Chinese tech majors Tencent and ByteDance were the top-grossing publishers in global mobile app stores for the first half of 2022, according to a report by business insight firm Sensor Tower.

The global mobile app market is highly centralized, with 91% of revenue coming from the top 1% of publishers. Over the years, such centralization has been shrinking; the market share of the top 1% has hit its lowest point since 2019.

Why it matters: Tencent and ByteDance have dominated the global mobile markets for years with their trending game titles and the internationally phenomenal video app TikTok. The two majors have invested heavily outside of China, launching new services and acquiring studios in recent years.

  • Despite the highly centralized nature of this market, top players are losing shares and creating more space for newcomers.

Details: By analyzing 900,000 publishers on the Apple App Store and Google Play, Sensor Tower found that the top 1% of publishers accounted for 79% of all downloads and 91% of revenue on the two platforms in the first half of 2022. The remaining 99% shared 21% of the market.

  • Tencent was the top-grossing publisher in game and non-game categories, earning about $3.3 billion in the first half of 2022. The figure is almost 153% larger than ByteDance, which came second on the chart with $1.3 billion in revenue.
  • Tencent was also the most profitable gaming app publisher in the same period, generating over $2.6 billion, thanks to its popular titles like Honor of Kings and PUBG Mobile​​. Tencent accounted for around 10% of revenue from all top game publishers.
  • In the gaming category,106,000 publishers introduced new titles in the first half of 2022. While the top 1% of gaming publishers took over 79% of the market globally with 22 billion downloads.
  • In non-game apps, ByteDance’s TikTok remains the global app bestseller and most downloaded in the first half of 2022, helping to boost the company’s revenue growth. 
  • In August, TikTok and Douyin, two short video apps owned by ByteDance, pulled in more than $306 million from the global Apple App Store and Google Play, contributing to the first-place ranking in the global mobile non-game revenue list, a figure 1.8 times that of the same period last year.

Context: Revenue from mobile apps saw a 2.2% decrease semi-annually (in Chinese) in the first half of 2021, a total of $65 billion less than in the second half of 2021. It is the first fall in revenue since 2019, according to Sensor Tower.

  • The fall was mainly due to a revenue decrease from mobile games, which hit $41.3 billion in the first six months of 2022. The US, Japan, and China are the top three markets for mobile games, with the former two seeing over 8% less revenue compared to the second half of 2021.
  • Tencent has been ambitious this year, making major moves in the overseas gaming market. The firm announced new progress with its partner Ubisoft, which just doubled its holding shares in new mobile titles. It also invested in notable publisher and developer FromSoftware, and acquired Sybo, maker of popular game title Subway Surfers.
  • TikTok also has great expansion plans in the overseas market, with a particular focus on e-commerce business. Since it launched TikTok e-commerce in Indonesia in February 2021, it has expanded local and cross-border business in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore. TikTok also cooperated with e-commerce giant Shopify last August, allowing users from the US and Britain to buy goods directly through the app.

Ward Zhou is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. He covers stories about industry of digital content, hardware, and anything geek. Reach him via ward.zhou[a] or Twitter @zhounanyu.

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Shanghai. She covers e-commerce and retail, AI, and blockchain. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]