Global Game Revenue Surged During the Pandemic

Mobile game revenue spiked during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing its largest year-over-year growth in Q2 2020 at 33 percent. Games earned more than $20 billion globally for the first time that quarter.

Strong revenue growth continued in the following quarters. The 25 percent Y/Y growth in Q1 2021 easily outpaced the growth during the prior two years.

Source: Sensor Tower Inc.

Top Mobile Games By Worldwide revenue on the App Store and Google Play

As of Q1 2021, PUBG Mobile and Honor of Kings from Tencent are holding the top 2 positions. The appearance of Genshin Impact led Candy Crush Saga, Pokémon GO to drop to lower ranks and show the potential of this market for new ones.

Source: Sensor Tower Inc.

US Remains The Top Market For Mobile Game Spending and Market Share For Revenue

The U.S. remains the top market for mobile games having outpaced Japan in Q2 2019 and surpassed $6 billion in revenue during Q1 2021. COVID-19 boosted player spending by 35 percent Q/Q in Q2 2020. Although revenue fell slightly over the next two quarters, growth picked back up again in Q1 2021.

Japan and China were the next largest markets, well ahead of any other countries. Japan’s revenue climbed 35 percent Y/Y in Q1 2021, while China’s total is particularly impressive considering Google Play is not available in the country. 

The U.S. passed Japan to become the largest mobile games market in 2019. Its market share has continued to grow since, reaching 28 percent in 2020. Countries outside of the top five have also slowly gained market share, suggesting that mobile game publishers have turned to less-tapped markets with higher growth potential.

Source: Sensor Tower Inc.

Source: Sensor Tower Inc.

Top Countries By Y/Y Mobile Game Spending Growth In Q1 2021, App Store and Google Play

Source: Sensor Tower Inc.

Consumer spending in mobile games in the U.S. grew by more than $1.5 billion Y/Y in Q1 2021. This growth was more than all but Japan and China earned in total during the quarter. The top countries by growth included four of the top five countries by overall revenue. The one exception was Germany, the top country in Europe, with 33 percent Y/Y growth to nearly $600 million. 

Market Share For Top Countries By Mobile Game Downloads, App Store and Google Play

Source: Sensor Tower Inc.

India became the only country to gain more than 10 percent of the global game install market since 2017 in 2020, reaching 12 percent of downloads. The U.S. was next with 7 percent, followed by Brazil at 6 percent.

While 77 percent of mobile game revenue in 2020 was concentrated among the five largest markets, the top five countries by downloads combined for only 32 percent of the installs. This demonstrates how getting users to spend on mobile games remains more challenging than new user adoption in most markets.

Key Takeaways:


1. The mobile games market is booming, as game revenue growth accelerated during the pandemic. Consumer spending surpassed $22 billion in Q1 2021, representing an all-time high and 25 percent year-over-year growth.

2. Mobile game downloads also surged during the pandemic. This was primarily led by developing markets like India and Brazil.

3. While more than two-thirds of mobile game revenue comes from just three countries (the U.S., Japan, and China), growth in some smaller markets in Europe and Southeast Asia have exceeded that in these largest markets. It is unlikely that any other country will compete with the top three anytime soon. However, these fast-growing alternatives will provide opportunities for game developers looking to expand to new regions.