GameRefinery cofounder Joel Julkunen and Square Enix Mobile Product Lead Albert Martinez reflect on the most notable trends of 2019 and discuss what they anticipate for 2020.

Trends of 2019

Battle Passes

  • Battle passes have permeated multiple genres due to ease of implementation and engaging design.
  • The feature shows how effective innovation can come from adding simple layers, not making big, fundamental changes.


  • Ads are offsetting paywalls.
  • The best commercial end result for developers comes from being generous with rewards and letting gamers play.
    • Match-three games do this by giving players unlimited lives to engage with levels and then monetizing core game play.

Augmented Reality 

  • Pokémon GO dominates location-based AR gaming through the right IP fit for mobile apps and use of social features like PvP options and huge events.
  • Steep development costs and unclear return on investment make AR gaming a high risk venture few are willing to approach.

What’s to Come in 2020

Growth of Hybrid Genres

    • Games that blend genres and features can be just as innovative and have lower risk than completely new designs.
    • Idle RPG is an example of a successful mixed genre: a mid core RPG is combined with elements of causal games to speed up a typically dense game style.

Transitions to Mobile

  • Big PC and console IPs like Call of Duty and League of Legends are coming to mobile.



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