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30 Jun
4 min
COVID-19’s impact on mobile games market

The COVID-19 pandemic has us spending much more time online seeking copious supplies of entertainment. Some countries have loosened quarantine restrictions, but the world continues to tread with caution, and the new normal, sees many of us continuing to play online rather than in the real world. Stuck at home, we turn to our trusted boredom killer (otherwise known as your mobile device) exploring new options of thrill-seeking escapement, with mobile games by far being the popular choice. In this article, Influencer & Performance Marketing Agency Zorka.Agency together with Apptica – an Ad Intelligence & App Analytics Tool explore the impact life on lockdown is having on the mobile games market, studying data from January through to March 2020 in two key markets, U.S and Russia.

Trends and stats on mobile game downloads

On average, mobile game downloads increased by 91% between January and March 2020. Game downloads on Google Play increased by 180% and 167% in the U.S. and Russia respectively. While iOS game downloads only increased by 13% and 4% in the two countries.

Number of mobile games installs, January | March

Number of mobile games installs, January | March

As for estimated revenues generated, iOS game publishers were on the winning side. In the U.S. mobile game publishers reported 30% higher revenues in March than in January. In Russia the increase was 6%. Revenues generated by games on Google Play decreased by 24% in the U.S. and 13% in Russia. It’s important to note this data does not include revenues generated through in-app advertising, rather solely from in-game purchases. Here we see a key difference between device users in the U.S. and Russia; iOS users in the U.S. spend significantly more than their Russian counterparts, whereas the reverse is seen with Android users.

Mobile games revenue, January | March

Mobile games revenue, January | March

Traditionally, the most popular game categories are Casual, Action and Arcade. Following the pandemic we see Simulation and Role-Playing (RPG) games rank higher on iOS. On Google Play, Puzzle games have left the Top-5, with Action games downloaded more often.

Mobile games popularity, iOS | Android

Mobile games popularity, iOS | Android

Gaming publishers continue to invest in mobile advertising

According to Apptica, in January 2020 mobile games advertising accounted for 70% and 69% of all iOS and Android advertising respectively. Following the pandemic, despite the surge in new organic users, game publishers reduced their advertising spend nominally to 68% for iOS and 71% for Android.

The top advertising platforms used by game publishers are Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. We can add myTarget to the list when it comes to Russia.

As advertisers from other industries decrease their spend on mobile advertising, reducing overall bid prices on programmatic platforms, competition among game publishers has been buoyant.

Influencers help game publishers stay ahead

As we dwell in the comfort of our homes, binging Netflix series’ daily we turn to social media to be entertained by our favorite influencers. Who are experiencing a surge in viewership, making influencers evermore valuable to the digital advertiser.

We see game publishers increasing budgets, by investing outside the gaming genre and working with influencers better known for factual content, entertainment and lifestyle.

On studying the dynamics of influencer marketing, you see at play the power of recommendation. Traditional digital marketing has advanced in targeting relevant and probable customers, but still relies on creatives that push and invite customers to consider a product. Whereas influencers have an established trust with their audiences, and viscerally recommend products through personal experience, wrapped in entertainment, resulting in higher conversions and awareness.

Influencers exist on all social media platforms, but undoubtedly YouTube is King. Unlike social media where we’re served bitesize content, absorbed as we commute and procrastinate; YouTube videos are longer format, watched during consumers downtime typically with focus, headphones on, or on larger screen devices. Influencers also have more time and consumer attention, typically dedicated over a minute for sponsors.

Comparing influencer campaigns, run by mobile game publishers in April 2019 to April 2020 we see average cost remains flat, but game downloads increased on average by 20%. This can be attributed to life in lockdown as more of us navigate online, absorbing influencer content and their recommendations for isolation entertainment.

As COVID-19 pushes many industries and businesses to the wayside, mobile games enjoy unprecedented growth. While consumers organically seek out new games, competition between game publishers has given rise to innovative advertising tactics, such as influencer marketing, to build awareness and retention.

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for mobile game developers. Social distancing and work from home policies, is having an adverse impact on game development. Many new game launches are being delayed, as teams grapple with the challenges of working remotely.

The real impact is being felt by indie and smaller game publishers, who struggle to get market visibility with already restricted budgets and smaller production teams. But, for the bigger boys the lemonade has never tasted sweeter.