App Annie & IDC: A Year after the Pandemic Started, Gamers Still Love Spending Money

The pandemic has increased the average expenditure of gamers. This trend, however, still persists today.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highly benefited the growth of the gaming industry. In addition to the boost in sales of games, consoles, and gaming hardware, the pandemic has also increased the average playing time of most gamers. Although citizens of some countries have been freed from the COVID-19 calamity and went back to living life normally, the trends that emerged due to the pandemic -- such as playing more games and watching more gaming streams -- are surprisingly persisting.

The Driving Force of the Game Industry's Growth: Mobile Gaming

Currently, mobile gaming seems to have the largest contribution in terms of consumer spending growth in digital games. According to the report published by App Annie and IDC, the total expenditure of mobile gamers around the world was over $120 billion USD, 2.9 times as much as the total spending of PC gamers, which only reached $41 billion USD. Console and handheld console players, on the other hand, had a total expenditure of $39 billion USD and $4 billion USD, respectively.

In the case of mobile gaming, Asia Pacific is still the region with the largest contribution to gamer's total spendings, 50% to be exact. Interestingly, this figure actually plateaued throughout the pandemic. Instead, gamers in other regions, like NA and Western Europe, experienced an increase in gaming expenditure. Although the Asia Pacific region had massive spending in mobile games, expenses from PC/Mac gamers in the region declined marginally by 4%. This trend can be explained perhaps by the unfortunate closing of many internet cafes in the pandemic.

Gamers' Spending in each platform. | Source: App Annie

On the other hand, the total worldwide expenditure in the realm of console gaming is expected to rise due to the launch of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S at the end of 2020. App Annie and IDC also mentioned that the console gaming audience has the potential to grow exponentially in the Asia Pacific region. With the recent launch of Xbox Series X in China on June 10, 2021, and PlayStation 5 on May 15, 2021, we should expect to see a surge in the console player population in Asia. In terms of handheld consoles, Nintendo Switch Lite is currently the only console that incentivizes consumption growth. As of September 2020, Nintendo has discontinued the production of the 3DS. Fortunately, the e-shop of the 3DS is still accessible.

In the United States, console sales increased rapidly in April 2020 after the US government announced the country's lockdown. As console sales increase, more and more people subsequently download companion apps -- such as Steam, PlayStation App, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox -- that allow their PC/console game accounts to be accessible through their smartphones. Additionally, these companion apps also has chatting features so users can interact with their friends. Some apps also offer cloud gaming features that allows gamers to play their console games via smartphones.

Cross-Platform Games

One of the gaming trends that persisted after the COVID-19 pandemic is the rate of mobile game downloads. In the first quarter of 2021, there were over 1 billion mobile game downloads globally. This figure is 30% greater compared to Q4 of 2019. Expenditures on mobile games also increased in the same period. In Q1 2021, the total spending of mobile gamers around the world reached $1.7 billion USD per week, an astounding increase of 40% from the pre-pandemic period. Many game publishers, as a result, began placing their interest in launching games on the mobile platform.

Global weekly game downloads and consumer spendings. | Source: App Annie

Just like the mobile game segment, PC gaming also experienced some degree of growth during the pandemic. We can find this trend in the rise of Steam's concurrent users and players. From October 2019 to April 2020, the number of daily concurrent users on Steam increased by 46% to a staggering 24.5 million users. Steam's daily concurrent players also surged by 61% to 8.2 million. However, if we extend the period to March 2021, Steam's daily users and player numbers reached 26.85 million (46% increase) and 7.4 million (60% increase), respectively. As we see from the statistics above, Steam's player and user count did not decline but, instead, persisted after the pandemic.

What makes games so popular in the pandemic? According to App Annie and IDC, online real-time features -- such as PvP -- are highly common in today's popular games, regardless of the gaming platform. In other words, most gamers want to play and interact with each other. After all, games can help cope with the loneliness of the pandemic isolation by providing a medium to connect with friends. Another feature that is rising in popularity is cross-play: a feature that allows gamers to play one game on multiple platforms. For example, players can start a game on PC and continue playing it on mobile or vice versa.

Steam's daily concurrent users and players. | Source: IDC

An example of a game that, by far, has implemented the best cross-play feature is Genshin Impact. Since its launch in September 2020, miHoYo (the game dev of Genshin Impact) immediately released the game on several platforms at once: PC, console, and mobile. miHoYo's decision to prioritize cross-play features -- such as cross-save and co-op modes across platforms -- is one of the reasons why Genshin Impact has successfully become a phenomenon in the gaming world.

Another popular cross-platform game is Among Us. In the span of just a few months in 2020, the player count of Among Us skyrocketed. In January 2020, the number of concurrent players in Among Us was less than a thousand. However, in September 2020, over 400 thousand people around the world were playing the game. Among Us is also incredibly popular on the mobile platform. At some point, Among Us download numbers in mobile were able to peak in the US, UK, and South Korea.

Gaming Stream Watch Times

The pandemic has also increased the amount of time people spend watching gaming content broadcasts. Up until April 2021, user engagement rates from Twitch and Discord continue to rise. In China, the watch times of game streaming platforms such as bilibili, Huya, and DouyuTV, have also gone up. The largest increase, uncoincidentally, occurred in the first half of 2020, which is when the COVID-19 pandemic started to emerge and forced people into quarantining in their homes.


The average time users spend watching gaming streams per month in different streaming platforms. | Source: App Annie

Viewers also become less hesitant in spending money on these platforms as they become more invested in them. Recently, there has been a steady rise in the total expenditure of Twitch and Discord users. In Q4 2020, Twitch managed to enter the list of 10 non-gaming applications with the largest total revenue. Twitch even climbed to 8th place on the list during the first quarter of 2021.

Featured Image: Unsplash. Translated by: Ananto Joyoadikusumo.