Sensor Tower: How the mobile games market is faring amid the global pandemic

Craig Chapple is mobile insights strategist, EMEA at mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower and was senior editor at PocketGamer.biz.

The global COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have had a serious impact on all facets of life. When it comes to business, governments the world over have had to pump trillions of dollars into their economies to keep these companies and jobs afloat.

Even as restrictions across the world are being lifted—in some areas being reinstated—it’s clear we live in a new normal. More than ever before, consumers are turning to their computers and smartphones for entertainment and necessities such as shopping, with new habits developed during lockdown.

Mobile gaming, like any other business, has been affected by the pandemic, but unlike many other sectors, has largely found itself well positioned for a world stuck at home. Q1 2020 was by far the best quarter ever for mobile game downloads, hitting more than 13 billion installs across the App Store and Google Play, up 2 billion from Q3 2019. Q2 2020 is set to exceed that, coming close to 15 billion downloads at the time of writing.

“Currently, Sensor Tower forecasts anticipate that mobile game revenue will grow to $98 billion by 2024, up 55.6 percent from 2019”

Consumer spending in mobile games is also increasing significantly, hitting close to $19 billion in Q2 2020. That’s up nearly 9 percent from $17.3 billion in Q1 2020. While quarterly game revenue increases are generally expected, the rate of growth from player spending has been strong.

As to what games are driving these increases in revenue and downloads, a lot of those are the existing top performing games and genres, which have become even more popular during the pandemic. PUBG Mobile, Honor of Kings, Monster Strike, Coin Master, Candy Crush Saga, et all are still the top grossers.

But games that offer a platform to connect with others have also experienced a boon. Roblox, which focuses on user-generated content, has seen a surge in user spending on mobile since February 2020. Gross revenue grew 28 percent in March month-over-month to $69.8 million, while in April spending increased by 34 percent to $93.2 million, before increasing again in May 2020 to a record $103 million.

In April, meanwhile, Fortnite Mobile had its best month since February 2019, due to a combination of factors. These included the pandemic lockdowns, the game’s launch on Google Play, and its recent in-game Astronomical concert featuring Travis Scott. All this helped spur on spending to $43.3 million for the month, up 87 per cent from March and 21.2 percent year-over-year. While spending jumped substantially in April, it has continued to rise since, generating close to $50 million in May and more than $54 million between June 1 and 28. Social distancing measures for the foreseeable future across the globe are likely to create more desire for a metaverse like the one Epic Games seeks to create in Fortnite.

Currently, Sensor Tower forecasts anticipate that mobile game revenue will grow to $98 billion by 2024, up 55.6 percent from 2019, $4 billion higher than our pre-COVID-19 prediction. Downloads meanwhile are expected to increase to 75.1 billion in 2024, up nearly 5 billion from our previous estimate of 70.3 billion. It’s clear the impact of the pandemic will be long-lasting, though things could easily change, depending on how countries are able to recover economically, and the threat of a second wave.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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