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Gaming App Downloads Surge Amid COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak has changed everything. Governments and businesses across the globe have been significantly impacted as they encourage people to stay home in an effort to contain the virus and avoid the spread. This pandemic created a new ‘normal’ of social distancing and trying to flatten out the curve. This new and adapted lifestyle has impacted the online economy and more specifically on mobile. As countries continue to implement restrictions and more people are staying at home, we see society turn to their mobile devices to stay connected, to be entertained, and to find ways to ease the adjustment of their new routine.

In January, after the first wave of the pandemic hit China, we saw a massive spike in mobile usage. After their city-wide lock down in February, data shows that the daily time spent in mobile increased to 5 hours per day, which is a 30% increase compared to the average reported in 2019. Similarly, in Italy, the 2nd highest concentration of confirmed cases, saw the 2nd highest increase to 11% as of March 15th. It is apparent, that users are heavily leaning on mobile during these difficult times.

Main Verticals Showing Growth with Gaming Leading the Pack

While marketers are trying to navigate through these challenging times, we are seeing an increase in mobile usage across the board. Notably app categories like Social, Health & Fitness, News, and Food delivery saw a lift, along with Gaming that has taken the lead when it comes to app downloads.

Mobile gaming in the U.S. is likely to increase even more as states and areas throughout the country continue to implement stricter stay-at-home rules. Taking China as an example, Reuters cited that the country experienced a 62% surge in game downloads last month when compared to the year prior. Globally, their growth drove a boost in mobile game downloads by 39% as more people were using mobile games to stay entertained. Due to its competitive nature, Gaming has become the trailblazer within the mobile industry and shows no sign of slowing down.

Leading Categories in Gaming – Casual, Strategy, and Social Casino

Appsflyer, a mobile attribution and analytics platform reported that Gaming in the US saw a massive increase in activity in Casual and Midcore Gaming segments whilst install volume grew rapidly, by 70% and 88% respectively, starting from March 12.

In addition, Card, Word, and Board, part of the Strategy category, is seeing a surge in app downloads amidst the coronavirus pandemic, while categories like Action & Adventure is seeing an opposite effect as the category mimics popular console games and users now have access to play there instead.

Users Turn to Gaming Apps for Entertainment

In South Korea, one of the first countries impacted by the coronavirus, app researcher App Annie reported a 35% increase in average weekly Gaming downloads the last week of February, which amounts to over 15 Million downloads. This is a 25% jump from the average weekly downloads seen when comparing to January 2020. As more people around the world are social distancing and increasing their time spent indoors, the more they are turning to mobile for entertainment. Already we are seeing these ramifications where US telecom firm Verizon found that online gaming has increased by 75% during peak hours in North America.

Gaming marketers are taking notice of this massive app growth opportunity. Singular, a mobile attribution platform, recently reported a steady increase of mobile gaming ad spend since the middle of February, hitting a 25% spike in the 2nd week of March. As most of the world put everything on pause, the mobile Gaming industry on the other hand is seeing growth.

Looking Ahead: Projected Growth for Gaming App Install Ad Spend

The mobile gaming industry is exploding and is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years. App Annie predicts that mobile gaming ad spend is expected to surpass $100 billion in 2020, after global spend reached 56% of all gaming software in 2019. Billions of users now have a mobile device within reach. As the gaming app user base continues to expand, this has put pressure on mobile marketers to meet the necessary demand. But with so many gaming apps out there to compete with, mobile marketers are challenged with getting their apps discovered. Gaming marketers are investing more in UA to help draw attention to their app. Due to this shift in ad spend, App Annie reported that over 57% of all gaming app installs are coming from non-organic traffic.

In summary, the overall gaming app install ad spend is projected to grow by 40% this year compared to 2019, according to Appsflyer’s forecast. That’s an estimated $30.9 billion as competition rises in the mobile gaming market and is expected to continue to grow to $48.5 billion by 2022. This projected boost in ad spend, has propelled app developers and mobile marketers to push their marketing and user acquisition budgets as gaming on mobile devices have become more appealing to users that traditionally chose to play video games on computers or consoles.

While we know there are still difficult times ahead before countries can fully recover from the pandemic, right now is an opportunity for mobile marketers to reach new users and get their games discovered. As individuals are spending more of their time in isolation playing mobile games, marketers are encouraged to act now.

To learn more about the mobile Gaming industry, please reach out to us at

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