Mobile App Terminology simply explained

What Are Hardcore Mobile Games?

Hardcore games is the gaming genre that requires the highest user input and time investment in order for users to be successful.

Due to the complex nature of hardcore gameplay, these games often require users to develop skills, invest in their characters or worlds, and overcome challenges. As a result of these complexities, hardcore gamers must play longer sessions to properly engage with the games of this genre.
Key Takeaways
  • Hardcore games boast the highest user time investment
  • Key elements in this vertical include combat, storytelling, quests, multiplayer gameplay, experience, and level progression
  • Hardcore gamers tend to expand their engagement beyond the game by joining communities to share strategies and tips

What Are the Types of Hardcore Games?

Hardcore games are a vital mobile gaming genre, with gamers across the world spending between 13.8 and 19.7 minutes in hardcore gameplay per day. If we look at the main subverticals (and the sub-subverticals) that fall under the hardcore game umbrella, we should talk about strategy and role-playing games.

Strategy Games Explained

Strategy games are hardcore games that typically consist of combat and warfare-focused gameplay. Demanding deeper user commitment from its users, these games incorporate battles against rival forces, balancing an economy, and conquering rival lands. These very gamers become champions of strategic thinking and tactical planning – as well as logistic management.

Players are driven deeper into gameplay by connecting and teaming up with other gamers. Through PvP tournaments, multiplayer gameplay, and live-chat features, they strategically overcome the obstacles of the game together.

Winning strategy titles include

Zooming further into this gaming subcategory, we need to talk about the star of strategy games: 4x march battle. In this subvertical, players build cities, armies, and attacks through timed marches on a map. 4X march battle games are currently performing very well, seeing impressive growth in consumer spend and total time spent worldwide. Especially in Japan and the United States.

screenshot of King of Avalon hardcore game by Century Games Publishing

Defining Role-Playing Games

As the name suggests, mobile gamers enter into a virtual world with role-playing games. They are responsible for the actions of the character or characters within the game. The main mechanisms of these games include complex storytelling, character development, and relationship building

And again, to talk about role-playing games, it’s important to look closer at the sub-subcategories of this genre, as they define the genre’s success. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), puzzle RPGs, team battle, and idle RPGs are undoubtedly the strong performers of the pack when it comes to RPG categories. 

Titles crowned as crowd-pleasers in this genre include:

Both subverticals share various in-game characteristics such as detailed storytelling, competitive gameplay, or combat missions. The main difference lies in which elements the players focus on developing. Take strategy games, for example. The gamer is responsible for strategically utilizing the already-made units within the virtual world to progress – for example, to launch attacks on enemies to collect resources. In role-playing games, the focus is on how the player develops a certain character. 

Which Game Mechanics Are Found in Hardcore Games?

Multiplayer Gameplay

Whether it’s battling each other or compelling users to band together and overcome epic in-game obstacles, hardcore games thrive on co-op and competitive gameplay. 

Throwing a multiplayer element into the mix is what hardcore games are known for. Meaning they drive both short- and long-term player engagement and retention. In addition to exploiting multiplayer mode as a way of building a strong gaming community, players are kept on their toes, as they are unable to predict the actions of their rivals. And we only need to look at esports tournaments and how they amplify the excitement and ferocity of global hardcore gameplay – with grand financial rewards up for grabs.

Here are a few huge hardcore game titles thriving off multiplayer gameplay:

  • Player vs player (PvP): Clash Royal by Supercell 
  • Multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs): Arena of Valor by Level Infinite
  • Massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPGs): Genshin Impact by COGNOSPHERE PTE. LTD.

Live Ops 

Live ops have become a highly essential part of hardcore games – and it’s no surprise. Used widely in various mobile gaming verticals, this tool not only boosts user engagement and contributes to lower user churn rates. It really brings players together. Live ops also ensure games with long user lifespans keep content fresh and exciting. In hardcore games specifically, live ops can include events, promotions, new app features, and fresh content.

Let’s also not forget how live ops can be used to help users progress through the game – as a form of in-game currency or through new item promotions. Users might be offered a limited-edition weapon with special qualities – only available during a special live ops promotion –  which will see them through a tricky level. Hardcore game developers embrace live ops opportunities to offer the user an easier way to advance through levels by gaining access to necessary resources and aids.

