Prep Research for 2020 1Q Report

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1Q2020 - Casual Gaming Highlights

In the first quarter of 2020 there have been notable platforms to watch including Stadia by Google and GameSnacks for faster gaming. In addition, game funding and trends have been notable highlights in the news of casual gaming between January 1, 2020, and March 30, 2020.

Google Stadia

  • Since its release in November 2019, Stadia gaming platform by Google has had decreasing download numbers and users, however, the company is optimistic about the platforms' performance in 2020.
  • In January 2020, Google announced that they are still investing in working out the kinks of the platform and planning to release 120 games in 2020.
  • The platform is supposed to provide all platform-supported games without the need to download which could be a great feature in the casual gaming market.
  • Announced improvements that will be rolled out this year include the following:

GameSnacks From Google Introduces Faster Gaming

  • On February 13, 2020, GameSancks from Google's Area 120 was launched. The idea is to increase the speed that casual games load on mobile devices regardless of the internet speed.
  • According to Techcrunch, the average person leaves a web page if it does not load in 3 seconds. Google's Area 120 aimed to provide a solution due to most mobile devices running on 2G or 3G speeds and having expensive data plans.
  • GameSnacks claims that it will allow games to load in a few seconds regardless of network speed including speeds as low as 500 kbps.
  • The system decreases the size of the initially loaded HTML and compresses additional data until it is necessary which will allow games to load faster.
  • The platform is aimed at mobile casual games defined as games that only last a few minutes that are meant to fill down-time in everyday life, however, it is compatible on any web-capable device.
  • GameSnacks is working with the following developers: Famobi, Inlogic Games, Black Moon Design, Geek Games, and Enclave Games.

Big Run Studios

  • On March 24, 2020, Big Run Studios acquired new funding from Galaxy Interactiv in the amount of $1.4 million USD.
  • The company's new release Blackout Blitz has hit androids top 25 games in the last 2 months.
  • According to Venture Beat, the company has shown unprecedented retention, monetization, and growth in the casual gaming space.

Social Casual Gaming

  • In 2020, the market is expected to see a trend in social MMO (massive multiplayer online) gaming in casual games.
  • Facebook, Klang Games, Darewise Entertainment and Singularity 6 have begun looking for funding or developing functionalities that support social integrations into casual gaming.
  • Essentially, games will emphasize social functionalities that will engage users in new open-world MMO games with a focus on casual gaming.

GameAnalytics Report

  • In February, GameAnalytics released a report on the hypercasual gaming, drawing data from the previous years to analyze he outlook for 2020, which contained the following insights:
    • Competition is growing in the hypercasual gaming space with the following top competitors: VooDoo, Lion Studios, Say Games and Crazy Labs.
    • 42 publishers worldwide generated a total of 10 million downloads in January 2020.
    • In 2020, it is expected that there will be around 1 in 5 apps that are HyperCasual in the Top 100, niches and mechanics will expand further, and ad Monetization will get smarter and more native.

1Q 2020 New Releases

Top Games

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1Q2020 - Gaming Highlights

2020 has been a slow start in the video game industry, however, there have been a few notable moves by big companies including Bytedance moving into the non-casual gaming space, 2K making a gaming deal with the NFL, and Atari opening gaming-themed hotels. Details of Q1 2020 highlights in the gaming industry have been provided below.

TikTok's Owner Bytedance Enters The Gaming Space

The NFL Teams Up With 2K

  • On March 10, 2020, 2K announced that they would be teaming up with the NFL to make officially licensed football games again that would not compete with Madden.
  • The company will release and undisclosed number of games in a series with the first game already in early development and set to release in 2021.
  • According to the announcement, the games will be “non-simulation football game experiences,” so that they do not compete with the NFL's partnership with Madden games.
  • 2K has not made licensed football games in 16 years since the NFL partnered with EA games in 2004.
  • Both entities have declined to share any details about the partnership pertaining to release dates, game details, studio publishing, or NFL players that will be included.

Atari Opening Video Game Themed Resorts

  • On January 31, 2020, Atari announced that they are planning to open 8 hotel resorts that will be designed for gaming. The first hotel is set to begin construction later this year in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • The company stated, "Atari Hotels level up hotel entertainment with fully immersive experiences for every age and gaming ability, including the latest in VR and AR (Virtual and Augmented Reality). Select hotels will also feature state-of-the-art venues and studios to accommodate esports events."
  • The company partnered with GSD Group and True North Studio to begin the national project that will be spread across the United States.
  • The planned locations for the first resorts include Seattle, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, Austin, Texas, San Francisco, and San Jose.

Violent Behavior Links To Video Games Denied

  • In March 2020, the American Psychological Association released a statement that clarified a previous release from 2015 which stated the group "confirms [the] link between playing violent video games and aggression."
  • The new statement says that "there is insufficient scientific evidence to support a causal link between violent video games and violent behavior." The group reiterated that not all aggression comes in the form of violence.
  • The release stated, "The following resolution should not be misinterpreted or misused by attributing violence, such as mass shootings, to violent video game use. Violence is a complex social problem that likely stems from many factors that warrant attention from researchers, policy-makers and the public. Attributing violence to violent video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors."

