It’s easy to overlook the myriad ways in which that connectivity has transformed our daily lives over the past few years. In the video game industry, connectivity and access to media have fueled an immense surge in free-to-play games. That surge has helped propel topline revenue and audience growth—both of which will continue in the years to come, largely because of massive hits like Fortnite and Pokémon GO, which remained immensely popular among U.S. gamers in 2019.
The free-to-play groundswell has been so impactful that several multiplayer games that once commanded premium price tags have moved to free-to-play business models in the past 12 months. Destiny 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have both taken advantage of this strategy, which helped both games attract a healthy influx of new players, pushing them to the top of the charts in 2019.
We expect additional premium games to convert to free-to-play in the next year, which, if successful, would more than make up for the losses in upfront unit sales, given the increased revenue that game makers are seeing from the sale of in-game goods like cosmetic items and battle passes.
While sales of premium video games dipped in 2019, a strong holiday season pushed perennial franchises like Call of Duty and NBA 2K into the top 10. There were fewer blockbuster titles this year compared to 2018, which saw multiple big releases like Red Dead Redemption 2, Spider-Man and God of War. Even so, we expect premium games to have a record year in 2020, given the release of several highly anticipated titles like Cyberpunk 2077, Dying Light 2 and Halo Infinite set to come out.
Not surprisingly, mobile games remain the most popular and profitable part of the video game business. In the U.S., six of the best-performing games in 2018 made their way back to the top 10 titles for 2019, including fan favorites like Clash of Clans, Candy Crush Saga and Slotomania. We expect these titles to remain popular in 2020, but they may soon face competition from franchise crossover games like Call of Duty Mobile, Mario Kart Tour and Minecraft Earth.