Market intelligence firm Apptopia released its report on the most downloaded mobile apps of 2020. In a year that was defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, many peoples behavior on- and offline changed dramatically, and theres a lot to learn about the year in what was and wasnt getting installed on phones and tablets.
For apps, TikTok ruled both the worldwide and U.S. charts for mobile downloads in 2020. Despite a crazy year, it still managed to pull down well over half a billion dollars in gross revenue worldwide, coming in above other high earners like Tinder ($513 million), YouTube ($478 million), and Disney+ ($314 million).
An unsurprising newcomer to the top 10, both here and abroad, was Zoom, which went from an occasional option to a necessary working tool during 2020s quarantines. It racked up 477 million downloads worldwide and 81 million in the U.S. Google Meet came in well behind it at 254 million downloads worldwide, and didnt crack the top 10 in the U.S. rankings. Nobody seems to like Zoom, but everyone seems to be using it regardless.
In a similar vein, four of the top ten most downloaded apps on Apptopias chart are Facebook-owned, which goes a long way toward highlighting the degree to which Facebook has integrated itself into the basic fabric of 21st-century life. The dedicated mobile apps for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger scored nearly two billion downloads between them worldwide. With Facebook currently in the FTCs crosshairs for anti-competitive conduct, itll be interesting to see if its hammerlock on the mobile market is affected, and if so, to what degree.
As Apptopia notes, Netflix managed to crash into the top 10 highest-grossing apps for 2020 both domestically and worldwide, despite the fact that its app doesnt accept new customer payments via the app stores and hasnt for two years now. Its a testament to the extent to which Netflix still runs the streaming business, even with the last years bumper crop of big-name competitors; its a rare month when Netflix doesnt host at least eight of the ten highest-rated shows in the streaming Nielsens.
Another sign of the effects of 2020 on the world comes from the charts for health & fitness apps, where two sleep and meditation programs, Calm and Headspace, both ranked surprisingly high. Calm in particular is both the No. 1 most downloaded and highest-grossing app in this category for the year, narrowly beating out Fitbit in the latter category. No, youre not the only one who had a hard time getting to sleep in 2020.
The years big winner in the mobile gaming scene was, unsurprisingly, InnerSloths Among Us. Apptopia credits it with 264 million downloads worldwide, 41 million of which were from mobile devices in the U.S., which makes it the most downloaded mobile game of 2020.
Globally, this puts Among Us ahead of several established hits like Subway Surfers (No. 2), a shockingly popular endless runner from Denmark; Garena Free Fire (No. 3), a Unity-powered battle-royale game that was one of the biggest global hits of 2019, mostly in Latin America and Asia; and Gardenscapes, a 2016 puzzle game from Playrix, headquartered in Dublin.
Among Us, developedin the Seattle area,was obscure for most of the two years after its 2018 launch, but thanks to regular updates from its small dev team, it built steady word of mouth before suddenly going viral this summer. While its anyones guess as to whether Among Us will continue its current momentum going into the new year, it did beat perennial juggernaut Roblox for total U.S. downloads this year, and thats a significant accomplishment.
Roblox is one of the most successful apps in the world right now, although its nearly invisible to anyone who doesnt have children. Robloxscored 158 million downloads and $487 million worldwide in 2020.
Interestingly, the mobile charts are one part of gaming that isnt dominated by Activisions Call of Duty franchise, which usually releases its latest installment in the fourth quarter for PC/console and promptly becomes the best-selling game for the year. The Warzone mobile game racked up 29 million downloads in the U.S., which puts it at No. 4, but it doesnt crack the top 10 internationally.
In a reversal of that, many PC/console gamers have been sleeping on PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds recently. PUBG effectively invented the battle royale subgenre of action games, famously adopting it from the plot of the 2000 Japanese movie Battle Royale, but many have seen it as getting its lunch eaten by higher-profile competitors in the last couple of years.
Between Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone, there isnt a lot of oxygen left in that particular room right now, and PUBGs player population at any given time is respectable and stable, but a relative fraction of its competitors. Its got a number of people playing it at any given time thats usually somewhere in the high six digits. That may sound good, but keep in mind that in that same window, several million people are playing Fortnite.
On mobile, however, PUBG is the highest-grossing game of 2020, taking in $1.1 billion dollars in overall international revenue, well above other hits like Pokemon GO ($757 million) and Roblox ($487 million). PUBG doesnt chart at all in the U.S., but its making money hand over fist in other territories, with a total of 175 million downloads (No. 4 overall) in 2020. If youre one of the players whos been wondering whats keeping PUBG afloat in a world where Fortnite is basically its own nation-state, now you have an answer.
What springs out at me here is that, particularly in the international market, the numbers are impressively high. In Apptopias top 10 list of games measured by gross revenue worldwide, the No. 10 highest-earning game of 2020 is Westward Journey, the 2015 mobile adaptation of a popular Chinese massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). It only made $468 million last year, which was barely enough to crack into the top 10.
Theres a tendency in the mainstream gaming press to ignore most of the mobile market, due to a variety of factors (innate biases, low quality control on app stores, many of the games being fairly simple and difficult to meaningfully discuss, etc.), but theres a frankly insane amount of money being made here. Some sources will attribute well over half of the global revenue from the video game industry to the mobile market, which is easier to believe when you see how much money the top mobile games are pulling in.
The report uses the firms particular combination of models and analytics dashboards, which it claims is within a 20% margin of error for absolute values. It also draws upon combined information from iOS and Google Play, with data for lite versions of any particular app rolled into that apps overall total. Chinese data is specifically limited to the iOS platform.
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