Mobile Gaming During Coronavirus: Everyday is Like Sunday

By Peter Farago, Flurry GM, and Estelle Laziuk, Flurry Analyst

Coronavirus has changed the way Americans live. As shelter-in-place orders rolled out across the country during March, schools closed and many adults began working from home. In a previous report, we showed how mobile gaming usage grew as a result of Coronavirus. In this second installment focused on the mobile game category, we look at how day-of-week usage has changed in a surprising and significant way.

Flurry Analytics, owned by Verizon Media, sees app usage on 1 million mobile applications across all major app categories, with a broad cohort of game applications. For this analysis, Flurry curated a sample of game apps that cover various subcategories including puzzle, card, arcade, action, player-vs-player and more. We measured U.S. daily game app usage using the number of sessions across the curated game apps combined. Let’s first review daily mobile game usage pre- and post-shelter-in-place to see how users' playing behavior evolved.

Daily US mobile game app usage during COVID-19 - pre shelter in place orders, order issued, orders gradually lifted across US states

The chart above shows daily game app sessions for the first six months of 2020. What’s remarkable is that as shelter-in-place orders rolled out, game usage changed dramatically from a distinct weekday-weekend usage cycle to both increasing overall and then holding steady. In other words, people seem to be playing games every day of the week like they do on the weekend – everyday is like Sunday. At Flurry, we have never seen anything quite like this in app behavior. Before shelter-in-place orders took place, the number of weekend sessions was, on average, 17% higher than weekday sessions. However, as schools and businesses closed, both children and parents suddenly found themselves at home with additional time to fill. Around March 16, 2020 —when the majority of shelter-in-place orders and school closures took hold— weekend spikes disappeared completely. Let’s next take a closer look at the usage growth for each day of the week.

Mobile game app usage in the US per day of week - before vs. after shelter in place orders

The chart above shows average game sessions per each day of the week, before versus after shelter-in-place orders. The light blue columns show the per day average game sessions for the 4 weeks prior to shelter-in-place, and dark blue columns show the same for the 4 weeks after shelter-in-place orders were issued. We chose March 16, 2020 as the cut-off date, since that is when the majority of shelter-in-place orders and school closures took effect in the United States.

During COVID-19 shelter-in-place, users are gaming more overall. While every day of the week has seen an uptick in gaming usage, the growth rate on weekdays is higher than on weekends. Game app sessions increased by an average of 21% on weekdays and 8.5% on weekend days. Weekend usage has increased, but less so than on weekdays, because it was already much higher before Coronavirus, leaving less additional time for mobile game usage to grow. This means that during shelter-in-place, there was more “found time” to play mobile games on weekdays than on weekends. On weekdays, commute time was reclaimed, school work loads decreased, and work time was disrupted. And on weekends, extracurricular events were suspended and entertainment venues were closed.

Another interesting note is that Monday and Friday normal pre-Coronavirus usage levels are slightly higher than during the middle of the week. As a result, we speculate that users are typically more focused and productive Tuesday - Thursday, and start transitioning into “weekend mode” on Friday as well as taking longer to settle into the week on Mondays.

As we write this report, many states have lifted shelter-in-place orders, and the school year has ended, making way for typical summer activities that will once again compete with time spent on mobile game apps. We will monitor whether the surge in game app usage on weekdays continues, and will keep you informed about important mobile trends.