Despite huge growth, gaming is still seen by many as having a niche audience. The reality, however, is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Figures released in March by comScore showed that, of the entire internet population of 1.5bn people, on average, 645m – or 41.5 per cent – play online games. That percentage is only going to grow as online gaming content becomes more readily available, and not just as internet penetration increases, but also, as tablets and smartphones become even more prevalent.
And with the growth of online and mobile advertising continuing unabated, this sector of gaming is likely to become a hugely important channel for brands. According to eMarketer, the US mobile gaming audience alone has continued a steady double-digit growth since 2011, and will reach 162.4m people by 2015. To put that in perspective, that’s 50.5 per cent of the US population that will actively play games on mobile devices. Furthermore, mobile gamers are also affluent; Shullman Research Center reports that 59 per cent of social gamers earn in excess of $75,000 (£48,000) a year, making them an attractive audience for brands to target.
Furthermore, a breakdown of the top three gaming nations, conducted by Newzoo, shows just how much time these people are spending playing games: in 2011, 145m US gamers produced an average of 215m game hours per day; 31m UK gamers produced 43m game hours per day; and 36m German gamers racked up 47m game hours per day.
comScore and other industry stats show that the penetration of online games is something that crosses both gender and age divides. This is also highlighted by another recent set of stats from the Netherlands National Gamers Survey conducted by Newzoo, which showed that there was only one demographic where gaming didn’t have over 50 per cent penetration, and that was men over 50… but even that segment saw 45 per cent penetration.
However, one of the first things we need to do when talking about gaming from an advertising perspective is to make the distinction between casual and hardcore gaming. Casual games hold the most interest to brands, as hardcore gamers do not want to be distracted while playing their games. And by casual gaming we mean games where the user just needs a browser and an internet connection, and they certainly don’t need a lengthy manual. This means they can be used for short bursts, or “snack” moments, of entertainment and stress relief.
Within the casual gaming sector, there are many different types of games: ones that you play alone; ones that you can play alone but where you can share elements with others (social games); or full-on, real-time multiplayer games. And certain types of games appeal more to certain demographics, which is vital information for brands looking to target their advertising.
Our own experience with the Spil Games family of platforms shows that young girls are very creative and like to play things such as cooking games (such as Sara’s Cooking Class, caring games and make-up games. They also like to share what they have done with others, which helps them to build their confidence in a safe environment.
Meanwhile, adult women play games primarily to break away from their daily routine, or escape from reality, and at the same time get some mental stimulation. As such, they tend to prefer puzzle games, quizzes, word games (such as Words With Friends), matching games and mahjong-style games.
Boys, on the other hand, tend to be much more interested in discovering their own identities, setting high scores, gaining achievements and winning. Their choice of games is much more about competition than creativity and collaboration, with popular choices including racing games (such as Uphill Rush), sports games and action games. This same philosophy and mentality also ports over to the types of games adult men play, too.
Of course there is always a certain amount of crossover. For example, we know that around 20 per cent of our young female audience also likes to play more male-oriented games. Our challenge, therefore, is to offer the most relevant games, based on what we know about the user and their gaming habits, which we do by having specific destinations for specific types of content. These range from GirlsgoGames, which targets young girls aged 6-12 and would represent the perfect advertising spot for brands like Barbie or Mattel, to more family-oriented channels such as Games.co.uk that have a broader mix of audience.
But probably the single most important point for advertisers is the level of engagement offered by gaming platforms. Casual gamers actively want to interact, and they have time on their hands to be entertained. Unlike a magazine site or a video-based site, where visitors often sit back and consume and actively seek to avoid advertising, a gaming audience has a much more positive mindset. Research by the Interactive Advertising Bureau shows that 83 per cent of online gamers are open to advertising in return for free gaming content – in short this means that they see advertising a natural part of the online gaming environment.
This makes advertising much more effective. According to research by engagement specialist MediaBrix, gaming ad campaigns are outperforming standard online ad campaigns, generating both higher average click-through rates (CTRs) and engagement levels than many online formats.
The MediaBrix report shows that gaming video ads generate an average CTR of 3 per cent, roughly 30 times higher than the CTR of standard banner advertising campaigns (0.1 per cent), Facebook ads (0.03 per cent to 0.11 per cent) and rich media banner ads (0.12 per cent). Our own experience shows average CTR on video for all Spil Games websites worldwide stands at 2.8 per cent, with skinned pre-roll ads generating 4.7 per cent worldwide.
Time on site for gaming is also a force to be reckoned with. Speak to any magazine publisher and they’ll feel very happy to know their readers have been staying on site for around five to six minutes. Across our platforms we’re seeing an average session time of up to 30 minutes – with some regions as high as 50 minutes. Added to this, most users consume on average three to four different games per session, which offers advertisers a lot of different opportunities to connect with audiences.
Our belief is that there is a person who wants to play games in everybody, and this makes online casual gaming the mass-market media of the day, with broad demographic appeal. And with online advertisers paying on a cost-per-interaction model and not on a slot model as they would in the world of traditional TV advertising, it’s a win-win situation for all parties involved. But the clearest message of all is that if brands are not looking seriously at the potential for advertising in the casual gaming sector, then they are going to miss out.
Oscar Diele is vice president of global brands at Spil Games