New gamer insights to help grow your 2021 business

Shelter-in-place and social distancing measures have led to a surge of new gamers as people look for new forms of entertainment.

By Stephen Gray, Vertical Research Manager at Facebook

At the onset of COVID-19, the gaming industry braced itself for change. With more people staying home, many industries faced disruptions and had to find new ways of connecting with customers. However the gaming industry, unlike so many others, saw a surge in consumer demand as people looked for new forms of entertainment and ways to stay connected with others. More people were playing, watching and streaming than ever before, bringing in new gamers as well as re-engaging lapsed players.(1)

To understand the behavior of these new mobile gamers and the evolving game motivations of existing gamers, we surveyed consumers in 9 countries to look at consumer behavior after March 2020. This article delves into data from 4 of those key strategic markets for many developers: US, UK, Germany, and South Korea. This research forms the basis for a new report, Games Marketing Insights for 2021, which is available to download for free today. 

2020 saw millions of new players 

Shelter-in-place and social distancing measures have led to a surge of new gamers as people look for new forms of entertainment. To understand the impact, it’s important to look at how many more people have been playing games since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, mobile gaming audiences grew in every market we examined, with 25% more gamers in Germany, +28 percent in the US, +34 percent in South Korea and +50 percent in the UK. This means over 50 million more people in these markets alone are now turning to mobile gaming as a major source of entertainment and social connection.(1)  

Source: Games Marketing Insights for 2021, Facebook, 2020

These new gamers weren’t just a temporary spike; these consumers were still gaming in July 2020, several months after the initial peak of the outbreak. More than half indicated that they plan to continue mobile gaming as the world begins to recover from the outbreak.

A snapshot of new mobile gamers

As the report shows, in all markets except South Korea, new mobile gamers skewed significantly more towards core gaming behaviors than their existing gamer counterparts. New gamers, in aggregate, were younger than existing gamers. They were also more likely to own a gaming console and to play game genres more aligned with core behaviors (such as shooters). They also reported playing more hours per week.

Source: Games Marketing Insights for 2021, Facebook, 2020 

Spending and advertising preferences

New gamers were significantly more likely than existing ones to report spending money on mobile games since the start of the pandemic in all markets. They also reported spending more money per month on mobile games. 

When it comes to the reasons why people spend money, there was more variety across markets than between the cohorts, some of which was tied to genre. In the US and UK, people were particularly motivated to pay to remove ads. In South Korea and Germany, people said they pay to avoid waiting or to skip difficult points (more typical of puzzle games).

Previous research(2) has shown that people are open to seeing ads in games. In our survey, mobile gamers across all markets said they prefer free-to-play, ad-supported games. In the US, UK, and Germany, the preference for ad-supported models was stronger in existing players. New players, on the other hand, were more open to alternative monetization models such as in-app purchases.

Takeaways for game developers and marketers

1. Tailor your advertising campaigns to reach new gamers 

There are millions of new mobile gamers across the globe; be sure to broaden the reach of your advertising campaigns to make sure that you’re speaking to these new gamers with messaging that appeals toward their motivations for playing.

2. Understand the long-term value of new gamers 

New gamers exhibit stronger alignment with behaviors and attitudes consistent with core gamers—more so than established gamers. Consider the long-term impact new players will have in the mobile gaming space such as more core gaming behaviors and motivators for playing and purchasing. 

3. Use a monetization model that resonates with new gamers

Adopt mixed monetization models that take account of the increased time new gamers are spending in your games and their openness to in-app purchases. 

To learn more about this growing audience, and access exclusive stats and research to help you prepare for the 2021 gaming landscape, download Games Marketing Insights for 2021 for free now. 

1. Games Marketing Insights for 2021, Facebook, 2020 

2. How have ads affected games? We asked game publishers and players, Facebook, November 2020

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