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Global surge in mobile entertainment since Coronavirus lockdowns

(Image credit: Image Credit: Carballo / Shutterstock)

Mobile-focused consumer behaviours are changing in response to the Coronavirus outbreak, particularly in the UK, US, China, Italy and Spain, with a surge in popularity of mobile games and entertainment apps.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen people’s everyday lives disrupted on an extraordinary scale. Very few people will have ever considered an extended period of lockdown a realistic possibility and as they spend more time at home, their regular routines have had to adjust significantly. Aside from forcing people to discover new ways of shopping, working or educating children, quarantine has also had a sizable impact on how they spend their spare time, driving people to source alternative methods of entertainment.

Until normal life begins to resume with the reopening of schools and workplaces, parents, children, and people of all ages will keep looking for creative outlets and new ways to remain healthy, calm, and positive while staying home. Recently released data indicates that there has been a significant migration towards mobile games and applications since lockdown measures have been introduced. Since November 2019, the number of active users of Gismart mobile products, such as gaming and entertainment apps has increased by 200 per cent, and the average length of the gaming session has grown by about 20 per cent. These trends were at first most noticeable in China, but since the wider implementation of lockdowns in countries worldwide, have also been mimicked in Europe and the US.

App usage habits

With more people using these apps and for a longer period of time, there has also been a significant change in common usage habits with weekly seasonality becoming perceivably blurred. Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, players tended to be more active on the weekend, with many of their weekday hours dedicated to work or school. Despite many people working or schooled from home, the unstructured nature of peoples lives has led to activity levels becoming consistent across all days of the week. This is perhaps the trend we expect to have the shortest life and see revert back to normal the quickest, particularly once people are allowed to go back to work and begin to restart their regular lives. However, it is a strong indication of the hyper-casual relationship people have developed with mobile entertainment, becoming a hobby that seamlessly blends with our everyday lives.

March 2020 will likely prove a landmark month in human history. With a plethora of major countries worldwide forced to introduce strict quarantine measures over the course of the month, with Italy one of the first European nations and the UK following suit two weeks later. Whilst an increase in mobile game and app downloads is to be somewhat expected over the course of lockdown, there was a notable speed to how quickly this behaviour began. The data demonstrates a strong correlation between the growth in the number of downloads of mobile games and apps and the date during March that a nation entered into lockdown. This can be perceived with Italy (+50 per cent), Spain (+40 per cent), United States (+20 per cent), France (+15 per cent), Germany (+10 per cent) and Great Britain (+10 per cent). Countries that were later entering lockdown have since caught up with the likes of Italy and Spain, and monthly downloads remain considerably higher than in previous years. This will likely stay consistent for a significant period after lockdowns lift, as the long road back to normality begins.

Regional Insights

The increased popularity in mobile games and entertainment is fairly universal across the globe, with an almost unanimous increase in downloads and usage from the moment quarantine was introduced. However, people in different regions appear to have different preferences on the type of mobile apps that they look to preoccupy and entertain themselves with.

The traditional characteristics of cultures have a significant influence on what peoples mobile entertainment preferences are. In Spain and Italy, social media was flooded with videos of people singing or playing music directly from the balconies of their apartments in the weeks immediately post-lockdown, so it is unsurprising that there has been a marked interest in music-themed games and apps, in particular, Guitar and Beat Maker Go.

In turn, during this very chaotic and uncertain time, people are naturally trying to source ways to alleviate stress, or find forms of escapism, and there has been a particular spike in the US for Music Zen, a meditation and mindfulness app. During the month of March, the app saw a 30 per cent increase in active users and 10 per cent in downloads in comparison with the previous month. With continued uncertainty and the potential economic turmoil that is expected to come, we do not expect to see the demand for these types of apps to drop for some time to come.

As one of the first countries to introduce social distancing and quarantining measures, China has so far seen the biggest increase in usage, but other countries are quickly catching up. Since China’s strict quarantine measures were eased, its number of active users has begun to slowly revert to its original level, but usage still remains significantly high. Whilst, this is partially due to the reluctance of some people to go back to their normal lives, there are many more who have discovered a greater enjoyment for mobile entertainment and will continue to use it as the status quo returns. As such, we expect to witness a similar trend in other countries once it is safe for people to go about their everyday lives. But we don’t anticipate usage to revert to pre-lockdown levels due to consumers still being reluctant to go outside and socialise.

What is interesting is we are likely witnessing a generational blurring in the use of mobile entertainment. Millennials and Generation Z have often, and rightfully, been considered the most mobile-centric age demographic, but the introduction of lockdown will likely have lasting effects on how earlier generations use mobile technology in their spare time. Whilst many will not use mobiles to the same degree as during quarantine, the lifestyle changes people are currently making will last far beyond the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ivan Ruppo, CMO, Gismart