How COVID-19 has changed mobile gaming

COVID-19 has had a huge global impact in a relatively short time. In a few months the novel virus has disrupted nearly every aspect of daily life. For some people going to work, seeing friends and travelling are now off-limits as home lockdowns become the new normal.

At the height of the pandemic, we explored how COVID-19 may impact the mobile gaming industry in the foreseeable future. Two months on and with many countries now starting to take tentative steps away from lockdowns, we revisit this topic and see how our gaming habits have evolved and more importantly, how developers can adapt their practices during this uncertain period.

Mobile game downloads and user session times are up

Perhaps unsurprising to many, compulsory lockdowns across the globe have meant that people have had a lot more downtime at home. While many have opted to pass the time creating TikToks, a huge amount of the population have chosen to play mobile games. 

As a result of COVID-19, Adjust reported a whopping 75% increase in mobile game downloads globally in Q1 2020. The report also identified a 47% increase in user session times with casual games in particular experiencing an increase in between the hours of 12pm and 4pm.

For publishers and developers this is great news, as the potential audience sizes has increased significantly in nearly every region globally. Both parties can expect to see increased downloads and revenues, however the increased traffic and user base has also seen a subsequent increase in hackers. Developers should be mindful during this time when developing and ensure the necessary security features are put in place. 

Disruptions to projects and funding

While mobile downloads and activity has increased, many studios and developers have felt the negative effects from the physical restrictions of COVID-19. 

As we touched on in a previous article, the physical restrictions of lockdowns have meant that many studios and developers have been unable to connect with investors to pitch their games and receive funding quickly in this uncertain time. Bans to international travel and large crowd gatherings have also seen numerous conferences cancelled globally, potentially impacting scheduled publicity events, game launches and other scheduled meet-ups. 

Luckily there are other ways that developers and studios can look to receive a quick injection of capital to ensure their game development and launches continue as planned. Crowdfunding, government grants & funds, Angel investors and organisations focusing specifically on aiding developers during COVID-19 (such as Fast Forward Games) are great options for individual developers and growing studios. We cover these options in more detail in our article here.

Easing of Restrictions

So what exactly can we expect to see in the mobile gaming industry in the months to come? While the global infection rate of COVID-19 is yet to slow down, many countries are beginning to ease lockdown restrictions in a bid to restart their stalled economies. Countries including the UK, Australia and the United States have begun to establish phases in which the public will see the reopening of non-essential businesses, schools and resumed domestic travel.

For developers and publishers, this could effectively result in a decrease in the overall downloads and user session times for our games as people return to normal work hours and socialising with friends. On the other hand, high unemployment rates and redundancies could mean that this decrease is marginal depending on the time it takes for the job market to recover. 

We can only watch and wait..

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