The Singapore-based Garena, the gaming division of internet company Sea, announced the numbers as part of its earnings report, and it’s another sign that games are growing stronger during the pandemic. The previous record in March was 60 million daily active users (the number of users that log in during a day).
Overall, Garena’s adjusted revenue for digital entertainment during the first quarter ended March 31 was $512.4 million, up 30.3% year-on-year from $393.3 million. Adjusted earnings before income tax, depreciation, and amortization (a measure of profitability) was $298.4 million, compared to $225.8 million a year earlier. Sea had revenues of $913.9 million in the quarter.
Free Fire was ranked third globally by downloads for Google Play in the mobile games category in the first quarter of 2020, according to App Annie. Free Fire ranks high among other popular battle royale games like Call of Duty: Warzone, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Fortnite. But Free Fire focuses on mobile, and it has 50 players battling at once in a winner-take-all competition (many others have 100 players facing off against one another).
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Local celebrity marketing
During the quarter, Garena added new content, such as its Kalahari map and a ranked mode for the popular Clash Squads game mode. Garema chairperson Forrest Li said in the earnings call that the company is localizing content for different markets around the world, including working with Indonesian actor Joe Taslim and Brazilian music artist DJ Alok.
In Colombia, two of that country’s best-known soccer players, James Rodriguez and David Ospina, each captained teams of Free Fire influencers in an online charity tournament that attracted over a million views. These local celebrity promotions, esports events, and localized updates are the way that Garena typically expands its audience, rather than standard marketing approaches.
Free Fire has done well as mobile-only title with a heavy emphasis on multiplayer competition, and it has been designed to run on a wide variety of mobile devices.
For the full quarter, Garena said Free Fire had 402.1 million quarterly active users up 48% for year. It also had 35.7 million quarterly paying users (those that spent money during the quarter) up 72.5% from 20.7 million a year earlier. Free Fire was the highest-grossing mobile game in Latin America and Southeast Asia during the quarter, Garena said.
And in April, Free Fire hit a record high in monthly paying users, which more than doubled from the same month a year ago. In India, monthly paying users is 10% of the total user base.
And in the first quarter, Garena organized more than double the number of esports tournaments online for Free Fire compared to the first quarter of 2019, with these tournaments accumulating over 90 million views.
Overall, Sea’s business includes SeaMoney (payments), e-commerce, and digital entertainment.