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5G

Console yourself: 5G to speed game growth in 2021

While 2020 had bad bits too, it certainly got game.

From April at least to September, the average weekly downloads of mobile games across the app stores "hovered around 1 billion," says app analytics firm App Annie.

The US and China especially drove global downloads to 14 billion from July to September.

And five games brought in over $1 billion in 2020.

Very tops on the leader board was Tencent's PUBG Mobile, which combined with its Chinese localization Game for Peace brought in $2.6 billion during 2020.

Shall we play a game?

Coronavirus made gaming mainstream.

Four out of five Americans have played a video game in the last six months, for instance, says Mat Piscatella, an analyst with NPD Group.

Simple, intuitive games – think, hyper-casual Scribble Rider and (just as well since real construction sites were quiet) Construction Simulator: Forklift Truck Game – did best.

The growth was strongest among 12- to 30-year-olds, "leaving behind social media for more interactive experiences," says Tom Wijman, a senior market analyst at gaming analytics company Newzoo.

But slightly grayer gamers, aged 55 to 64, are playing 48% more than they were a year ago, too.

More mobile

So after this supershooter year, where does gaming go in 2021?

It's more than likely some of the "mobile gaming habits established during the pandemic will persist," says Omdia's games research analyst Louise Shorthouse.

For one, if the app store isn't quite dead, it's certainly fragmenting.

Huawei is setting out its stall, as is Epic Games, maker of Fortnite.

They'll all be wanting to offer app developers a bigger cut of revenue, to tempt them over.

And pressure, including from regulators on Apple and Google, could change how they dish out pennies to devs, too.

Another big difference will be 5G, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, which is set to generate the most subscribers in the very near term.

Mobile gaming has as good a case as any to benefit from 5G's speed and low latency.

After the success of Activision's Call of Duty: Mobile, games publishers will want to copy their example and work on bringing their console and PC-based intellectual property to smartphones, she says.

This was the first significant, western-focused console franchise to launch an optimized mobile offering, which it did late in 2019.

It's now spent 2020 garnering a place among the most downloaded and highest grossing games titles, not only in the US but also in emerging markets like India and Brazil.

Candy Crush it

And if you're a vendor, maybe think about less-established and grayer gamers.

These gamers may show a refreshed appetite for board games and brain training.

Plus, traditional games in your stable can be redesigned for educational content and brain training.

There are regional differences here, too.

While Asia seems to go more for massively multiplayer online roleplaying games, Western audiences are plumping for the likes of Candy Crush.

These casual puzzle, simulation and match-3 games lend themselves well to roles as outgrowths from social networking.

Mobile games may have been one of 2020's biggest winners.

But with the rise of 5G, new nontraditional gamers, and more app store platforms, all eyes will now be on the next, 2021, level too.

Pádraig Belton, contributing editor special to Light Reading

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