Mobile games, like HoYoverse's Genshin Impact or MOONTON's Mobile Legends, have grown increasingly popular in the gaming space in recent years, thanks in large part to it allowing people to carry the games they play wherever they go.
In fact, according to a Newzoo Global Gamers study released in June, an overwhelming 79 per cent of gamers play on their phones.
However, new research released by Coda also shows that habits and preferences vary per region.
In a survey of its customers' gaming habits and preferences in June 2023, Coda found they had distinct preferences when it came to game genres, motivations for playing, sources of in-game revenue, and the value placed on game exclusivity.
Player motivations, spending habits, and the time spent all differ depending on whether you’re from the East or the West, the survey showed.
According to the survey, collectibles and character customisation are particularly important to gamers from countries like Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, and they are more likely to spend real money to gain these items.
This is in comparison to gamers in the West, who usually take a look at game design, number of game modes, and maps when picking something to play on mobile.
That being said, MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena) and Battle Royales were also revealed to be some of the most popular genres in the East, with games like Garena Free Fire, Mobile Legends, and PlayerUnknown Battleground Mobile (PUBG Mobile) being some of the top played games.
Limited-time events, characters and items a draw
These motivations also affect spending habits. According to Coda, gamers from countries like Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines are more likely to spend money on limited-time event items, characters, or pets.
And with collectibles in the form of character banners and the gacha system, it’s no surprise that the likes of Genshin Impact and Honkai Star Rail also appear as top games in other surveys like Sensor Tower.
Skins also provide a form of customisation for characters, so many players look forward to new skins released by these games.
Most of these top-grossing games release limited-edition skin collabs with K-pop groups like Itzy, anime like Mobile Legends’ collab with Jujutsu Kaisen, Dragon Ball for PUBG Mobile, and other popular figures of pop culture, like Spider-man for Garena Free Fire.
For battle royale games, aside from character skins, weapon skins and companions (also known as pets) are also some of the more popular choices for players to spend on.
On top of this, character banners are attractive for players of games like Genshin Impact and Honkai Star Rail.
Announcements like the arrival of Neuvillette and Wriothesley in Genshin Impact as well as Guinafen, Topaz, and Jingliu in Honkai: Star Rail are typically hyped since these draw a lot of interest from mobile gamers in the region.
In contrast, Westerners typically spend to unlock more levels, modes or maps. Western mobile gamers also spend more, which is attributed to the dollar’s higher spending power, which makes in-game purchases more affordable to them.
How much time is spent on mobile games
Notably, though, players from countries like Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines spend more time playing mobile games weekly than their Western counterparts, with an average of 40 per cent of respondents playing for more than 16 hours a week, compared to just 33 per cent in the West who spend the same amount of time for mobile gaming.
Gamers in Thailand top the chart for spending the most time gaming on their smartphones, with 45 per cent dedicating more than 16 hours a week. This percentage is slightly higher than Indonesia's 43 per cent and the Philippines' 40 per cent.
In the West, Brazilian gamers are the most active on smartphones, with 36 per cent devoting over 16 hours a week, surpassing Mexico's 33 per cent and the United States' 30 per cent.
Among these countries, Thailand holds the record for the longest smartphone gaming sessions.
Although Eastern and Western gaming habits may differ in many areas, one similarity between both regions is the motivation to explore and try out new games.
The majority of the respondents in the survey said that they would try out a new game because they are already a fan of the game genre and have read good reviews on it.
Typically, they rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, along with sources like YouTube and gaming news media, for game-related information.
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.