When the COVID-19 pandemic first started gaining traction on a global scale in the beginning of 2020, no one knew what to expect. Now in the middle of August, this new contagious strain of coronavirus is still actively spreading worldwide and proves that a “new normal” is inevitable. With social distancing measures in place by many countries, people were (and some still are) force to stay home. Even if these laws are not enforced, people are less comfortable going outside and risk infecting themselves and others.
One industry that benefits from this “stay home’ culture is indeed gaming. The broader video games industry has experienced major boosts during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 46% increase in video gamers in the United States and a third of consumers reported subscribing to a video gaming service for the first time. Considering a large role that casual games are playing in the video games industry, especially being the biggest driver of mobile gaming consumption, this sub-industry has seen quite a surge as well.
With the recent announcements of 2020’s second quarter (Q2 2020) earnings, this article takes a closer look at some of the major publically-listed players in the casual gaming industry and the impact they have seen from the COVID-19 pandemic.
With over 271 monthly active users under its belt, the prolific studio behind Match 3 phenomenon Candy Crush Saga is undoubtedly one of casual games’ biggest forces. King’s revenue in Q2 2020 grew 11% YoY, showing growth in both in-app purchases and advertising. This was also King’s highest revenue level since it was bout by Activision in 2016.
While King’s growth has steadied towards the end of the second quarter, its executives are confident that many new gamers will remain loyal even after the pandemic ends. The studio’s upcoming flagship runner game Crash Bandicoot: On the Run!, from the famous Crash franchise, is also expected to make a splash on mobile in the next quarter.
King is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard. Read the full Q2 2020 results announcements here.
Big Fish Games
The beloved publisher of hidden object games and free-to-play hits didn’t report its Q2 results as it is owned by the Australian giant Aristocrat Leisure. However, a lot can be derived from its half-year announcement ending March 31st 2020. Although the full impact of COVID-19 has clearly not been realized yet in this report, the company saw a whopping 19% increase in digital game bookings. Recently, Big Fish Games also launched EverMerge, which saw great success and garnered over 300,000 monthly downloads according to Sensortower.
Big Fish’s evergreen mobile games are also still bringing in revenue – led by Big Fish Casino, Jackpot Magic Slots, Gummy Drop, and Cooking Craze. Its premium paid games on desktop remained consistent, accounting for 4% of AAristocrat’s digital game bookings. With a diversified portfolio of games, the company has surely seen aa surge during the lockdown and that should reflect in its year-end earnings report.
Big Fish Games is a subsidiary of Aristocrat Leisure Limited. Read the full Half-Year 2020 results announcements here.
Zynga is a key developer in the mobile casual games market, having released chart-topping games such as Toon Blast, Toy Blast, Farmville, and Merge Dragons. This past quarter was the company’s historic peak in terms of revenue and bookings – revenue skyrocketed 47% YoY and bookings was up 38%. Much of the growth was credited to Empires & Puzzles, Merge Magic!, and Game of Thrones Slots Casino.
Many of Zynga’s highlights in Q2 2020 include experimental game formats such as Bumped Out on the Snap Games platform and Work Pop, a one-of-a-kind voice-based game for Amazon’s Alexa. While the company will still be working from home in the foreseeable future, it is confident that its performance in the next quarter will continue to grow.
Read the full Q2 2020 results announcements from Zynga here.
Do you know that Gamehouse is owned by the same company that operates Napster? RealNetworks, Gamehouse’s parent company, just released their Q2 2020 earnings report and things are certainly looking good. The conglomerate’s games devision saw a 23% increase in revenue YoY, attributing the success to free-to-play games.
Although Gamehouse’s subscription revenue was down slightly (which makes sense considering there were only three Gamehouse Original Stories releases this year), in-app purchases and advertising revenue saw a boost. Gamehouse has a few strong free-to-play titles in its portfolio, including Heart’s Medicine: Doctor’s Oath, Delicious Bed & Breakfast, and Delicious World. With more people staying at home, Gamehouse is well-positioned to capture growth in the coming quarters.
Gamehouse is a subsidiary of RealNetworks. Read the full Q2 2020 results announcements here.
Glu Mobile is one of the most well-known names in the casual gaming industry, having produced multiple worldwide sensations since it established in 2001. In Q2 2020, Glu Mobile’s revenue jumped 40% and bookings increased 72% YoY. This was driven by growth games like Design Home and Covet Fashion, relatively new games like Diner Dash Adventures, as well as catalog games like Kim Kardashian Hollywood.
The studio also recently joined the Disney IP-driven games business with Disney’s Sorcerer Arena, generating $22 million worth of bookings. While the company expects its performance to return back to its normal level in Q3 2020, its strong portfolio and loyal players will continue to drive its success for years to come.
Read the full Q2 2020 results announcements from Glu Mobile here.
Rovio has long been known as the makers of the Angry Birds franchise. The Finnish developer saw aa lighter revenue lift from the “new normal” compared to some other casual game developers. Rovio’s Q2 2020 revenue declined slightly at 3.6% YoY, however much of that has to do with a decrease in licensing fees from Angry Birds merchandise and films. Looking purely at the games revenue, the company saw an uptick of 2.2% YoY.
Games in the Angry Birds franchise continued to bring in revenue in the past quarter, but growth was mainly driven by Sugar Blast and the recently-launched Small Town Murders. Rovio aims to launch two more new games within 2020; Hard Head Squad and Darkfire Heroes.
Read the full Q2 2020 results announcements from Rovio here.
Closing out the casual gaming industry this earnings season, G5 Entertainment reported stellar results for Q2 2020. CCOVID-19 positively boosted game downloads by around 27% in the United States, bringing worldwide revenue up 27% YoY. Notably, the studio’s flagship Match 3 game Jewels of Rome accounted for a large 20% of total revenue. G5 Entertainment smartly capitalized on the game’s success by releasing two spin-offs in 2020 – Jewels of Wild West and Jewels of Egypt.
G5 Entertainment’s robust portfolio mix of hidden object games and Match 3 gives it a competitive edge over competitors. The studio’s hidden object games including Hidden City and The Secret Society made up a gigantic 19% of the hidden object games market this past quarter, while its Match 3 games made up 0.3% of the respective market (undoubtedly dominated by Playrix’s titles like Gardenscapes).
Read the full Q2 2020 results announcements from G5 Entertainment here.