Q1 2020 was the largest quarter for mobile game downloads ever, with over 13 billion installs across Google Play and the App Store. That upward trajectory continued as the average weekly mobile game ad spend surged from about $700,000 in February to over $1.4 million in March and reached even higher levels in April at just under $2 million.
But the industry didn’t need the pandemic to prosper; in 2019, Sensor Tower estimated that players spent about $61.7 billion on games. That represents a 12.8 percent increase from 2018 and its $54.7 billion total. Now where do mobile games go from here and what does that post-pandemic journey look like? Ahead of this week’s virtual Los Angeles Games Conference panel on the growth of mobile games, we spoke with Skillz Inc. CEO and founder Andrew Paradise about his thoughts on the changes affecting creativity in the arena, what role fundraising tournaments have played in COVID and the mobile game trends he foresees emerging.
What do you predict will be the changes that will affect creativity and innovation in the mobile games market during and post-COVID-19?
Since the pandemic began, the mobile gaming sector has fared better than most forms of entertainment because the majority of our content can be built remotely, whereas many other types of entertainment require large groups to work in studio or office settings. Recent months have shown how resilient mobile games are, both as an industry and a form of digital entertainment. As cities and economies have shut down around the world, Skillz players have turned to their favorite games as much needed entertainment, while our developer partners continued building and launching new games from their home offices. I think this pandemic is also showing us how powerful mobile gaming is as a way to stay connected to friends and family. After hours, I love to compete with my friends in some of our favorite games. It’s a fun new way to socialize after a long day of video calls.
What role have fundraising tournaments played in Skillz’s response to the pandemic?
Skillz has a proud history of leveraging the power of our platform to give back to important causes. During this pandemic, we mobilized the Skillz platform to fund Red Cross blood drives across the country and raise money for 170 children’s hospitals fighting COVID. We have long helped nonprofit partners like the World Wildlife Fund and American Cancer Society reach younger, mobile-first demographics, quickly launch large scale digital fundraisers, and engage new donors through fun, competitive games. The Skillz commitment to giving back is core to our company’s values, and we are honored to be part of the fight against this pandemic.
What area of the mobile games market do you feel has been most impacted by COVID? How is Skillz addressing this?
COVID-19 has tragically disrupted the global economy, but like all forms of digital media, mobile gaming has become an important form of comfort and entertainment during the pandemic. The Skillz business has remained strong, and we’ve seen increased interest from brands looking to leverage our platform as a new way to reach consumers now that stay-at-home orders have disrupted many traditional marketing models.
How is Skillz further bridging the gap between disruptive ads and a seamless player experience?
Skillz offers a new way to monetize mobile gaming content that’s proven to be 5-20x more effective than traditional models. Legacy monetization models like interruptive advertising and in-game purchases can put developers at odds with players. Skillz enables developers to focus solely on what they love and do best: building great games. Skillz helps indie developers build multi-million dollar franchises by enabling social competitions in their games. We provide an easily integrated solution with patented technology to rate players’ skills, ensure fair player matching, and protect against fraud and cheating.
What kind of creativity and innovation is required for the mobile games market to become more accessible and enjoy sustainable long-term growth post-COVID-19?
The great news about mobile games is you can take them anywhere! If people sheltering in place discover a Skillz game they love playing, in all likelihood they will continue playing that game when they are back on the go. Most importantly, games are not specific to the traditional stereotype of “gamers” – in reality, everyone plays games. Our developer partners continue to inspire us with creative game concepts that expand the popularity of our platform. For instance, a recent hit game on Skillz reimagined Bingo and shot to the Top 25 in the App Store.