and popularity of mobile gaming are likely to continue to enhance esports’ reach, cementing its place as a major force in the broader gaming industry.


It is obvious that the mobile gaming market is experiencing a remarkable upswing, driven by the widespread adoption of smartphones, enhanced social connectivity and advances in technology such as 5G technology and cloud gaming. 

Every year, smartphone leaders like Apple, Samsung, Asus, Huawei and Xiaomi, alongside gaming giants like Tencent and Supercell, innovate to enhance the mobile gaming experience and gamers. Whether for entertainment, competition or simply to pass the time, gamers worldwide are increasingly glued to their screens, thanks to mobile gaming.

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Header Image from Freepik


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