How existing gamer behavior has shifted as a result of COVID-19

Facebook looks at what's caught the attention of mobile gamers around the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Stephen Gray, Vertical Research Manager at Facebook

To understand behavioral shifts in existing mobile gamers, Facebook Gaming and Facebook IQ surveyed people in 9 countries to look at consumer behavior after March 2020. This article delves into findings from key strategic markets for many developers: US, UK, Germany, and South Korea.1 

Here we examine 3 key findings from the survey:

  • The rapid growth of gaming in 2020: Who are the existing gamers?
  • Motivations for playing mobile games: How have preferences changed for new and existing players?
  • The important role community plays in gaming: How can marketers and developers successfully engage gamers?

To discover more about what's changed over the last year and how gaming companies can adapt and reemerge in the year ahead, download the full Games Marketing Insights for 2021 report.

Mobile gamers played more in 2020

In all countries, existing gamers reported that they currently spend more time gaming than they did pre-pandemic. This is driven by longer gaming sessions rather than more frequent ones. 40 percent of US gamers, 40 percent of UK gamers, 53 percent of South Korean gamers, and 30 percent of German gamers reported that their typical gaming session has increased in length since March 2020.

A large portion of gamers in all markets reported spending more time playing single-player games on their own since the pandemic (US: 49 percent, UK: 43 percent, South Korea: 51 percent, Germany: 29 percent). A notable number of gamers also reported spending more time playing games with friends/family members online (US: 30 percent, UK: 26 percent, South Korea: 35 percent, Germany: 21 percent).

We asked gamers to compare their behavior before and after March 2020 on a number of different gaming activities. In all markets, many gamers reported increasing the time they spent playing single-player games specifically (US: 49 percent, UK: 43 percent, South Korea: 51 percent, Germany: 29 percent ), which was the largest increase in time spent. However, there was also a notable number of gamers who reported spending more time playing games with friends/family members online (US: 30 percent, UK: 26 percent, South Korea: 35 percent, Germany: 21 percent) as a way to connect. 

Gamers are engaging more online to connect with others

We wanted to dive deeper into understanding the use of mobile games as a way to connect to others online. With this in mind, we talked to gamers to learn more about shifts in gaming behavior since the onset of the pandemic. Here are a few highlights:

We also looked at changes on Facebook in Gaming Groups activity since the beginning of the year. Active members in gaming Groups on Facebook, as well as the number of Groups, grew during the months following the outbreak as people connected with their gaming communities. From January to August 2020, over 185,000 new gaming Groups were created and over 130 million members joined gaming Groups. Currently, there are more than 230 million people who are active members in over 630,000 gaming Groups on Facebook per month. 

Existing gamers are spending less compared to pre-COVID-19

In the US, UK, and South Korea, fewer existing gamers reported spending money compared to pre-pandemic. The gamers who did spend money reported spending less money per month than before the pandemic. On the other hand, in Germany, people reported being equally likely to spend pre- and post-COVID-19, and actually reported spending more money per month after the onset of the pandemic.

Takeaways for game developers and marketers

  • Meet behavior shifts with mixed monetization models: COVID-19 led to a surge in the number of people playing mobile games compared to pre-pandemic but decreased existing gamers’ likelihood to spend money. Given gamers are open to seeing ads, as well as make in-app purchases, consider adopting a mixed monetization model to take advantage of the increased engagement.
  • Cater to solo play, but allow for online features: The majority of existing gamers spend their gaming time engaging in single-player experiences, and developers should cater to this preference. However, there was a notable number of gamers who engaged with online features in order to connect with friends and family, so incorporating online features on top of compelling options for solo play should increase engagement.
  • Be a part of the conversation: The increasing engagement with online communities like Facebook groups is an opportunity to create a two-way dialogue with players and foster and encourage community while creating organic conversations. It’s a low-cost way to engage with users to monitor engagement and title resonance.

Download the report

To learn more about this 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. Source: Stats in this article are taken from the 2021 Facebook Gaming Marketing Report, Facebook, 2021.

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