The Impact of COVID-19 in China Gaming App Market and Mobile Gamers

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Undeniably, COVID-19 boosted user engagement on mobile gaming apps as stay-at-home orders prevail to contain the resurgence of the virus. 

While the China gaming app market is already big, shutting the doors, made it even bigger, making the market more saturated. However, this should not deter foreign-owned gaming app publishers from entering the market, despite the stiff competition among homegrown players.

In this post, you’ll learn COVID-19’s impact on the China gaming app market and how users respond to the trend.

mobile gaming app in china

Consumption of gaming apps surges due to lockdown

Chinese consumers spent 30% more time on their smartphones, which was higher than the daily average rate in 2019 during the lockdown in January.

As residents explored other ways to be entertained, playing games had become a haven to curb boredom and socialize. With more time spent at home, gaming habits were formed. 

Social mechanics became popular that allowed gamers to interact and play with others virtually. Meanwhile, the social/casino genre increased to 56% during the lockdown. 

All in all, the top gaming apps worldwide are Tencent’s PUBG Mobile and Honor of Kings with revenues of $225.2 million and $156 million, respectively.  

Brands engage with consumers using mobile game apps 

Brands and influencers quickly adapted to virtual activities and strategies to engage with consumers. Alibaba, one of the major players in the market, is one of them. It used Taobao Life, a 3D avatar game that was developed to attract Generation Z.

In this game, players customize characters and complete daily challenges to earn points. Afterward, they use those points to buy virtual clothes and accessories based on luxury items. 

During the lockdown last Valentine’s Day, Alibaba partnered with Burberry, Hugo Boss, and other luxury brands to reach out to consumers through its Tmall Luxury. 

Alibaba created a campaign via Taobao Life that allows users to buy limited edition items for their 3D avatars made by the brands. Users captured photos, shared them with friends and loved ones with Valentine-themed backgrounds

The rise of video-game streaming platforms

Alongside the popularity of PBUG Mobile, Honor of Kings, and 3D avatar games, there’s another trend shaping up the sector. Enter video-game streaming

Video-game streaming app downloads increased during the lockdown as gamers aren’t just entertained by playing games. Residents were keen to use game streaming apps to watch other play or allow other players to watch them. 

Huy and Douyu (China’s version of Twitch) became popular among gamers looking for game streams and content. 

Monetization options from in-app purchases flourish

The business model in generating revenue has significantly changed for the past years. Consumers buy fewer games compared to decades ago. However, they spend more time playing with their chosen games.

With that being said, gamers are less likely to try out a variety of games. Once they find the one that matches their preferences, they stick with it. Thus, this trend pushes businesses to build recurring revenue from those active users. 

Most games today have in-app purchases to encourage recurring purchases from gamers. For instance, during the lockdown, video game companies introduced and extended new promotions for more buy-ins. 

Other game app makers shifted from free games to in-game purchases, according to a technology research firm, Omdia. 

Mobile ad spending increases as gamers use smartphones to play

On another note, gamers are not the only ones enjoying the pleasure of entertainment and leisure. Companies are also taking advantage of the extended lockdowns as they spend on mobile advertisements. 

While China’s mobile gaming market is on its upward trend, research shows that mobile gamers tend to be more receptive to advertising than non-gamers. 43% of players are likely to buy or use brands with advertisements they like — posing a massive opportunity for brands. 

In a nutshell, brands should look at mobile advertising in the gaming industry or risk losing the opportunity. 

Today, most of China’s games, social media channels, and streaming apps have advertisement options. Douyin is one of the pioneers that have a large number of ad styles to choose from. Thus, gaming app publishers should leverage these avenues to reach out to new users. 


Overall, despite the saturation in the market, the gaming sector is still on its upward trend. 

Games have become the go-to of most people to entertain themselves and socialize in different game genres. If you’re thinking of localizing your mobile game app, make sure you have a strategy before dipping your toes into one of the world’s most competitive markets. 

Let us know how the LIMPID team can help you with the translation and localization of gaming apps.