The Beautiful Chaos of Modern Mobile Games

Mar 23, 2021 | Insights

Pocket Gamer’s 2021 Mobile Games Awards ceremony was home to a surprising number of firsts. It marked the first digital version of the ceremony, past instalments being more traditional physical awards shows, and the first entry into their new ‘Pocket Gamer Hall of Fame’, to say nothing of the myriad new award categories added to the line-up this year.

Helmed by the dynamic duo of James Gilmour, a video editor for the site, and Dann Sullivan, the site’s editor, the show took us on a grand tour of the current mobile games landscape, revealing market trends and reflecting the profound impact of the global pandemic on an industry that’s changeable at the best of times.

Pocket Gamer’s 2021 Mobile Games Awards ceremony was home to a surprising number of firsts. It marked the first digital version of the ceremony, past instalments being more traditional physical awards shows, and the first entry into their new ‘Pocket Gamer Hall of Fame’, to say nothing of the myriad new award categories added to the line-up this year.

Helmed by the dynamic duo of James Gilmour, a video editor for the site, and Dann Sullivan, the site’s editor, the show took us on a grand tour of the current mobile games landscape, revealing market trends and reflecting the profound impact of the global pandemic on an industry that’s changeable at the best of times.

The big winners were largely obvious for those even partially submerged in the world of mobile games; miHoYo’s Genshin Impact claimed the coveted Mobile Game of the Year award, little surprise given its recent seismic success, overcoming early scepticism to become one of the most talked-about and most-played games of the last year. One could read in its success, as a game with a bright, colourful open world and fantastical quest elements, a desire for freedom and adventure from a player base starved of both by the current global lockdown. But the more likely story is that it’s just a great game that came out at a great time, when players have the spare time necessary to invest into its extensive JRPG-esque story campaign.

The first entry into the Pocket Gamer Hall of Fame, a new feature of the awards that looks set to become an annual tradition, was also easy to predict, while being undeniably well-deserved. Rovio’s Angry Birds, a game which spun out into a phenomenon on a scale that very few franchises in gaming have reached, claimed the prize. As one of the founding fathers of mobile gaming, described on the awards stream as “The Mario of Mobile Games”, Angry Birds changed not only how many people played mobile games, but also how people played mobile games; it’s innovative gameplay and compelling loop entrancing an audience in the tens of millions. All of this makes it a worthy first face on the mobile gaming Mt. Rushmore Pocket Gamer has begun to carve.

Outside of these major awards, however, the other winners rippled with variety and surprise; just when you think a nostalgia trend is emerging after Retro Bowl and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic claim awards, along comes Holovista, a cutting-edge AR narrative experience, and Call of Duty Mobile, an entry in the monolithic series that finally sticks the landing on the leap over to mobile devices.

The huge sweep of winners and nominees covered pretty much every mobile game you’d have heard of recently, plus many more besides. Diversity was the name of the game, and it’s a welcome one given how the mobile games market can be criticised for too many sub-par clones and quick-win cash-ins.

The categories themselves, divorced from any nominees or winners, paint a compelling picture of the mobile games industry all on their own.

‘Best Battle Royale Game’ and ‘Best AR Game’ point to prevailing trends in tech and genre, while ‘Best Apple Arcade Game’ and ‘Best Google Play Pass Game’ highlight the growing importance of subscription models in the age of Game Pass.

Pocket Gamer Awards 2021 winners announced | Articles | Pocket Gamer

Mobile Game of the Year:

Genshin Impact – miHoYo

Pocket Gamer Hall of Fame:

Angry Birds – Rovio

Best Sports Game:

Retro Bowl – New Star Games Ltd

Best Google Play Pass Game:

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Aspyr

Most Innovative Game:

Holovista – Aconite

Best Game We’re Still Playing:

Call of Duty Mobile – Activision

Best Battle Royale Game:

Garena Free Fire – Garena

Best AR Game:

LEGO Hidden Side – LEGO

Best Apple Arcade Game:

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure – ustwo games

Best Digital Board Game:

The Game of Life 2 – Marmalade Game Studio

Best Multiplayer Game:

EVE Echoes – NetEase

Best Quick Play Game:

Clusterduck – PikPok

Click here for the full list of winners.

‘Best Digital Board Game’ and ‘Best Multiplayer Game’ showcased our need for connection in this isolated time, while ‘Best Quick Play Game’ and ‘Best Game We’re Still Playing’ displayed the range of experiences and audiences that mobile now has. While not every category among the impressive 29 on offer was so revealing, the sheer number of them point to a breadth and depth of titles that highlights the buoyancy of the mobile games industry right now.

My original intention when writing this article was to look at the winning games and extrapolate market trends from those, predicting the future of mobile with my pocket-sized crystal ball. But actually watching the show demonstrated that trends are fleeting, and that any game, in any genre, could be the next big thing, riding on the chance waves of circumstance.

The spirit of fiery invention that brought games like Angry Birds into the world is alive and well; The mobile games industry is back in its beautifully chaotic prime. And that, in a time when we need it more than ever, is reassuring news for mobile games indeed.

You can see a full run-down of the winners from, this year’s show, and watch the Live broadcast back on Youtube.

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