Pandemic-driven increase in mobile gameplay to persist – survey

mobile gameplay growth

A new survey has revealed a sharp increase in mobile gameplay since the pandemic began, with 63% of respondents reporting an increase in gameplay time, more-so in countries hard hit by COVID-19.

Moreover, an estimated 75% of the net rise in mobile gaming activity is set to remain after the “new normal” is established in the next two years.

Mobile gameplay survey

Global market intelligence firm IDC partnered with outcomes-based advertising platform, LoopMe, to field and analyse a survey of mobile gamers in six countries, asking respondents about their existing gaming activities, as well as their intentions regarding future gameplay time commitments after the coronavirus pandemic is largely in-hand in their native countries. 

The language-localised survey was fielded to approximately 3,850 smartphone users in the US, the UK, Japan, Germany, Brazil and Singapore in April, and the results were analysed in May 2021. 

These countries were selected, in part, to get a mix of high COVID-19 impact countries and low COVID-19 impact countries. Data were normalised to account for population and gender splits by country.

“Two of the clearest and most important signals we found in the survey results were that mobile gaming activity tended to increase more in the countries with the highest COVID-19 death rates, and that gamers in these same countries expected a larger pullback in gaming once the pandemic has subsided compared to gamers in countries that have had low COVID-19 death rates,” said Lewis Ward, IDC’s director gaming and VR/AR. 

“This latter change, which should propagate globally in the next 12 to 24 months, will likely have important implications for game developers and publishers, as well as for those involved in mobile game advertising.”

Highlights of the new study include:

  • In the six countries surveyed, more than two in three smartphone owners reported playing mobile games in recent months
  • 63% of respondents increased their mobile gameplay time after the pandemic began
  • A correlation was found between increased mobile gameplay time commitments and local pandemic effects (specifically, the per capita COVID-19 death rate)
  • 3 in 4 mobile gamers reported playing to be entertained or just to pass the time; 4% said they were playing to engage in “safe” virtual social interactions that are supported by live multiplayer games especially; more broadly, it appears live multiplayer mobile games outperformed in 2020
  • 6% of today’s mobile gamer community didn’t play prior to the pandemic; these new gamers appeared to skew male and a few years younger in age than the broader base of pre-pandemic mobile gamers
  • After the pandemic is largely over (presumably late 2022 in most countries), it appears that 25% of the net increase in mobile gaming activity induced by the pandemic will dissipate and 75% of the net rise will remain indefinitely; this “new normal” will vary substantively by country, however, partly based on the severity of the local pandemic
  • Largely due to pandemic effects, the worldwide base of gamers that played on a smartphone or slate tablet monthly jumped 12% in 2020 compared to 2019, to roughly 2.25 billion last year
  • A majority of mobile gamers make critical buying decisions for their households

“From a brand advertiser perspective, one particularly interesting takeaway from the survey was that mobile gamers have significant general purchasing power and are making critical buying decisions for their households,” said Rachel Conforti, VP of Marketing, LoopMe. 

“This presents a rich opportunity for brand advertisers to leverage in-game mobile placements within their overall ad spend in order to reach decision-making consumers where they are spending a lot of their time – playing games on their smartphones and tablets.” 

To view the full mobile gaming research report, “What Mobile Gaming’s ‘New Normal’ Should Look Like After the COVID-19 Pandemic”, please visit or