Mobile RPG Report on RPG Gamers, Monetization Models, and Advertising
Looking for extensive market research on mobile RPGs?
You’re in for a treat!
In this RPG report, you’ll find out everything you ever wanted to know about mobile role-playing games and its players.
- Who are RPG gamers and what motivates them
- What leads to high churn rates
- The role of community in mobile role-playing games
- How to monetize a mobile RPG
- RPG gamers ad preferences
- How to bring lapsed players back
You can use this information to make a better role-playing game, acquire more users, and maximize your revenue.
Let’s dive in!
Introduction and Methodology
We’ll go over the research that’s based on data from Facebook Gaming’s report titled Genre and Great Games (with contributions from Facebook IQ and GameRefinery).
In this report, more than 13,000 mobile gamers across 11 countries were surveyed, while the focus was kept on 4 markets — the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Japan.
You’ll gain insight into the state of mobile role-playing games and who RPG players are.
Furthermore, you’ll understand what motivates players to get into role-playing games and how well mobile games in this genre fulfill those needs.
We’ll also explore the role of community in role-playing games, types of ads RPG gamers like to see, and what monetization models work best.
Most importantly, these insights will help you make better games and acquire more users.
The Power of Genre
Before we get into the specifics of mobile role-playing games, it’s important to understand the importance of mobile game genres for players.
The mobile game genre is the top factor that influences players to try a new game (49%). For 40% of gamers, recommendations from family and friends are important. App Store reviews are a factor for 35% of players.
Another interesting thing is that each country has a different genre preference. For example, in the US, top genres are card/casino, matching puzzle, word/brain/board, and hyper-casual.
While in Japan, top genres are matching puzzle, puzzle RPG, racing, action RPG/MMORPG, and AR/Location-based.
The State of Mobile RPGs
What makes role-playing games a unique genre is controlling a character, as well as customizing and developing it through a story/quest and defeating enemies.
Mobile role-playing games also include different sub-genres like Idle RPG, Action RPG, MMORPG, Fighting, and Puzzle.
Out of the four markets this study focused on, mobile RPGs are the most popular in Japan and South Korea. When it comes to sub-genres, South Korean players prefer Action RPGs and MMORPGs, while Japanese players like Puzzle RPGs.
Who Is Playing Mobile RPGs?
When it comes to demographics, RPG gamers are very similar to strategy gamers. The majority are young men.
More specifically, in the US, 62% of players are male and 65% are aged 18–34. Similarly, in the UK, 63% of players are male, and 68% are 25–44 years old.
In Japan, 60% of the players are men. The majority of turn-based RPG, action RPG, and MMORPG players are aged 25–44, while most puzzle RPG players are 35–54.
On average, RPG gamers play three games, and just like strategy gamers, they tend to play for a longer period of time.
68% of players in the US and 55% of players in the UK say their typical session lasts for more than 30 minutes. Furthermore, 73% of South Korean players play for more than 30 minutes, which is significant.
RPG players are also more likely to self-identify as gamers and more likely to try new games. Social interactions are important for RPG players and they like to immerse themselves in a new world or character.
You can read more about what motivates users to play RPGs in the following section.
What Motivates Gamers to Play Role-Playing Games?
In order to create a successful role-playing game, it’s essential to know what RPG players actually like and why they play.
However, that differs from market to market.
Here’s what RPG players say about their motivation for playing mobile games.
In the US, the most important reasons for playing are relieving stress (71%), passing time (62%), immersing oneself in another character/world (56%), being dazzled by something unique (51%), defeating others in competition (48%), and feeling accomplished for completing something challenging (46%).
As we can see, two main things that motivate players are relieving stress and passing time. However, while 71% of US players play to relieve stress, they think only 54% of role-playing games deliver on this.
However, players think games deliver on “defeating others in competition” and “feeling accomplished for completing something challenging”.
For UK players, the two most important reasons are also relieving stress (57%) and passing time (62%). Other reasons include feeling accomplished for completing something challenging (49%), immersing oneself in another character/world (45%), connecting with friends (39%), and learning something that can benefit me outside gaming (38%).
There are gaps between player motivations and what mobile RPGs actually deliver in the UK as well.
South Korean Players
In South Korea, 57% of users play to relieve stress. However, they think only 38% of games deliver on this.
Other reasons are feeling accomplished for completing something difficult (35%), being dazzled by something unique (34%), and defeating others in competition (33%).
What’s interesting is that 29% of South Koreans play to pass the time and 35% think RPGs deliver on this.
Furthermore, 28% of gamers play to immerse themselves in another character/world and all of them think RPG games deliver on that.
In Japan, there are a few differences in motivation and fulfillment, so we’re going to look at turn-based RPG, puzzle RPG, and action RPG/MMORPG.
52% of turn-based RPG players play to immerse themselves in another world/character, and all of them think games deliver on this. However, while 38% play to relieve stress, 29% feel current games deliver on this.
Similarly, 42% of Japanese puzzle RPG gamers play to relieve stress and just 34% think games provide stress relief.
56% of action RPG players like to get immersed in another world, but only 49% feel games deliver on that.
Now that you know what motivates players in these markets, use this information to create a better role-playing game. It’s a surefire way to develop a game that RPG gamers will actually like.
Furthermore, this attracts high-quality users which will result in better user retention and make your monetization efforts more effective.
What Leads to High Churn Rates?
When players don’t feel like their key motivations are fulfilled, they tend to stray and many abandon games altogether.
For developers and publishers, that’s one of the worst things that can happen.
Acquiring users is everything but easy. So to have players abandon a game is bad news.
Luckily, there’s a way to combat that.
The first step is to learn what leads to high churn rates.
Here are the top reasons players stop playing role-playing games in the US, UK, South Korea, and Japan.
In the US, the main reason is boredom. 37% of players report they stopped playing because they got bored with the game. 22% abandon games if ads are too frequent.
In the UK, getting bored with a game is also the number one reason for not playing anymore (31%). 24% stopped playing because they finished a game and another 24% because the game is too repetitive.
In South Korea, as much as 40% abandon a game because it gets boring. 36% stop playing because in-app purchases are too aggressive and 34% because the game is too repetitive.
In Japan, getting bored with a game is also the number one reason for all sub-genres (turn-based RPG, puzzle RPG, and action RPG/MMORPG).
What we can conclude from this is that players in all markets often find RPGs boring and simply stop playing. That’s a big issue. Developers need to work really hard to create a mobile RPG that keeps players constantly engaged.
More on that in the following section.
Features Mobile RPGs Need to Have to Keep Users Engaged
As we have seen, players abandon games if they’re not satisfied with it. Here’s what you can do to combat that and keep users engaged.
Overall, adding new content is a must. It’s what keeps RPG players interested.
Furthermore, the characters are really important. 84% of players in Japan like a game that has more than 50 different characters.
It doesn’t stop there.
Character development is also important for mobile RPGs. That’s why the ability to combine/craft items is important for more than 90% of players in all markets. Character ingredient items are another key feature for role-playing games.
Since many players want to feel accomplished while playing, daily quests are essential. This also combats boredom and repetitiveness because there’s something new to do every day.
Recurring and non-recurring live events are another basic feature every mobile RPG should have. Those make the game exciting and keep players interested long-term. Not only do live events provide fresh content, but also create a sense of community.
Furthermore, when we look at what sets apart top role-playing games from less successful ones, there are a couple of features that stand out.
Let’s break down each one.
Event Versions of Characters
This refers to offering special versions of game characters that are exclusive to events. Many top RPGs offer this feature — a good example is SiegfriedElmer from Looney Toons.
Here’s why this is effective.
Mobile RPG games tend to have a collectible nature and event versions of characters can essentially be collected. Furthermore, since those versions are special and can have unique skills or appearance, players are likely to form emotional bonds to them. They are also more likely to participate in future events if they can purchase a new version of their special characters.
54% of the top 20% RPGs have this feature, while the overall utilization is just 28%.
Special Live Event Currency
One of the best ways to keep players engaged and interested are live events. They’re essential for mobile role-playing games.
But what top RPGs offer is not just live events, but special live event currency as well. Basically, players can earn that special currency by participating in live events.
This adds another layer to the live events economy and distinguishes them from regular gameplay. Furthermore, it makes live events even more special to players and turns them into something worth participating in.
A great example is Sebastian coins in Hero Wars.
82% of top RPGs utilize this feature, while the overall utilization is only 51%.
Multiple Level-Up Types for Characters
One of the main reasons gamers play RPGs is character development — it’s an essential feature.
However, to get to the top charts, developers need to take it one step further and incorporate multiple level-up types for characters.
Here’s what that means.
Instead of having just one way to upgrade a character, have different ways to level-up, each with its requirements and required materials. Having at least three makes a mobile RPG significantly more interesting and engaging.
Character development is one of the main reasons gamers keep playing and making progress in a game.
For this feature, the overall utilization is 56%, while 77% of top role-playing games have this feature.
The Role of Community in Role-Playing Games
For RPG players, community and social activities are very important. The numbers can attest to this. 75% of US RPG gamers and 79% of UK RPG gamers say they have engaged in a social activity related to the genre.
Here’s what type of activities RPG gamers engage in the most.
30% of RPG players from the US say they have checked out scores and achievements of other players in the last three months. 28% have viewed, liked, or commented on posts made by other gamers.
29% of UK RPG gamers have chatted online about role-playing games. 28% have viewed other players’ achievements.
In South Korea, 32% of gamers have viewed, liked, or commented on posts from a game company.
In Japan, engaging with posts from game companies is the number one activity for players of all RPG sub-genres.
Online communities are where most RPG players interact with each other. More than 50% of gamers in all four markets say they visit online communities on a weekly basis. In Japan, it’s as much as 65%.
Another interesting thing is why players visit online communities — it’s different across these 4 markets. For example, in the US, almost 50% of players do it to learn about upcoming events in RPG games. In Japan, the majority of Action RPG players visit gaming communities to get fun game content. 42% Puzzle RPG gamers look for content that will make them better at the game.
While online groups are a big part of the gaming community, in-game features that enable RPG users to be social are also important. 40% of UK and US players and more than 50% of South Korean players enjoy online multiplayer games. Moreover, almost half of UK and US RPG gamers say they like interacting with other gamers while playing.
But here’s something interesting.
While RPG gamers value community and often listen to recommendations from other players, the majority of them say they play games their friends are not playing.
That means RPG players are open to trying out new games.
It also has to be mentioned that developers have the power to grow and nurture these communities.
Most RPG players are open to communication with developers in terms of receiving different information and messages. To be more specific, 80% of players in the US and Japan report they want to receive relevant messages from developers/publishers.
Let’s take a look at what type of messages they want to receive.
Information RPG Gamers Want to Receive from Developers
In the US, 47% of players want to receive tips, tricks, and strategies. 43% want to hear about upcoming events, and 40% about updates or new content. 38% want questions and answers.
The UK and South Korea are pretty much the same — the only thing that’s different is that some players want to be able to influence or provide feedback on the game’s design.
In Japan, for turn-based RPG players, updates and content releases are the most important news. 54% want to receive that type of info. 51% want to hear about in-game events, 39% about tips & tricks, 29% about behind-the-scenes stories, and 27% want questions & answers.
However, for Puzzle and Action RPG players, getting tips and tricks is the most important info, followed by upcoming events, updates, and content releases.
Social Features a Role-Playing Game Needs to Have
We have established that community is important for RPG gamers.
What that means for developers is that they should create games while keeping this in mind. RPGs that have social features will be more successful long term because they add another layer to gaming and keep players interested.
Furthermore, developers should encourage social interactions and nurture communities that form around the game.
Basic social features include:
- Ladder/season system in PvP
- Filtered PvP matching
- Special benefits from communal activities or PvP
- Highscore lists and leaderboards
- Send/ask help
- Guild mechanics
Developers who want to take it one step further and get their game to the top charts should also include the following social features.
