Mobile Gaming’s Endless Summer

Peter Farago, GM and Estelle Danilo, Flurry Analyst

Mobile game usage in the U.S. has increased substantially during COVID-19. In a previous report, we showed that mobile game sessions surged by 21% after stay-at-home orders took hold, on weekdays no less! In other words, as people began to work and attend school from home, they also reached for their phones more often to game. In this follow-on installment, we look at what time of the day people are gaming during the week, and the results are surprising.

Flurry Analytics, owned by Verizon Media, is used in over 1 million mobile applications, providing insights from 2 billion mobile devices per month. For this analysis, Flurry hand-curated a sample of gaming apps from a cross-section of subcategories including puzzle, card, arcade, action, player-vs-player and more. Distributing game sessions by hour, we created a daypart view. Note that the time of each game session reflects the time zone in which the session took place. Let’s have a look and then discuss.

US Mobile Gaming Fall 2019 vs Fall 2020

In the chart above, we show the percent of game app sessions played each hour of an average weekday in the United States. The grey line shows the daypart curve from September 2019, about one year ago, before COVID-19 dramatically changed societal behavior. And the blue line shows usage in September 2020, reflecting how consumers are playing games now during the ongoing pandemic. Adding up the percent usage of each hour across the day, for either curve, totals 100%. 

Comparing the two curves, you’ll notice that last year’s usage has an “S” shape with a lull in the earlier part of the day, presumably as Americans rushed off to school and work, followed by a surge in the late afternoon and evening. This year, usage steps at a similar time in the morning and then steadily increases all the way through prime-time. The result is that usage is 3.9 percentage points greater during the majority of work and school hours this year, from 8 AM to 2 PM, and 4.5 percentage points less during the late afternoon and evening. With decreased in-person interactions, it appears that people are reaching for their phones throughout the day and continuing to game. Let’s next compare game usage this Fall to earlier in the Summer.

US Mobile Gaming Summer 2020 vs Fall 2020

For this chart, we show September of this year, still in blue, versus earlier in the Summer in orange. Both periods took place during the pandemic. What is surprising is how much closer September usage this year looks to July. Both September and July 2020 show a relatively even distribution of gaming app sessions throughout waking hours with a steadily increasing trend as the day progresses. Despite summer vacations ending and school resuming, people’s play patterns are very similar to that of Summer.

With remote work and school, gaming usage patterns have flattened out, regardless of the season, losing the distinct “S-curve” displayed during 2019. With most schools and offices still without plans to reopen, we don’t anticipate this trend to change anytime soon. We’ll keep you updated on future important trends in the mobile game industry. For the latest reports, subscribe to the Flurry Analytics blog and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to get the latest industry analyses.