Report: PUBG Mobile leads mobile game spending to $210 million on Christmas [Sensor Tower]

PUBG Mobile garnered in-game spending of $8.5 million, up 431% from the $1.6 million players spent in the game at Christmas 2018.

With the holiday season and 2019 now in the rear-view mirror, analytics firms are starting to examine the sales data from consumers across the globe. In the mobile business, Christmas Day 2019 proved to be fairly lucrative, driven primarily by mobile games, according to Sensor Tower

Worldwide spending across the App Store and Google Play on Christmas totaled $277 million, up 11.3% year-over-year, with games in particular driving $210 million of that total, Sensor Tower said. The games category, led by Tencent’s PUBG Mobile, was up 8% from Christmas 2018’s total of $195 million. Sensor Tower estimates that spending reached around $5.1 billion for the month of December, with Christmas Day accounting for 5% of all revenue across games and apps.

PUBG Mobile continues to drive revenues handsomely for Tencent. The battle royale title, which benefitted from its launch in China earlier in the year, led in-game spending for all games on Christmas with $8.5 million, up 431% from the $1.6 million players spent in the game during Christmas 2018.

“Version 0.16, released on December 11, introduced PUBG Mobile's ‘Winter Festival,’ which may have got players into a festive mood,” Katie Williams, mobile insights strategist at Sensor Tower commented to GameDaily. “It's also likely that the natural downtime on and around Christmas Day gave players greater opportunity to unwind with the game (and thus, greater opportunity to spend).”

Williams noted that the top five games worldwide on Christmas Day, in terms of revenue, were PUBG Mobile, Roblox, Onmyoji, Clash of Clans, and Brawl Stars. “In-game holiday events and discounts on in-app purchases may also have led to the increased spending,” she added. 

Tencent’s other big mobile shooter from TiMi Studio, Call of Duty: Mobile, had a big launch but then experienced a drop-off in revenue and did not make the cut for big earners on Christmas Day. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, however, Williams explained. 

“After that initial drop-off (which we've found is a pretty natural trend following the launch of a high-profile game), Call of Duty: Mobile's revenue has remained pretty steady. Following that drop-off period, it saw a big spike during Thanksgiving week, during which it pulled in more than $11 million worldwide; its second biggest spike was Christmas week, with close to $7 million,” she said.

The holiday period is always a great time for technology-related spending, and mobile certainly saw the uptick at Christmas as a result. Sensor Tower noted that Christmas gifting of new devices, as well as Google Play and App Store gift cards, was “a driving factor in increased spending storewide.” 

Aside from games, entertainment apps (especially video streaming apps like Disney+ and Tencent Video) were responsible for a big portion of spending at Christmas. Sensor Tower said this accounted for the largest portion of non-game spending (24%) on the App Store, while 16% of Google Play revenue outside of games came from social apps like Tinder, which posted gross revenue near $2.1 million globally. The trick for mobile publishers is how to keep these holiday spenders coming back in the months ahead in 2020.

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(Former) Editor-in-Chief

James has been covering the games industry since the early 2000s and was previously the editor of GamesIndustry.biz. He loves Zelda, Metroidvania-style games, action adventure and single-player narratives. He's also the proud father of twin boys and is obsessed with good coffee and Yankees baseball. You can reach him @bright_pixels on Twitter.