Mobile game downloads jump as coronavirus keeps people indoors

FILE PHOTO: "Game for Peace", Tencent's alternative to the blockbuster video game "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds" (PUBG) in China, is seen on a mobile phone in this illustration picture taken May 13, 2019. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration/Fiel Photo

(Reuters) - Millions of Chinese stuck indoors due to fears of the coronavirus epidemic are turning to mobile games to keep themselves occupied.

Global mobile game downloads shot up 39% in February, with China accounting for a major portion of the boost, data from app analytics firm Sensor Tower showed.

Apple’s App Store in China saw a 62% jump in game downloads alone.

Puzzle games like “Brain Out” and Tencent’s online battle game, “Honor of Kings”, were among the most downloaded in China, according to data from mobile app analytics firm App Annie.

Gamers also spent heavily, with Tencent’s “Game For Peace”, a PUBG-like game for the Asian market, raking in the most in China. “Lineage 2”, a multi-player role playing game, topped the charts in user spending in South Korea.

The coronavirus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has spread around the world, killing more than 3,000 people globally, with the vast majority in China.

“Gaming has been one of the main beneficiaries in terms of increased time spent due to quarantine,” Stephens analyst Jeff Cohen wrote in a note to clients on Monday. He expects game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc to benefit from the trend.

In the first three weeks of February, the average weekly game downloads in China had jumped 80%, compared with the average weekly download for the whole of 2019, App Annie said.

Overall, mobile game downloads touched about 4 billion globally, up from 2.9 billion a year earlier. Asia witnessed a 46% jump to 1.6 billion in February, according to Sensor Tower data.

Reporting by Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva