Since its appearance at the end of 2017, tactical games have quickly swept through the world. As of the end of February this year, these games have made over $10 billion in the App Store and Google Play worldwide, making them one of the highest-grossing game categories.
Because of their social nature, tactical games are more likely to have a regional monopoly than other games. PUBG Mobile, with its revenue from Europe and the US, has been at the top of the best-selling overseas mobile games list for years. While Knives Out, with its deep roots in Japan, has captured 80% of the market share of local tactical games. However, Garena’s Free Fire, which is a low-rated version of the game, has taken a legendary route from emerging markets such as Southeast Asia and Latin America to the mature markets of Europe and the US.
Sensor Tower’s shop intelligence data shows that Garena’s Free Fire has generated $1.56 billion in total revenue in the App Store and Google Play worldwide as of the end of February. Over the past year, the game has earned $810 million and is the No. 2 best-selling overseas shooting game, second only to PUBG Mobile. Note: All the above figures exclude third-party from Android channels.
Awakening paying demand in emerging markets
In Indonesia and Thailand, Free Fire has a market share of 83% and 78% respectively in the competition tactical games segment. In Latin America, it has a market share of over 60% in each country. In Brazil, the largest mobile game market in Latin America, the market share is 82%.
Of Free Fire’s $810 million revenue in the past year, approximately 29% came from South East Asia and 25.6% from Latin America. In other words, payments from emerging markets accounted for nearly 55% of the game's revenue.
Finding lower-tier markets in established regions
After becoming a national competitive game in Latin America and Southeast Asia, Free Fire is further targeting the US market.
Before Fortnite was taken off from the app shop (13th August 2020), the most popular shooting games in the US were Fortnite, PUBG Mobile, and Call of Duty Mobile. Over the past year, Free Fire's market share in the US surged from 12% in March 2020 to 46% in February this year, making it the most popular tactical competition mobile game in the US.
Although the US is already the largest overseas market for mobile games in terms of revenue, there is still a large lower-tier market due to its uneven economic development between coastal and inland areas which has not been fully tapped by tactical competition games seeking a highly recreated host experience in the past.
Free Fire's compatibility with lower-end devices has certainly met the demand of players in those markets. Sensor Tower data shows that 63% of Free Fire's revenue in the US comes from Android devices. This compares to 42% for PUBG Mobile and 33% for Call of Duty Mobile.
Having unlocked the US market, Free Fire's revenues are on another upward trajectory. In the first half of March, the game earns the most overseas revenue among tactical games, with 48% of it coming from the US.
Over the past three years, the battle for the tactical competition game market seemed to be a foregone conclusion. However, sitting in an emerging market with a huge player base, Free Fire is rapidly changing that landscape and is creating a new wave in established markets.
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