MASTERCLASSING

Facebook reports huge growth in the number of people playing mobile games since the start of the pandemic

David Murphy

Facebook Gaming and Facebook IQ have released the findings of their ‘Games Marketing Insights for 2021’ report, looking at gaming activity on the platform. The report includes stats on gaming activity on Facebook, as well as attitudes towards mobile games, garnered through a study of 13,246 Facebook users in the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Brazil carried out in July 2020 (October 2020 for Brazil). The report, however, only includes data from the UK, US, Germany and South Korea.

It includes people classed as ‘new players’ who didn’t play mobile games before the pandemic, but by July 2020, were playing at least an hour a week. And ‘existing players’ who played mobile games both before the peak of the pandemic and were still playing at least an hour a week in July 2020.

In the report, Facebook has projected that the UK mobile gamer addressable audience grew by 50 per cent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, representing an additional 8.6m new gamers. It said the US mobile gamer addressable audience grew by 28 per cent, equating to 28m new gamers, while the South Korean mobile gamer addressable audience grew by 34 per cent (9.4m new gamers), and the German mobile gamer addressable audience grew by 25 per cent (6.5m new gamers).

To be clear, this does not relate to the number of mobile gamers playing games on Facebook, but on any platform. To arrive at these figures, Facebook said that while it asked 13,246 people in depth about their gaming behaviour, it surveyed “significantly more” than this in the screening process, which is where the projections come from. It has not said how many people were involved, but that the overall screened sample was intentionally matched (demographically) to that of the population of a given country. 

For example, in the US, it found that 12 per cent of the thousands of consumers that received the survey link and filled out the screener fell into the category of people who started gaming during the pandemic but weren’t gaming before. So it  used this 12 per cent and projected it onto the total 18+ US population number to come up with an estimate of 28m new gamers.

It then checked these numbers against a “much larger independent survey that tracks the number of gamers in a given market and had been running since pre-pandemic” – the survey was not identified – which confirmed an increase in the total size of the mobile gaming population comparable to its projection.

Globally, Facebook Gaming hours surpassed 1 billion for the first time in Q3 2020. Hours played were at half a billion in Q4 2019, and were at 269m the quarter prior. Among UK gamers, for new players, the most popular genres are Puzzle (33 per cent); Shooter (12 per cent); Simulation (9 per cent); Sports (8 per cent); and Strategy (7 per cent). For existing players, Puzzle is once again the most popular genre (41 per cent), followed by Simulation (9 per cent); Shooter (8 per cent); Sports (7 per cent); and Strategy (6 per cent).

When asked why they play mobile games, the top reasons among new players in the UK were to relieve stress (62 per cent); pass the time (55 per cent); to feel accomplished (51 per cent); to defeat others in competition (38 per cent); and to immerse themselves in a world (38 per cent).

Among existing UK players, the reasons were to pass the time (52 per cent); to relieve stress (51 per cent); to feel accomplished (38 per cent); to immerse themselves in a world (30 per cent); and to defeat others in competition (26 per cent).

Perhaps surprisingly, new players spent more time playing mobile games than existing players in all four markets covered by the report, with the biggest disparity in the UK, where new players play on average for 13.8 hours each week, compared to 11.1 hours for existing players.

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