Mobile Gaming During Coronavirus: Everyday is Like Sunday

By: Peter Farago, Flurry GM, and Estelle Danilo, 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 hand-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 user behavior evolved.

2020 Mobile Game App Usage

The chart above shows daily app sessions for the first six months of 2020. What’s remarkable is that the usage changes 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 stay-at-home 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 school closures took hold — weekend spikes disappeared completely. Let’s next look closer at relative growth for each day of the week.

Change in 2020 US Mobile Game App Usage

The chart above shows the percent change in game app sessions by day of the week, averaged over four weeks before versus four weeks after the first full week of shelter-in-place. With shelter-in-place orders, game app sessions increased by an average of 21% on weekdays and 8.5% on weekend days. 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, contributing to a discovery  of more “found time” to play mobile games.

As we reported in Flurry’s first post on game apps growth during Coronavirus, Generation Z saw the biggest gains in increased usage in the Games category likely because that group gained the most extra time during the quarantine. Distance learning did not occupy as much time as physically going to school, time with friends was heavily curtailed and extracurricular activities were suspended. And, with many working parents finding themselves without childcare, mobile games likely became an easy, low-cost and reliable solution to occupy their kids’ time (note that Flurry does not gather data on children under the age of 13, so Generation Z is approximately 13-25 years old for this report). 

As we compare the relative growth rates for each day of the week, keep in mind that just because the percent of weekday session growth is higher than weekend session growth, this does not mean that absolute usage rates are actually greater on weekdays. Rather, it means that there was more “found time” on weekdays after Coronavirus compared to that of weekends. To illustrate this, we show game app sessions for each day of the week before versus after shelter-in-place began.

Weekly Game App Sessions by Day of WeekIn the chart above, we show average game sessions per each day of the week before versus after shelter-in-place. The blue columns show the ‘per day’ average game sessions for the 4 weeks prior to shelter-in-place, and gray columns show the same for the 4 weeks after shelter-in-place. We choose March 16, 2020 as the cut-off date, since that is when the majority of school closures took effect in the U.S. Also note that, in order to see finer changes in the data, we zoom in by starting the vertical axis at 3 million daily sessions instead of starting at 0. 

Combined with insights from the previous charts, people are gaming more overall, every day of the week has seen an uptick in gaming sessions, and the growth rate on weekdays is higher than on weekends. Weekend usage has also increased, but less so. We believe this is because weekend usage was already much higher before Coronavirus, leaving less additional time for mobile app gaming usage to grow. Another interesting note is that Monday and Friday normal usage levels are higher than the middle of the week. As a result, we speculate that people are 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.