Same, but Different: Games UA in 2020 Compared to 2019

By Doron Wagner

If there’s one thing that’s becoming apparent as 2020 trudges along, it is that “the new normal” simply does not exist yet. A semblance of return to normality is often followed by a rather rude awakening, with governments relying on educated guesses and frequent policy zigzagging to keep infection numbers under control.

But Covid-19 didn’t kill consumerism. Some industries are hurting, and many people have far less disposable income than before, but when it comes to user acquisition — this corner of the marketing industry is very much alive.

At Bidalgo, we’ve shown you the CPMs and impressions for several industries during the pandemic, and now it’s time to look at the bigger picture. And as with our previous reports, we’re focusing on three of the largest app categories: games, entertainment, and health/fitness.

Only this time it’s not about a specific week, but about the first 30 weeks of the year in one of the largest verticals around—Gaming. How different were the first 30 weeks of 2020 from those of 2019? Let’s see. Here’s some of the data we’ve assembled.

The data from both years is relative to the first week of the year.

Gaming User Acquisition Trends in 2020


As you can see, the CPM data began to really deviate from that of last year as the pandemic exploded in Europe and America. The spike at week 9 of 2020 can be discarded as a one-time event, which could’ve been driven by one or a few big customers. Beginning in week 11 i(2nd week of March) things escalate, with drop in CPMs.

As the CPMs drop, the impressions go sharply up, driven by advertisers taking advantage of the rates.

What is less obvious is that the payers rate goes up too. In hindsight, we can guess that as people were locked at home, they turned to smartphones for entertainment.

This anomalous behaviour continues until week 19 (2nd week of May) when things begin to slow down. In numerous countries, this was the period of reopening and easing restrictions. From that point on, it’s a race to catch up to the CPM curve of 2019.

Yet this return to normal is somewhat misleading because while we don’t see much anomalous activity anymore, Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world.

We’re still analyzing July data, but in June, as the US added 44% to its Covid-19 cases (from 1,790,191 to 2,590,552), games CPMs continued to rise while impressions and payers rate fell, the opposite of what we saw during the beginning of the pandemic. So is this “the new normal”, or are we just going through another phase of something unprecedented and unpredictable? Only time will tell.

Published on August 3, 2020
Written by
Doron Wagner

Director of Media Innovation @ Bidalgo.

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