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Global Mobile Game Revenue Grew 26% Year-Over-Year in First Nine Months of 2020 to Nearly $60 Billion

Mobile game downloads also surged by 37% Y/Y to nearly 43 billion during Q1 to Q3 2020, Sensor Tower data shows.

Q3 2019's Mobile App Revenue and Downloads Hero Image

Global player spending in mobile games increased by 25.7 percent year-over-year during Q1 to Q3 2020 to approximately $58.7 billion, Sensor Tower Store Intelligence estimates show. Mobile games revenue has surged this year, largely due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns. By comparison, during Q1 to Q3 2019, mobile games spending grew 17.5 percent Y/Y to an estimated $46.7 billion. Player spending in mobile gaming has been boosted by consumers relegated to their homes and seeking entertainment along with ways to connect and socialize with others. This analysis looks at the impact such behavior has had on the mobile games space.

App Store spending in mobile games grew by 25.3 percent Y/Y during Q1 to Q3 2020 to approximately $35.2 billion. During the previous year, player spending on Apple’s marketplace rose by 17.5 percent to more than $28 billion. On Google Play, meanwhile, player spending grew slightly faster, rising by 26.3 percent Y/Y to $23.5 billion. During the same period in 2019, game revenue increased by 17.4 percent Y/Y to $18.6 billion.

Global Player Spending in Mobile Games for Q1 to Q3 2020

Diving Deeper

Analyzing the year at a quarterly level, we can see that player spending has continued to rise throughout the first three quarters of 2020, although that growth is slowing since the height of the lockdowns in the middle of the year. In Q1, player spending hit $17.7 billion, while in Q2, revenue rose 13.6 percent quarter-over-quarter to more than $20 billion. In Q3, growth had slowed, with player spending rising by 4.1 percent Q/Q to nearly $21 billion. Player spending in the first half of the year peaked in May at approximately $7 billion, while during the first nine months of 2020 gross revenue hit a high of about $7.1 billion in August.

During the first nine months of the year, the United States ranked No. 1 for revenue, generating $16.5 billion in spending across the App Store and Google Play, a figure that was up 38.8 percent Y/Y. Japan ranked No. 2 with more than $13 billion in spending, an increase of approximately 19 percent Y/Y, while China ranked No. 3, accumulating $10.6 billion from the App Store alone and up 13.6 percent Y/Y.

The U.S. saw a large jump in sales throughout this period, picking up $4.5 billion from player spending in Q1, rising 33.3 percent Q/Q to more than $6 billion in Q2. Revenue declined by 3.3 percent Q/Q in Q3, however, to $5.8 billion, as social restrictions were eased across the country. China, meanwhile, generated $3.6 billion in Q1 2020—the height of its lockdown—up 19 percent Q/Q. In Q2, revenue decreased 5.6 percent Q/Q to $3.4 billion, before rising by nearly 6 percent Q/Q to $3.6 billion once again in Q3. Japan has consistently seen player spending rise throughout the year, generating $3.8 billion in Q1, with revenue increasing 13.2 percent Q/Q in Q2 to $4.3 billion, and rising a further 16.3 percent Q/Q in Q3 to $5 billion.

Download Drivers

As with player spending, downloads surged during Q1 to Q3 2020 to an estimated 42.7 billion, up 36.9 percent Y/Y. By comparison, during the same period in 2019, game installs grew just 7.7 percent Y/Y to about 31.2 billion.

Google Play downloads during the first nine months of 2020 rose 42.8 percent Y/Y to an estimated 34.7 billion. In 2019, downloads rose by 9.8 percent Y/Y to approximately 24.3 billion. On the App Store, meanwhile, downloads rose 15.9 percent Y/Y during Q1 to Q3 2020 to about 8 billion. During the same period in 2019, installs increased by just 1 percent to approximately 6.9 billion.

Global Downloads of Mobile Games for Q1 to Q3 2020

Analyzing the year once again at a quarterly level, we can see a sharp rise in downloads, followed by a decline in Q3 as lockdown restrictions around the world were eased. In Q1, the App Store and Google Play racked up about 13.4 billion, rising 11.9 percent Q/Q in Q2 to nearly 15 billion. In Q3, installs declined by 5.3 percent to approximately 14.2 billion, though player spending continued to climb despite this. Downloads peaked in April at about 5.4 billion, ahead of May’s spike in player spending.

During the first three quarters of 2020, India ranked No. 1 for global game downloads, generating approximately 7.3 billion installs, or 17.2 percent of total downloads. The U.S. ranked No. 2 with about 4.2 billion, or 9.8 percent, while Brazil ranked No. 3 with about 3.5 billion, or approximately 8 percent.

India accumulated an estimated 1.8 billion installs in Q1, rising 50 percent to approximately 2.7 billion in Q2, and a further 7.4 percent to about 2.9 billion in Q3. The U.S. generated approximately 1.4 billion installs in both Q1 and Q2, with downloads dropping to about 1.3 billion in Q3. Brazil, meanwhile, generated more than 1 billion installs in Q1, rising 20 percent to about 1.2 billion in Q2, generating the same number in Q3.

The Top Games

PUBG Mobile from Tencent was the top grossing game during the first nine months of 2020, generating more than $2 billion in player spending. This figure includes spending from the Chinese localization of the title, Game For Peace. Honor of Kings from Tencent ranked No. 2, while Pokémon GO from Niantic ranked No. 3. The latter title has picked up $1 billion so far in 2020, thanks in part to new stay-at-home features and consumers’ willingness to combine the app into their exercise routine as a safe way to venture outdoors and keep fit.

Top Mobile Games by Worldwide Revenue and Downloads for Q1 to Q3 2020

The most downloaded title during this period was Garena Free Fire from Garena Games, which racked up more than 220 million installs. PUBG Mobile ranked No. 2, while Subway Surfers from SYBO Games ranked No. 3.

Although hyper-casual titles have been able to accumulate significant downloads this year, it’s notable that the top three titles aren’t in the genre, and that the top two are targeted at a more core audience. The ability to play with others appears to be a major selling point of these games during lockdown, enabling them to build upon their pre-existing popularity this year.

Second Wave

The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a significant rise in downloads and player spending in mobile games—and apps in general—as countries around the world entered into lockdowns. The rapid growth has since dissipated, although revenue is still experiencing considerable lift, suggesting players continue to be willing to spend more even if they aren’t downloading as many new titles.

The second wave is upon us, with many European countries increasing restrictions and entering broad lockdowns again. While the business of games is in some ways trivial compared to other matters during this time, publishers will be able to head into this second wave with more knowledge than at the start of the year, and could perhaps expect similar trends to emerge in Q4. Learnings from titles like Pokémon GO will be important, while our previous analyses in game genre performance and the most popular game themes this year can help identify where the greatest growth may yet be seen.

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Craig Chapple

Written by: Craig Chapple, Mobile Insights Strategist, EMEA

Date: November 2020