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Mobile game developers have increased free gifts, added more playable content, launched charitable campaigns, and adapted location-based titles during the pandemic, according to a new report from GameRefinery.

The mobile game insight and analytics firm said that game developers and publishers have refined their live operations during the pandemic to offer additional experiences to mobile gamers during their most difficult months.

In contrast to other industries, mobile games have been able to function and even thrive during the coronavirus lockdowns, which have left people isolated at home and looking for ways to pass the time. The capability to create new content on the fly with dynamic live ops has helped tremendously, said Joel Julkunen, vice president of games at GameRefinery in a report.

Perhaps the biggest effort is the #PlayApartTogether campaign, supported by 55 companies who are sharing the message for social distancing on behalf of the World Health Organization. This is one of many ways that games have raised awareness for users about the world situation. Developers also issued expressions of sympathy and practical guidance about washing hands regularly.


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Many game developers have issued free gifts such as virtual items, virtual currency, and other prizes to users. The developers have also prolonged live events, added more playable content, and given green energy/lives to users so they can play for longer times. They’re introducing COVID-19 special items, fixing major gameplay balance or tech issues, and changing location-based games to enable social distancing or in-home gameplay.


Above: Pokémon Go gets Battle League

Image Credit: Niantic

In some games, for instance, developers added N95 masks to characters. King gave players 24 hours of free lives for a whole week in Candy Crush Saga, and Electronic Arts gave more loot in Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. This enable players to play longer and engage more.

In location-based games such as Pokémon Go, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and Jurassic World, developers have made changes that decrease the need to go outside as often and as far. For instance, players can get free items that can lure monsters to your location so you don’t have to go outside.

Julkunen said, “As the COVID-19 situation has had an increasing impact on the lives of players around the world, developers and publishers have been swift to react in various ways. Games across different regions and genres have increased the amount of playable content available, loosened up their session length restrictions, and handed out in-game freebies to their players.”

These are some of the reasons that mobile gaming hasn’t lost users but actually increased participation. At the moment it’s hard to estimate how long the pandemic will last and what’s the eventual impact on mobile gaming and games. However, as people are slowly getting used to the new situation, it’s almost guaranteed that we will see some level of longer-term changes in player behavior, feature trends, and the industry as a whole, Julkunen said.

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