Co-Op PvE Modes
Fighting against enemies with your friends or other online gamers is what RPG players love. Not only are co-ops a great social activity, but they also add an interesting strategic layer to a game.
83% of top mobile role-playing games utilize this feature, while the overall utilization is just 62%.
Both synchronous and asynchronous co-ops are popular. However, the former is more common in MMORPGs, while the latter is found in most other RPGs.
A great example of it is Clan Boss — asynchronous PvE from Raid: Shadow Legends.
3 or More PvP Modes
Playing against other players is what makes role-playing games so fun.
However, it’s wise to incorporate multiple PvP modes. For example, a main PvP mode, a couple of co-op modes, and special event PvP.
Special Social Currency
Another great way to encourage social interactions and grow a gaming community is to incorporate special social currency.
For example, this currency can be earned by taking part in social activities and spent on collectibles. A great example of this are companion points in AFK Arena.
How to Monetize a Role-Playing Game?
In this section, we’re going to talk about the best strategies for monetizing a mobile RPG.
In-App Purchases in Mobile RPGs
In both Japan and South Korea, RPG is the genre with the most in-app purchases.
Across all markets, players like to make in-game purchases directly, instead of making purchases with a random element. That’s particularly important for turn-based and action RPG/MMORPG players (77% and 70% respectively).
Furthermore, more than 50% of players in all four markets think purchases that help you win in a game are acceptable, as opposed to those that are limited to items that don’t help you win.
How to Incorporate Ads Into Role-Playing Games?
While in-app purchases work great for role-playing games, it’s not advised to rely solely on this monetization method.
20% of US players and more than 30% of players in South Korea stopped playing a mobile RPG because the in-app purchases were too aggressive. Furthermore, many gamers don’t like the concept of in-app purchases.
That’s why developers should have a dual monetization strategy where they combine both in-app purchases and in-app ads.
As much as 90% of Japanese gamers are open to this, as well as 70% of players in the US, 69% in the UK, and 80% in South Korea.
Moreover, in-app ads are on the rise — according to App Annie, the number of mobile games with ad SDKs is increasing year over year.
However, developers need to know what type of in-app ads RPG players respond to the most.
In general, RPG gamers like ads that are longer, but less frequent, as opposed to short, frequent ads. More specifically, one 30-second ad per 10 minutes of playing is more preferable than several shorter ads.
Furthermore, it’s a good idea to reward users for watching ads — players respond to this well.
Key Monetization Features Successful Mobile RPGs Needs to Have
Since characters are one of the most important parts in role-playing games, in-app purchases should be focused on character development.
That includes things like equipment, upgrades, boosts, and reviving characters. Players are used to these in-app purchases since they’re common among most role-playing games.
Here’s a list of in-app purchases most mobile RPGs offer:
- Equipment items
- Skipping waiting times with money
- Limited-time in-app purchases and bundle offers
- Character ingredient items
- Shop with gachas/loot boxes
- Consumable boosts
- Continue/revive feature
The abovementioned purchases are considered to be basic features and should be a starting point for developers.
However, there are monetization features that top mobile RPGs utilize more than other games.
Developers should consider including these in-app purchases if they want to take their monetization strategy to a new level.
Those include offering five or more different loot boxes, bulk discount loot boxes, and 51 or more characters to purchase.
Here’s more info on each one.
Five or More Different Loot Boxes
As it was mentioned before, loot boxes are a common monetization feature used by many RPGs. They’re the foundation of RPG in-app purchase framework.
What makes loot boxes unique is that they’re a randomized mechanic, meaning players don’t know what they’ll get before they open it.
However, what makes top mobile RPGs stand out is that they offer a larger variety of loot boxes. They can also include limited-time special loot boxes and (live) event loot boxes.
It makes the gameplay more exciting and, most importantly, encourages players to spend more. A great example of this is loot boxes in Seven Deadly Sins, an anime role-playing game.
70% of top RPGs offer a variety of loot boxes, while the overall utilization for this monetization feature is just 40%.
Bulk Discount Loot Boxes
Another strategy top mobile RPGs use is discount loot boxes. This is a basic sales technique where players can purchase multiple loot boxes for a lower price. As you might expect, it incentivizes players to spend more since it’s a good value for money.
