Online gaming undoubtedly gained a lot of popularity during the COVID-19 lockdown; be it family members or office workers, people from all walks of life turned to this virtual avenue as a coping mechanism to beat the mental and social demons brought forth by the pandemic.
Apart from video calling, it was mobile gaming that took India by storm during the dark and uncertainty-filled days of lockdown and social distancing. As people struggled to maintain the work-life balance with most working remotely, the popularity of mobile gaming surged among the millennials and boomers alike.
A 2020 study conducted by various organisations highlighted that the average Indian was spending seven hours a week on mobile games, and that duration increased for a large section (53%) of the population during that period as their only coping mechanism.
According to a CyberMedia Research (CMR) report that came out in November 2020, mobile gaming increased among three in every five gamers, with four hours being the average duration increase since the lockdown was first imposed in the country. Moreover, 15 percent of the regular gamers switched to paid mobile gaming apps while freemium gaming apps saw a rise of eight percent.
Interestingly, in that same report, it was stated that Indian men mostly indulged in action/adventure (71%) genre of games and first-person shooting games (63%), with “Call of Duty: Mobile Edition” and “Genera Free Fire” being the most popular first-person shooting games. However, among women, the most popular type of games were puzzles (65%), followed by multiplayer games (56%).
Thus, here, we take a look at the 10 games that have ruled the mobile gaming space during this COVID-enforced lockdown.
Among Us, developed by the gaming company InnerSloth LLC, was released on June 15, 2018. However, it wasn’t until the COVID-enforced lockdown that the developers realised the game’s full potential. In September 2020, Among Us became the most downloaded game worldwide with 83.8 million installations. Similarly, in India, kids went crazy for this new game.
Among Us is a multiplayer game about teamwork and betrayal. Crewmates can win by completing all tasks or discovering and voting the impostor off the ship. The Impostor can use sabotage to cause chaos, making for easier kills and better alibis. You and your friends can play online or over LAN with 4-15 players in an attempt to keep the ship together where one will be an imposter bent on killing everyone.
Launched in 2016, Ludo King became one of the most installed games during the initial phase of the COVID lockdown. The growth during the initial phase of the lockdown helped Ludo King reach the #1 spot in the top charts of free games on Google Play Store for a few days.
Ludo King is the modern version of the royal game of Pachisi, a game which was played between Indian kings and queens in ancient times: roll the dice and move your tokens to reach the centre of the Ludo board, beat other players, and become the Ludo King.
The game smashed all mobile gaming records in India, becoming the most downloaded gaming app across all genres. Ludo King surpassed some of the most popular games like Temple Run, PUBG Mobile, Clash of Clans and others in monthly active users in India.
PUBG Mobile emerged as the highest-grossing mobile game of 2020. According to Sensor Tower, the Tencent-owned game raked in a revenue of close to US$2.6 billion from both Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store. The figure represents an increase of 64 percent from last year.
According to the data by Sensor Tower Store Intelligence, both PUBG Mobile and its rebranded version in China called Game For Peace managed to accumulate the highest revenue from Play Store and App Store.
The immensely popular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile app was among the 118 Chinese apps that the Indian government banned in September 2020 over national security concerns.
However, in November 2020, PUBG Corporation said it would make a comeback to the Indian market with the creation of an Indian subsidiary and a new game.
Launched during the last leg of 2016, for Pokémon GO, 2020 has been its best year by far where it accumulated a revenue increase of 31.5 per cent. This sudden increase was because of the various implementations in the game allowing for playing during the pandemic-induced lockdown.
Pokémon GO is a global gaming sensation that has been downloaded over 1 billion times and has been named “Best Mobile Game” by the Game Developers Choice Awards and “Best App of the Year” by TechCrunch. It’s fascinating how Pokémon GO has withstood the test of time and continues to impress with its longevity and mass popularity.
Genera Free Fire
Garena Free Fire grew to become one of the top five grossing entries in the action genre since its launch in late 2017. Garena Free Fire is a battle royale game, developed by 111 Dots Studio and published by Garena for Android and iOS.
Free Fire is the ultimate survival shooter game available on mobile. Each 10-minute game places you on a remote island where you are pitted against 49 other players, all seeking survival. Players freely choose their starting point with their parachutes and aim to stay in the safe zone for as long as possible.
Drive vehicles to explore the vast map, hide in the wild, or become invisible by proning under grass or rifts. Ambush, snipe, survive, there is only one goal: to survive and answer the call of duty.
However, ever since the enforced lockdown and the ban on Chinese apps, Free Fire has quickly jumped up to become the #1 grossing free game in the Google Play Store top charts. The developers have added various modes to keep its active users hooked, ranging from a 10-minute survival game to four-man squad games and Clash squads.
Call of Duty
Activision Publishing’s Call of Duty (COD) was met with open arms by the Indian gaming community as the game surged to the top of the action genre during the heydays of the COVID-enforced lockdown. It is safe to say that the acceptance of COD was largely down to its audience engaging with its earlier PC & Console instalments before moving to this mobile edition.
Moreover, Activision Publishing focused primarily on the current trend by fusing the 100-player battle royale battlegrounds and the 5v5 deathmatches with its iconic maps and locations of the past. The game also introduced the “Customize your unique loadout” feature along with many tweaks and updates.
This lockdown brought with it some of the memories of yesteryears. Launched in 2012, Subway Surfers was one of the first games you would find in almost every smartphone during those days, and in the COVID lockdown, people went back to those days as downloads and daily usage of the game surged once again.
After almost one-and-a-half years, the results are there for all to see: Subway Surfers has slowly climbed up the ladder to become second in the Top Free games chart in the arcade category. Moreover, the game has crossed over a billion downloads and is still going strong as it enters the 10th year since its launch.
It would be impossible to talk about the most downloaded mobile games without tipping our hat to an absolute classic. The original Angry Birds was nothing short of a phenomenon, paving the way for multiple spin-offs and sequels that have all become wildly successful in their own right. While the Angry Birds franchise might not be the most popular thing around right now, props should still be given to this mobile game that sparked a string of copycats.
Moreover, after a steady seven-year run, Angry Birds saw a surge in installs and downloads by 35 percent during the first lockdown phase. Although figures returned to normal, the new normal had a sharp 10-15 percent rise in figures compared to pre-COVID data.
In Temple Run, players are tasked with guiding an adventurer seeking a golden idol through a dangerous temple. Easy to learn but difficult to master, Temple Run has spawned several spin-offs, a book series, and even a potential movie tie-in. For those with an itch that can only be scratched by an Indiana Jones-esque auto-runner, the Temple Run games are the perfect antidote.
The developers celebrated the game’s 10th anniversary early in March this year, and despite these years, the game has regained some of its previous users during the lockdown, much like Clash of Clans and Subway Surfers.
Clash of Clans
For those who want a game with a bit more depth, Clash of Clans provides engrossing strategy mechanics wrapped up in an adorable isometric art style. Adding to this winning formula is the fact that the game is playable online. Teaming up with friends to fight battles and earn gold is thrilling.
Although the game lost some of its charm with the rise of games like PUBG and other action/POV games, with PUBG facing a ban in India since September 2020, its audience got split primarily between Clash of Clans and Call of Duty: Mobile, the key takeaway here being that most if not all PUBG and COD players already are/were Clash of Clans players and thus it was not a surprise to see Clash of Clans suddenly surge inside the Top three Free Grossing games on Google Play Store with a rise of 21 percent in downloads during that period.
Sure, there are micro-transactions aplenty and the impulse to spend just a couple hundred bucks for perks is difficult to ignore, but the engrossing gameplay keeps devoted players coming back for more.