Sonic The Hedge Hog Movie Success

  • In February 2020, 'Sonic the Hedge Hog' was released in theaters. This movie made video game news due to its wild success for a movie based off a video game and early controversy.
  • Most movies that are based off video games do not do fantastically well at the box office, however, Sonic generated $57 million domestically on its opening day making it the highest grossing opening ever for a video game film.
  • The movie was delayed in production stages due to controversial animation that lead the film developers to rework the character before the final release and drove up the film's budget. The move paid off though, as the film surpassed its projected box office earnings by $17 million for opening day.

Q1 2020 New Releases

Top Games

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COVID-19 and Casual Gaming

Three of the top impacts the coronavirus has had on casual gaming include changes and cancellations to features in games, virus-themed game downloads and creation, and increased overall usage and downloads of casual games globally. Details of each impact have been provided below.

Game Changes And Cancellations

  • Due to limited social activity and interactive concerns that have recently developed due to the coronavirus, several games have changed their process, canceled certain features, and even created new products.
  • Pokemon Go has canceled community events, raid events, and encouraged players to stay at home. In addition, the game has offered promotional items and features to encourage the continued use of the app at peoples homes including reduced cost items like incense and increased item time usage.
  • Similarly, Wizards Unite has released an updated version of the game designed to make the game more playable at home, however, the company has not released any statements except the confirmation that their employees are working from home.

Virus-Themed Games

  • Other companies have taken advantage of the pandemic by releasing new content.
  • TikTok owner, Bytedance, released a pandemic-themed mobile game similar to Fruit Ninja that was released on Monday, February 17, 2020. The game features the coronavirus including real-life characteristics of mutations and replication.
  • Plague, Inc. saw an increase in downloads on the day that the city of Wuhan went into quarantine bringing the app to the top of the App Store's top paid apps chart.
  • The creators of Plague, Inc. issued a statement to players urging them to "Please remember that Plague Inc. is a game, not a scientific model and that the current coronavirus outbreak is a very real situation which is impacting a huge number of people."

Increased Usage And Downloads

  • Usage and downloads of casual games have increased since the mandate that people practice social distancing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
  • According to a Google Ads expert, mobile game downloads have increased by 20-30% since the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Time spent on mobile games in India increased by 20%-30%.
  • In China average downloads and time spent on mobile games increased by 40% in February 2020.
  • In the same month global downloads increased by 39% and downloads on the App Store in China increased by 62%.
  • Parchis STAR by Gameberry Labs saw significant increase in downloads in the past week.
  • Searches for specific types of mobile content has increased including mobile management games increasing by 857%, puzzle games increasing by 590%, and social games increasing by 368%.
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COVID-19 and Gaming

The three biggest impacts on the gaming industry that have been observed due to the coronavirus outbreak include event delays and cancellations, product delays and back orders, and an increase in gaming usage over the past two weeks. Details of each impact have been provided below.

Event Delays and Cancellations

  • Due to the coronavirus, there have been several cancellations of large events, including several gaming events as well as delays in product releases.
  • E3 is an annual conference that is well-known in the gaming industry as one of the leading gaming events of the year, however, due to the pandemic, it was canceled by EA games this year.
    • There has been unofficial talks of the E3 conference being held through a virtual-only platform with companies such as Microsoft, Devolver Digital, and Ubisoft already committing to release trailers and announcements virtually.
  • Another annual conference, the Game Developers Conference, was postponed due to the virus and is expecting to hold the conference later this summer.
  • Both Call of Duty and Overwatch events have been canceled in order to prevent the spread of the virus. These events are generally public, physical events, however, the company has opted to move all competitive events to online-only platforms for the remainder of 2020.
  • Mortal Kombat 11 esports competitions have been canceled for 2020.
  • Sony Pulled out of appearing at PAX East.
  • South By Southwest (SXSW), an entertainment convention in Austin, Texas, and the SXSW Gaming Awards were canceled just days before the event costing vendors hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • TwitchCon canceled one of its annual events in Amsterdam for 2020.

Product Delays And Back Orders

  • In Japan only, the production of Switch products has been delayed which, in turn, has delayed the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons Switch models, Ring Fit Adventure, and supply of joy con controllers.
  • Oculus Quest VR headset is currently back-ordered and there is no current date set that they are expected to be able to be ordered due to production shut-downs.
  • Due to shipping priorities changing for Amazon, the game release of Final Fantasy VII may be postponed or shipping may be delayed depending on the shipping outlook as the release date gets closer.
  • The Outer Worlds game for Switch has been postponed due to the game's creators shutting its doors temporarily due to the pandemic.
  • The TurboGrafx-16 Mini by Konami release has been delayed until further notice.
  • While there has been no official announcement yet, however, several sources and gaming experts expect that the release of both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X will be affected by the coronavirus.

Video Game Usage Increase

  • Since the coronavirus outbreak video game usage has increased by 75% as of March 19, 2020, following the government mandate for citizens to practice social distancing.
  • This sector saw the highest increase in usage over the same period compared to a 20% increase in web traffic, 12% increase in video usage, and no change in social media usage.
  • PC gaming saw a record number of users on March 15 recorded at 20,313,451 users according to SteamDB.
  • Call of Duty: Warzone broke the previous three-day user record by having 15 million players after three days of its release.
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