Liftoff’s New Report Finds Midcore’s Market Share Accounts for 35% of US iOS Mobile Gaming Revenue

Season-based systems, battle pass stores, and event passes are the latest trends driving revenue in the Midcore category

Redwood City, CA (June 27, 2023)Liftoff, the leading growth acceleration platform for the mobile industry, has published its 2023 Midcore Gaming Apps Report, providing developers with an overview of the highest-grossing midcore games, key user acquisition benchmarks, and the most popular gameplay and monetization trends.

The report spans three main sections and, using the latest revenue data, examines the midcore games released over the past year that have held their position in the iOS top-grossing 200 chart (US). It also breaks down UA benchmarks for midcore games using programmatic data from over 30 billion ad impressions, 1.1 billion clicks, and 5.5 million installs. All data featured in this report comes from GameRefinery and Accelerate, Liftoff’s programmatic advertising solution. 

Key findings from the report include:

The midcore category’s market share accounts for 35% of total gaming revenue on iOS in the US
Strategy (4X strategy and build & battle) games make up 70% of the 10 top-grossing midcore games. Strategy games perform well since they’re typically more extensive than shooters and role-playing games (RPGs). They offer deeper monetization opportunities and drive players to buy more power to join competitive guilds. Games are also leaning into LiveOps to drive revenue in the midcore category. The average number of unique events simultaneously active in midcore games is 15, even when excluding in-app purchase (IAP) offers and gachas.

Midcore games have twice as much staying power as casual titles
When examining the games released over the past year that have held their position in the top-grossing 200, the report found twice as many midcore games as casual games. Titles such as “Honkai: Star Rail” and “Marvel Snap” may have higher entry barriers, but their enhanced depth allows for more monetization streams and a more engaged audience. 

More publishers are turning to external web stores for in-game purchases
Following its legal battle with Epic, Apple must now allow apps to sell in-app purchases outside the Apple App Store. Notable games such as “Game of Thrones: Conquest,” “Clash of Clans,” and “Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes” are actively using external web stores to give their players better deals while avoiding Apple’s store fees. 

Joel Julkunen, Head of Analytics at GameRefinery, a Liftoff company, said: “While casual games still dominate mobile, the challenges facing user acquisition, including Apple’s IDFA changes and rising inflation, have caused an increasing number of developers to set their sights on the midcore market.”

He added: “Midcore games are such an enticing prospect for developers, as their enhanced depth enables them to build a more dedicated fanbase with a reliable revenue stream. Those looking to create midcore games must maintain a sizable LiveOps content output to keep players engaged. They also drive a constant flow of IAP bundles and gachas to boost their monetization efforts and attain that much-lauded top-tier status.” 

The report also includes the latest trends driving revenue in the midcore category, alongside an annual breakdown of advertising costs and revenue benchmarks. Bespoke battle passes for LiveOps events (event passes), battle pass stores (which use a special currency from the premium battle pass layer), and season-based systems all drive revenue and engagement in the top-performing midcore games. 

The report finds midcore games have higher user acquisition costs than most other gaming categories, with an overall CPI (cost per install) of around $2 per user, which is twice as high as casual games. Costs also fluctuated markedly depending on the time of year, peaking in August at $2.81, and on genre, with RPGs being the most cost-effective at $0.60. 

For more details about Liftoff and to download the full report, visit here.