Coronavirus and Mobile Gaming: How did Covid-19 Impact the Mobile Game Industry?
(This article was originally published on Udonis’ blog.)
It’s almost 2022, and the pandemic is still not over.
There’s no doubt that the coronavirus had and still has a big impact on all businesses. For most industries, the impact was negative. But what about coronavirus and mobile gaming?
What exactly happened in that crazy year of 2020?
How did it affect people’s habit of playing mobile games?
What about mobile game marketing? Did it influence ad prices?
In order to answer these questions, we have asked industry experts to give us some insights into the influence of coronavirus on the mobile gaming industry.
A Message from Mihovil Grguric, CEO of Udonis
“Covid-19 has impacted how the world does business. In 95% of cases, the impact has been negative. Gaming falls into the other 5%. People stayed at home, with nothing to do. They were playing games. More than they ever did. For this reason, we saw a lot of growth in spends and revenue across the board.
However, this was no time for celebration.
Even though we’re extremely grateful that our industry wasn’t negatively affected by the coronavirus outbreak, we also feel the pain of millions of people who were not as lucky as we were. We have been doing our best to support our local community, as well as industries that have been crushed by this horrific pandemic.
During these challenging times, the role of the mobile gaming industry was to help people get some relief. Mobile games have the power to reduce stress, provide some entertainment and social connection, which was much needed, especially during the global quarantine.
We hope that the end of Covid-19 is near and that the global economy will soon get back on its feet. Until that happens, we encourage our friends in the mobile gaming industry to keep creating and be thankful they’re in a position to do so.”
Coronavirus and Mobile Game Marketing
Since our mission is total transparency, we bring you some thoughts on the current state of mobile game marketing from our marketing experts. This is what they noticed since the coronavirus outbreak.
Here are some insights on the coronavirus and mobile gaming ads from our Google Ads expert, Ivan Saric:
“In these rough times, while coronavirus is taking its toll, a lot of things are going on especially in media buying space.
In this statement, I won’t go broad with what I’m seeing, but rather give a few thoughts on what’s happening and could potentially happen in the future due to the coronavirus situation.
I’ve noticed a positive trend for hyper-casual games. Lower CPIs and increased amount of downloads (20–30%) are something to be happy about in these unfortunate times. During the lockdown, these spends have increased mostly for GEOs that have been hit hard with Coronavirus.”
It’s true that people are playing more mobile games but what about in-app purchases? Do people spend more?
Well, the short answer would be “no”, at least for what I’m seeing at the moment.
While I can’t confirm this could be applied to all other mobile app genres games, people are not so opened to spend more due to almost certain economic crises.
My prediction for the future is that ad revenues will decrease. There might be fewer and fewer advertisers which will lead to lower ROAS and finally less spend due to lower bids.
Although I can just speculate what might happen, let’s focus on what should be done to scale the current situation.
One word — Creatives.
While we do have bids that are fixed, we can play around with creatives. While publishing your creatives focus on a current trend and be respectful. Use captions that inspire people to stay at their homes and play your mobile games.
The most creative assets are of course videos. Here you can get really creative but don’t forget about html5 and images.
These unfortunate times are very fortunate for F2P mobile games and now it’s the best time to get creative and scale.”
Here’s what our Facebook Ads, Laura Kraljevic, has to say about mobile game advertising during the coronavirus pandemic:
2020 was an unusual year due to the global outbreak of Coronavirus. It resulted in massive economic losses, people getting fired and people staying inside in their homes. Thus increasing the time spent with their friends was only possible using social networks, and Facebook is one of the largest and most important in everyday use.
Regarding all said above, we are seeing some slight changes in the performance and data in the Facebook Ads Manager from our side. The last week or two have been a unique period because the time we are in now is unprecedented.
To put that in the common and relevant marketing metrics, and to present you which data changes we noticed the following things.
Firstly, Facebook gave us information about ad reviews. They warned us that due to Coronavirus ad reviews will take longer than usual, ad delivery may be also delayed. This also has an impact on every edit you make in your campaign, such as changing anything inside the ad, target audience, years, gender, or destination page.
In this period it was obvious that people were staying at home and downloading more apps and games. It was like Christmas morning for advertises. It had a lot of impact on metrics, such as lower CPI. Although, many more impressions were served. which implicated lower CMPs. During this period the average screen time is higher than usual, which means more potential users.
Here are some thoughts on the coronavirus and mobile gaming ads from our TikTok advertising expert, Nikola Medvedec:
During 2020, people were spending more time in their homes, on their phones.
