Skip to main content

Mobile games see coronoavirus surge as Chinese citizens stay home

Amid bleak warnings and reports of industry disruption, another statistic emerging from China over the last month brings some humanity to the situation. Millions are turning to games while they must stay home to avoid the coronavirus, officially named Covid-19, which continues to sweep through China.

Mobile gaming dominates in China, and China’s App Store has the number to prove it. Between January 11 and February 9, 2020, there were 45% more first-time installs of games compared to the same period last year, according to analyst group Sensor Tower.

People aren’t just downloading games only to forget about them after. Spending is up 23%, with Game for Change (China’s version of PUBG Mobile)Honor of Kings, and Brain Out among the top performers. Players are likely spending more time with those games, giving them time to become invested enough to spend more money than they otherwise would on microtransactions.

It’s not just games seeing an uptick. Education and business apps are on the rise as people in China stay home from work and school. Katie Williams, mobile insights strategist for Sensor Tower, says the data implies parents are using apps to mitigate the learning time their children are missing.

Chinese workers, however, are expected to do as much work as possible, as the government instructed professionals to work from home. Remote working apps – with DingTalk, Tencent Conference, and WeChat Work leading the charge – saw large bumps over the last month.

Conversely, travel app usage is down. Sensor Tower reported a “significant decline” of 36% year over year, which it attributed to the travel restrictions put in place in response to the coronavirus.

All of this comes with the caveat that app usage and spending do rise over Chinese New Year celebrations, which fell on Saturday, January 25, this year. However, Williams said the comparison over the same period last year, and the weight of the figures, mark a change even when factoring in the New Year.

Chinese citizens are slowly returning to work, but reports note that the situation is far from over. It remains to be seen how long the coronavirus effect on gaming and apps will last, and what the broader implications will be.

Despite the positive turn for gaming and apps, coronavirus has negatively impacted business across the globe. The massive Mobile World Conference in Barcelona was canceled, companies relying on production and material in China have few options, and even some gaming companies face delays and product shortages.

Lisa Marie Segarra
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Lisa Marie Segarra is the Gaming Section at Digital Trends. She's previously covered tech and gaming at Fortune Magazine and…
6 supernatural, spooky games to play after seeing The Exorcist: Believer
Two possessed children look up in "The Exorcist: Believer."

The Exorcist: Believer is out just in time for the spookiest of seasons. A direct sequel to 1973’s The Exorcist, the film flings a whole new family into the horrors of demonic possession and all of the frightening moments that come with it. And while you can totally watch another horror movie after seeing The Exorcist: Believer to keep the creepy mood going, there’s really no better time to sit down with a scary game either.

To help you keep the scares coming, we have a list of horror games that bring plenty of Exorcist-like paranormal frights to the table that will see you through to Halloween. From hunting down ghosts and ghouls to you being the hunted, play them … if you dare.

Read more
Hello Kitty: Island Adventure should be your next mobile game obsession
Sanrio characters hang out on a beach in Hello Kitty: Island Adventure.

I challenge you to find a video game with a better elevator pitch than Hello Kitty: Island Adventure. Get this: It’s Animal Crossing but with Sanrio characters. You don’t need to see a single screenshot or watch a trailer to know if you’re in or out on that idea.

Apple Arcade’s latest exclusive is the gaming platform’s best hope for a subscription mover yet. It’s an undeniably adorable adventure built to deliver on Apple’s promise of high-quality mobile gaming with no pesky ads or microtransactions -- and for the most part, it delivers. Though it lacks key hooks that make the Animal Crossing formula work, Hello Kitty: Island Adventure makes up for some of its shortcomings with an infectiously positive attitude and a downright pleasant visual style that I can’t help but soak in. It’s a summer getaway in your pocket.
Island time
It’s immediately clear what developer Sunblink is aiming to do upon firing up the adventure. After a cute introduction where Hello Kitty almost gets an entire airplane of cute animals killed (yes, really), players parachute onto an island alongside Sanrio staples like My Melody and Keroppi. Within moments of exploring that first hub area -- complete with a furniture shop, clothing store, and a town hall where you can check your “island vibe” score -- it’s pretty clear that Animal Crossing was a direct inspiration here. Even its crafting animation looks identical to the one in New Horizons.

Read more
Last Train Home is a historical strategy game about a World War 1 train heist
EMBARGO JUNE 11: Key art for Last Train Home

THQ Nordic announced Last Train Home, a new real-time strategy game where players must fight and survive as they make their way through a rough Siberian winter on an armored train, during the PC Gaming Showcase. Ahead of its reveal, Digital Trends had the opportunity to learn more about this game.

Last Train Home is developed by Comanche developer Ashborne Games and is based on a real historical event. In World War I, a group of Czechoslovakian soldiers found themselves trapped after the Russian Revolution and civil war began, with the best course of escape being to cross Siberia and escape from a port on the opposite side of Russia. To do this, those soldiers stole an armored train and fought any Russian forces they came across as they rode it through Siberia during a harsh winter. Last Train Home adapts this perilous journey into a video game, with players having to manage their train and soldiers in the hopes of making it through Siberia alive.

Read more