Why mobile gaming is great for brands

Will Dorling, UK director of brand sales at AdColony, discusses why its time for advertisers to capitalise on the success of mobile gaming

AdColonys Will Dorling discusses why its time for advertisers to capitalise on the success of mobile gamingWhat a difference a year makes: One year ago, Netflix was worried about WarnerMedia, Disney/Fox and Amazon taking away market share with their video streaming services. Now, in 2019, who is Netflix most worried about? None of these. No, Netflix claimed: “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite, more than HBO.”

If that isn’t a sign of the times, I don’t know what is. A massive media company like Netflix – which, may I remind you, was the original disruptor of television – now worried not about others in its space (e.g., video streaming) but looking at the larger market to see who is competing for user attention. Because that’s really what this is about, isn’t it? Attention?

Netflix is a multi-billion-dollar company with 150m paid subscribers; it’s safe to say that they already have plenty of ‘attention’. However, when they observe that a company just two years old now has 250m players, it’s no wonder they see that as a threat.

But it’s not just about the numbers. Here’s why Netflix, and every other media company for that matter, is sitting up and taking notice of the mobile gaming space.

Mobile games fit our modern, fragmented lifestyle
As we culturally become more of a grab-and-go society, where information and experiences are sectioned out into smaller and smaller chunks, mobile games fit in perfectly into those gaps. Waiting in a queue for your coffee? Get in a round of Angry Birds 2 or complete a digital sudoku, word search or other puzzle game.

It’s easy to think that every time someone has a free moment they open up Instagram and start scrolling, but the fact is, for every one minute spent with social platforms, consumers spent two minutes across other apps. And those ‘other apps’ are predominantly games. According to On Device Mobile Gaming Research, nine out of 10 UK adults are playing mobile games, with an average session time of 5.3 minutes – the longest of any category. Some 66 per cent of gamers in the UK play every day, and those who play every day, typically play games 5 times or more per day. So, whether it’s a long session in a battle royale game or a short session with a hyper-casual game, there is something for everyone to explore in their ‘off’ minutes.

You can reach all demographics, from Gen Z → Boomers
Everyone plays mobile games. Unlike PC and console games, the male/female ratio is even with a near 50/50 split for mobile. And while many advertisers have a belief that mobile games are for younger age groups, that can easily be proven wrong if you take a closer look at the audience of each type of mobile game. You can expect the action-heavy Clash of Clans type of game to skew younger, with the majority of players being under 34, or even under 24 years old. However, for word search or puzzle games, such as Word Connect, the average age will be higher, in the 30s and 40s. Think of mobile games like TV channels. You wouldn’t advertise on Strictly Come Dancing to reach a Millennial, but you might to reach a Baby Boomer.

Interactivity & multitasking is now the norm
‘Screen time’ is no longer passive watching. The old days of a TV viewer, for instance, just sitting back on the couch and watching the screen across the room are long over. We have come to expect more; we want to be able to engage with content in real-time. Netflix tried this out recently with choose-your-own-adventure concepts like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and You vs. Wild, and they were so successful that they are now ‘doubling down’ on interactive storytelling. Mobile games are by their very nature interactive, as users participate in the experience, having a direct impact on the way the story turns out, the results.

It’s also rare to find a TV or PC users who is 100 per cent focused on what is in front of them. Three-quarters of the UK population is using a smartphone while watching TV (93 per cent of under-25s) and ‘double screening’ is now the norm. When mobile users are playing games, however, their time is more focused than when they are in other channels – because if they don’t pay attention, they don’t win!

Mobile games are making money, lots of it – and for good reason
Media companies are faced with multiple options for monetisation, yet many of them are struggling to make the numbers add up. Creating content is not cheap, and if your revenue model isn’t tight, your future is uncertain. If you look at mobile gaming companies, it’s an entirely different story. These companies are experiencing hockey-stick growth, and for a good reason: Production, development and distribution costs are far less, and revenue models are strong. Free-to-play games often combine in-app purchases (IAP) and advertising revenue from high-impact units like full-screen interstitials or rewarded video to get top dollar.

The mobile gaming market is at $70.3bn, growing more than 25 per cent year-over-year. Compare that to the global box office, which topped out at $41.7bn, growing just 2.6 per cent. Mobile games cannot be pigeonholed any longer, it is a true entertainment channel of scale, a competitor to the major broadcast & cable networks. Mobile gaming is where people are spending time, enjoying premium content – and advertisers should sit up and take notice of that, too.