Speaking from a TikTok Ads point of view, and the data we saw, we could tell that the numbers are changing day in and day out. And that is a logical chain of events because “traffic” has increased due to the increased mobile activity regarding the new virus outbreak.
Speaking of marketing metrics, CPM (cost-per-milestone) was mainly the same, although there was an increase in impressions served.
CPI (cost-per-install) also had some interesting trends during the lockdown. Depending on GEO we saw an increase or decrease of CPI, meaning for some GEO’s there was a higher frequency of ads shown, or more users are were using social networks and also TikTok which before they didn’t.
More ads were served to more people using TikTok. Therefore the CMP is roughly the same. CTR is slightly lower and CPI is up or down.
This is what happened in 2020. Now, it’s 2021 and the world is still struggling with COVID-19. As the pandemic continues, we can expect a more dynamic advertising environment. Meaning more ads, more fierce competition, more new and returning users, and a jump in numbers of people playing mobile games regarding the genre.
Coronavirus and Mobile Gaming
When the pandemic first began, it caused a surge in mobile gaming. Since people were quarantined, they had more free time to play mobile games. That resulted in some mobile games climbing up the ladder in the app stores and getting better rankings.
According to a survey by IDC, 63% of respondents reported increased gameplay times, especially in the countries that were hit hard by COVID-19. The same survey showed that 6% of mobile gamers have never played mobile games before the pandemic.
Wait, it gets better.
Even if we return to normal lifestyles in the next couple of years, the predictions are that 75% of pandemic-risen gaming activity will continue (IDC). In fact, it should persist indefinitely. Therefore, we can expect to feel the positive consequences of the pandemic on mobile gaming in 2022 and the years to follow.
Here are some thoughts on coronavirus and mobile gaming from industry leaders from 2020. Learn how the pandemic influenced their games and which trends it created.
Mobile Game Downloads Were On the Rise
Parchis STAR, a mobile game by Gameberry Labs saw a significant boost in downloads in 2020. We asked Pradeep Gupta, Product Lead at Gamebeerry Labs, to tell us more about it.
“Staying all day at home was making people anxious and news are mostly the source of distress. They wanted to feel safe, connected, and get a slight escape from everyday worries. In these testing times, our game Parchis STAR is helping them take their mind off the situation. People were playing the game with their friends and family. After the outbreak in Spain we have seen traffic has quadrupled and the time spent has also increased significantly. The game has climbed to the #1 spot for both Android & IOS. The situation was not anticipated from our side, but we are working day and night from our homes to ensure we keep up the spirit in Spain and give them the social connections that will help them come out of this situation.”
Impact of Covid on App Store Optimization
Here is an interesting statement from Gummicube’s CoFounder & CEO Dave Bell on the impact of Covid on app store optimization.
“Since the start of the outbreak, we have seen rises in certain categories including mobile gaming. Within games, we have seen some titles with a 10% uplift in organic impressions and installs and others closer to 60%!
Because users were staying at home and downloading more games, the increase in volume is having a positive feedback loop with the algorithm of the app stores. When a user clicks on an app in search, it signals to Apple and Google that the app is relevant for the keyword. This can cause the algorithm to increase the ranking for the app on that keyword leading to more eyeballs which can drive more installs.
What’s even more fascinating is that a lot of developers have moved to make their games free during this time as a way to promote their titles and get into the hand of users stuck at home. Free apps have a much easier time securing keyword rankings than paid apps simply because users will typically click onto and install the free one. This leads them to get more clicks and ultimately higher rankings than paid games.”
Game Dev Can Keep You Sane During Challenging Times
Here are a couple of thoughts on coronavirus and mobile gaming from Bela Ikotic, CEO of Mobile Games Entertainment:
“Coming from an uncertain economic situation in Croatia, it gives me hope that, as a studio, we can still earn and provide for ourselves, and can plan a future when everything else is a total mess. Our plan a couple of years ago was that we didn’t want to work just in Croatia, but to compete on a global market, and not to be affected by local influence. It’s hard to predict how the global mobile market is going to behave, especially when it comes to user acquisition and ad spends budgets, but as it stands now is the time to gather as much revenue as possible to overcome the time that’s coming. In times when health is the number one priority, game dev is like home, mainly because we got so used to working from home.