77% of top mobile role-playing games offer bulk discount loot boxes, while the overall utilization is 51%.
51 or More Characters to Purchase
If you want to take your monetization strategy to the next level, you need to expand the number of characters players can purchase. More specifically, top RPGs offer 51 or more characters.
It may seem like a lot, but remember, characters are the key aspect of any mobile role-playing game. Thus, giving players the opportunity to collect a large number of characters is a very good strategy.
This is particularly effective for team-based RPGs where players control multiple characters. However, it also works for single-player RPGs.
As much as 92% of top RPGs have this monetization feature, while the overall utilization is 69%. An example of a mobile game that utilizes this feature is Summoners War that has dozens of characters.
Ad Preferences: What Type of Advertisements RPG Players Respond to Best?
The majority of players say they’re willing to try a new game if the advertisement makes it look appealing and interesting. That means developers can acquire a lot of users through mobile game advertising.
But here’s the thing.
In order to successfully advertise a mobile role-playing game, knowing what type of advertisements RPG players respond to is crucial.
Here’s what type of messaging and tone players want to see in mobile game ads across four major markets.
User Ad Preferences in the US
In the US, 42% of players think that showcasing the main gameplay is the most important detail in ads. 40% think ads should showcase the characters/story and 30% want to see the progression of characters/universe.
When it comes to emotional tone preferences for new games, 45% want a challenging tone in ads. 41% want to see adrenaline-pumping action, while 34% want something relaxing.
User Ad Preferences in the UK
In the UK, ad preferences are almost identical to those in the US.
Regarding emotional tone preferences, 42% want ads that communicate something challenging, 41% something humorous/funny, 37% something adrenaline-pumping.
User Ad Preferences in South Korea
In South Korea, 50% of players prefer ads that showcase the main gameplay. 38% like ads that showcase the progression of characters/universe and 37% want to see control mechanics.
Furthermore, 42% like ads for games that have a challenging and adrenaline-pumping tone. 31% like ads that are inspiring.
User Ad Preferences in Japan
For Japan, we’re going to look at ad preferences for three RPG sub-genres — turn-based RPG, puzzle RPG, and action RPG/MMORPG.
What players from all three genres have in common is that they have the same ad preferences. For all of them, the characters/story being showcased in an ad is the most important ad feature, followed by showcasing the main gameplay, and the game’s art styles.
How to Bring Players Back?
No matter how good your user acquisition strategy is, there will always be players who abandon the game. It can happen for many reasons — getting bored/losing interest, not having enough time to play, discovering a new game, etc.
But don’t despair.
There are techniques you can use to bring players back.
The good news is, a large percentage of players (as much as 90% in the US) are willing to go back to an RPG game they haven’t played in the last month.
Here’s what can influence players to return to a game.
For the US, UK, and South Korean players, the three most important reasons for returning are:
- Hearing about new content or available updates
- Hearing about a reward for coming back
- Someone online inviting them to play the game with them
For Japanese players (including the three sub-genres), the most important reasons are:
- Hearing about new content or available updates
- Seeing news articles or blog posts about the game
- Someone bringing up the game during an in-person conversation
User Retention Statistics for Mobile Role-Playing Games
To finish off, let’s look at user retention statistics for mobile RPGs.
The good news is that RPGs have a good day 1 user retention.
Average RPGs retain more than 25% of users after day 1, while top-performing RPGs retain more than 35%. In general, day 1 user retention of 35% or more is considered good, so that’s what you should be aiming for.
Day 7 user retention tells you how many players return after a week of playing. Naturally, it’s lower than day 1 retention. Top RPGs retain just above 10%, while average RPGs retain 7% of players.
After 28 days, top mobile role-playing games retain just above 4% of users, which is good. Average mobile RPGs retain 2% of players after a month, which means there’s room for improvement there.
That’s It, Folks
We have come to the end of our extensive research. Hopefully, this information will help you make better decisions and get your mobile RPG to the top charts.
If you have any questions about the data, make sure to leave a comment.
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