Abstract image of benefits of live ops in hardcore games

Community and Connection

Given the time requirement of hardcore games, it’s easy to understand that they are not for everyone. Compared with hypercasual games or casual games, these games require a longer learning curve and challenges when it comes to progression. That’s why this genre is more niche compared with the everyday accessibility of other game verticals.

However – with these characteristics in mind – once a game developer connects with their ideal user, this user is committed for the long haul. A major characteristic of hardcore gamers is their involvement outside of gameplay itself. In order to be successful, gamers of this gaming vertical tend to build online communities to share tips, strategies, and connect. This reinforces their immersive gameplay and attachment to the game itself, driving higher engagement and retention. 

You’ll most likely be familiar with these biggest online communities for mobile gaming:

  • Discord
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

Who Are the Biggest Hardcore Gamers?

While this genre tends to be more niche as a result of its nature to demand high time investment from its users, you can find hardcore gamers globally, across genders – and of every age group. Of the different populations worldwide interacting most with hardcore games, male users tend to play longer sessions on a daily basis than their female counterparts.

Data from adjoe and Statista furthermore reveals that users between the ages of 30 and 40 make the largest daily time commitment to defeat their rival forces and develop their characters in their favorite hardcore games. With this being a comparatively young age group if you look at other key mobile gaming verticals, this begs the following question. Will we see 40-year to 50-year-olds spending even more time in hardcore games in the next decade if hardcore game developers really up their retention strategies? Only time will tell …

creative showing who hardcore gamers are in terms of age, gender, and region

Because of a hardcore game’s long lifetime value, hardcore gamers are incredibly and particularly sought after. Many hardcore games often seek advanced targeting options such as app vertical targeting as part of their UA strategy. This allows UA managers to reach users who are already playing other hardcore games. Meaning, game developers acquire the very users they know will love and engage with their game. This is the recipe for a hardcore game with greater long-term success in growing its user base.

How Do Hardcore Games Monetize Their Users? 

Traditionally, hardcore games focus on an IAP-heavy monetization model. Or in some cases, they even offer a subscription model for multiplatform games, such as World of Warcraft. However, over the past few years, there has been a notable shift in the monetization landscape that is more favorable toward in-app advertising.

This may come as no surprise to those who know that ad consumption represents a key revenue stream for several mobile games. And with hardcore games typically racking up long gameplay sessions due to the in-depth storytelling and battles that can’t be paused midsession, ad consumption is likely to be higher than in other gaming verticals. Such as in hypercasual games.

But hardcore game developers have also searched for additional revenue streams to monetize users in regions who usually shy away from in-app purchases. Studios have celebrated successes after incorporating rewarded ad formats into their monetization stack. With hardcore gamers – already committing to long sessions – hungry for rewards to help them progress in their favorite titles, developers have managed to keep their valuable and engaged players in the game for even longer.

abstract image of monetization in hardcore games


Hardcore games are not for everyone. However, if you are a hardcore gamer, you pride yourself on fully immersing yourself in the gaming experience. The commitment and community users enjoy with hardcore games have become the reason why some hardcore games are able to reign the charts. Even years after launch. 

Given the long-term success of such high-retention titles, game developers must find countless new ways to keep their gaming experience fresh and unpredictable. That’s why incorporating live ops and multiplayer elements keep hardcore gamers battling hard to progress and enjoy the fruits of their progression.

And with hardcore games typically racking up long gameplay sessions due to the in-depth storytelling and battles that can’t be paused midsession, ad consumption is likely to be higher than in other gaming verticals. Such as in hypercasual games.


What Are Hardcore Mobile Games?

Hardcore games require a high user input and time investment in order for users to be successful. These mobile games often require players to develop skills, invest in their characters or worlds, and overcome challenges.

What Types of Hardcore Games Are There?

Among the most successful genres of hardcore games, there are strategy games and role-playing games. Under these umbrella categories, there are further popular gaming categories, such as 4x march battle, puzzle RPGs, location RPGs, and MMORPGs.

How Do Hardcore Games Tend to Monetize?

With hardcore games typically boasting long gameplay sessions due to immersive storytelling elements and battles that can’t be paused, in-app advertising and rewarded ads play a fundamental role in monetization. Of course, in-app purchases are also a very effective way of monetizing engaged hardcore gamers. However, developers in this genre should also capitalize on long session durations as a further revenue stream.

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