Cause & Effect: Apple’s privacy tweaks may still hurt video games for iPhone

This is a corporate image of the Zynga
(Image credit: Zynga)

Since 2015, the mobile gaming market has grown industrywide by leaps and bounds, particularly from 2019 through 2021: In 2019, the industry reported $67.3 billion in mobile gaming revenues. The following two years, the industry had $87.5 billion  in revenues for 2020 and then $98.4 billion in revenues for 2021. 

However, mobile-gaming revenues declined in 2022 by 7% (down to $91.8 billion) and are expected to be down another 2% (down to $90.4 billion for this year),” according to Bloomberg

There have been a number of factors industry experts have blamed for this downturn. But one main cause many experts point to is Apple’s changes to its privacy features in 2021. For example, in the Bloomberg story, here’s how Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. and Zynga were affected: When it allowed consumers to opt out of having companies like Zynga track their activities, Apple made it very difficult for Zynga to “identify future players and target them with pitches.” (This was before Zynga was bought by Take-Two.) 

Will the online gaming market continue to be adversely affected by Apple’s 2021 privacy changes?

But how exactly did these new privacy changes interfere with identifying new potential players? When Apple implemented those privacy changes, it allowed iPhone users to opt out of being tracked. And the percentage that opted out was pretty high: According to a 2021 story in AdAge, 75 percent of Apple users decline to be tracked. That story also noted that customer acquisition was getting more expensive. “The adoption of Apple’s privacy changes resulted in a higher cost to acquire our players,” Zynga executives said in a letter to shareholders after announcing quarterly earnings, “In response, we scaled back our [user acquisition] spend to maintain target returns, resulting in fewer players installing our games during this period.

Yet, since 2021, companies appear to have adjusted to account for those privacy changes, and have continued to develop and launch new online games. Take-Two has two big upcoming releases scheduled for 2024: Star Wars: Hunters and Grand Theft Auto VI. And the company is particularly optimistic about the latter.

Terry Sullivan

Terry Sullivan has tested and reported on many different types of consumer electronics and technology services, including cameras, action cams, mobile devices, streaming music services, wireless speakers, headphones, smart-home devices, and mobile apps. He has also written extensively on various trends in the worlds of technology, multimedia, and the arts. For more than 10 years, his articles and blog posts have appeared in a variety of publications and websites, including The New York Times, Consumer Reports, PCMag, Worth magazine, Popular Science, Tom’s Guide, and Artnews. He is also a musician, photographer, artist, and teacher.

  • Just_Me_D
    The first sentence in the story reads, “Will companies find new ways to attract players for online gaming on the iPhone?”

    The issue isn’t attracting players, but to track players across the internet.