With 3 children, a dog, and a cat, I work mostly night shifts keeping myself sane from the things that are outside. And yes, I also play lots of games :)”
Mobile Game Searches Increase Due to Social Distancing
Samuel Franklin, from Games Finder offered an interesting insight on which mobile game genres saw an increase in traffic.
“We’ve seen an unprecedented increase in traffic to our video game recommendation lists with overall website traffic doubling month over month showing there is a clear and measurable demand for gaming in the current environment.
For mobile specifically, we’ve seen pages related to mobile management games surge by 857%, followed by puzzle games at 590% and social games at 368%. Meanwhile, idle mobile games have not seen any increase in traffic during the period suggesting consumers want an interactive, challenging, or social title as they find themselves practicing social distancing.
I predict this demand trend to continue for the foreseeable future but also expect to see high volatility in the top lists for the respective app stores as people constantly seek out new titles.”
There’s an Increase in Mobile Gaming as People Have More Free Time
Here are some thoughts on coronavirus and mobile gaming from Matthew Lyons, Director of Content at Game Gavel
“The gaming industry is one that fluctuates with social and societal trends providing an activity to keep users entertained and explore their creative mind through the use of technology.
With a circumstance such as the coronavirus outbreak, there is a huge increase in interest in the gaming and virtual reality industry due to the extra amount of time that people have to spare being at home during suggested isolation. Computer and video games are an easy way to allow for time to pass and keep “busy” with something instead of sitting around.
With the development of high-tech mobile phones that can offer almost everything a computer can, it is even more easy and accessible for people to play games using phone devices.
All this free time has allowed for more users to connect and explore different gaming platforms that are available and boosted the use of multiple sources/ providers. With the unknown future, predictions for the gaming industry are expected to rise with desire and usage across the board.”
Users Turn to Fantasy Sports Due to Cancellation of Live Sports
Here’s another fascinating insight into coronavirus and mobile gaming from SuperDraft founder Steve Wang:
“With the postponement of sporting events across the country, we wanted to provide some accessible fun and entertainment to help fill this temporary void. Sports bring people together and can offer a positive diversion to the current situation the world is trying to navigate.
Given the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and the responsible decisions made by sporting organizations to halt operations until further notice, we hope our free Legends games provide some relief to those feeling the effects of this crisis.
We expected our Legends series to do very well amongst our SuperDraft fanbase, and it’s performing even better than expected. Our dedicated players are introducing us to their friends, and people are thanking us directly and on social media for filling the void of daily fantasy sports offerings left by the cancellation of live sports.
We’re averaging 4,000–4,500 entries each night, which is about 1,000 more than when we had live NBA games, and our younger players are really enjoying having the opportunity to pick players from NBA’s all-time greatest teams like the 1986 Celtics, 1996 Bulls, and 1988 Pistons.
We’re taking great pride in being the only daily fantasy sports company to come up with an on-brand daily fantasy sports solution during the sports world shutdown due to the Coronavirus.”
In-Game Items Trading Platforms Are Becoming the Fastest Growing Market in the Gaming Industry
In-game items trading platforms are also experiencing growth during the last few months.
Here are some interesting insights from Vlad Panchenko, CEO and Founder of DMarket:
“The turnover of transactions made on DMarket, an in-game items trading platform, increased by 70% throughout February-March 2020, compared to December 2019 alone.
It is also observed more users from the USA, China, Italy, France, UK, and Germany. This came with a large increase of mobile users seen trading across the platform, up 65%+ over the last 30 days. It follows key marketing trends to push users online as efforts become directed towards mobile users.
This is currently the most fast-growing market in the gaming industry.
People were sitting at home and not only using games as a play but also finding them as ways to communicate, as social media basically. I believe that the coronavirus could increase the time people spend playing games daily by at least 20%. Mostly, mobile games.
At some point, the majority will leave real life for the gaming world, and this enforced isolation will only speed up the transition. I certainly will not be surprised to hear about new real-life businesses inside of these games such as dating agencies or new virtual bars, clubs, or festivals in the next few months.”
Coronavirus and Mobile Gaming: A Summary
If you work in the mobile gaming industry, consider yourself to be very lucky. You have a big advantage over other industries since people are still playing mobile games.
In the comments below, share with us your experience and tell us how Covid-19 influenced your work!
Since 2018 until today, Udonis Inc. has acquired over 150 million users for mobile apps & games. We’re recognized as a leading mobile marketing agency by 5 major marketing review firms. We helped over 20 mobile apps & games reach the top charts. Want to know how we make it look so effortless? Meet us to find out!