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Last update: April 2020

5 mins to read - 2020/04/15

Mobile Game Downloads See Huge Spike During COVID Lockdown

Nationwide lockdowns in an attempt to contain COVID-19 have swept the globe, and they’re bringing out everyone’s inner introvert. Instead of going out to bars, concerts, and cinemas, we’re all staying inside baking sourdough bread. This sudden, unprecedented change in lifestyle has had considerable effects that may prove to be long-lasting. With the vast majority of the population either working from home or unemployed due to the pandemic, most of us suddenly have a lot more time on our hands. Unsurprisingly, people have turned to gaming apps to fill that time. As such, there has been an enormous spike in mobile games downloads since mid-March.

Mobile Game Downloads in a Time of COVID-19

According to data provided by App Annie, mobile game downloads jumped an astonishing 30% in the months from Q4 2019 to mid-March 2019. Of course, commonsense would have predicted that this probably would have happened, as all recreation that can be done from home is seeing an uptick. Still, the suddenness of the spike is enough to turn heads. Let’s break down the numbers a little bit further.

Over Q1 2020, smartphone users spent a record-breaking $23.4 billion in app stores. This equates to 31 billion individual app downloads, a whopping 40% of which is mobile games. And mobile games downloads are still on the rise – weekly downloads in March have exceeded 1 billion, a 30% increase from Q4 2019.

To put this into context, the standard rate for games downloads is 25% per year.

Who Are the Drivers of the Surge?

Interestingly, the leading countries for mobile games download differ according to what device they’re using. For iOS, China and the United States have been the leading markets for games downloads, with arcade games topping the list. For Android, India and Brazil are in the lead, with games from the puzzle, action, and simulation genres.

Of the $16.7 billion spent on games downloads alone, although iPhone users spent more overall, 85% of what Android users spent on downloads went towards gaming apps. The United States and South Korea led the trend in the growth of purchases on Google Play over Q1 2020. Conversely, China provided a massive boost for the iOS App Store. In February 2020, the time when the coronavirus pandemic was at its worst in China, downloads from the App Store surged by 80% compared to 2019.

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What Are the Top Games Downloaded in Q1 2020?

Again, top downloaded games are segmented according to whether the user owns an iPhone or an Android. For iOS, strategy games drove the most growth during Q4 2019, with role-playing and action games coming up a close second.

For Android, role-playing and strategy games are the highest earners. The top-performing role-playing game is Lineage 2, a MMORPG game in which players can customize fantasy avatars and go off on quests and explore a detailed in-game universe. Although RPGs always perform well, Lineage 2’s success may also owe to the fact that its vast world and opportunity for questing provides a special sort of escapism to those under lockdown.

Lineage notably started out as a PC franchise, and was so popular that it then re-launched as a mobile game. We have already seen this cross-device success with Call of Duty: Mobile, which launched in 2019 and was a powerful driver of gaming app downloads last year.

Moving Forward into Q2 2020

The top 3 game downloads across the board are Brain Out, Hunter Assassin, and Woodturning. Add to this the high-performing Wood Shop and Soap Cutting (which are exactly what they sound like) mobile games, as well as the Nintendo Switch phenomenon of Animal Cross, where players live an everyday life in a village of animals, paying rent to a landlord raccoon named Tom Nook. It would seem like players of games across the board – both mobile and console – are eage to escape into games that take them back to normalcy.

As of April 15, there are nearly 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, and social isolation restrictions will be in place for another three weeks at least. It’s difficult to gauge how long this trend might last. And as mobile devices are the catch-all technology that let people stay socially engaged as well as entertained, it makes sense that the number of downloads will be on the rise. As different countries come in and out of lockdowns, this upward trend in mobile games will likely see us through the rest of 2020.

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