How has COVID-19 affected hyper-casual gaming apps?

THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC HAS UPENDED SOCIETIES AND ECONOMIES EVERYWHERE

What has been the impact on hyper-casual gaming? Our first look suggests that COVID-19 has significantly contributed to driving more users to the genre. Cumulative install and session data for six countries from Adjust reveals how stay-at-home orders have increased interest in hyper casuals throughout the pandemic.

Install & session rate during COVID-19 season
source: adjust

KEY FINDINGS

Installs across the globe rose as users were social distancing at home. For the period December 2019 to March 2020 — installs more than doubled (103%) globally. The highest increase was observed in China — which grew 3.5x in four months (December through March).

As installs rose, sessions ballooned to match. Compared to December 2019, which had already exceeded one billion sessions, hyper-casual sessions increased a further 72% in March. China led the pack with an increase of over 300%. Other countries also made their mark: Germany saw a 69% increase in March compared with December 2019. For the same period, Korea saw a 152% increase and Japan saw a 137% increase.

An examination of the ratio of paid vs. organic installs shows the opposite dynamic as the number of apps installed from paid advertising declined 26% from 80% in October 2019 to 59% in March 2020. Ironically, organics come out the winner, showing that people stuck at home are more willing to browse and experiment.

WHAT IS NEXT?

The challenge going forward will be sustainability and growth prospects for the hyper-casual genre after social distancing eases. Will new users continue to flock toward the genre? And will the broader trend of growing ad inventory be reversed as the overall economy picks up, allowing key metrics and methods to revert back to their pre-crisis mean? Will margins suffer from this drop?

Nothing is for certain, but it does appear as though the business model of hyper casuals is here to stay. This will no doubt have implications for mobile marketers from other verticals, as the overall trend toward optimization and automation takes hold.

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