Ever since the 2008 release of Apple’s App Store and the Android Market, mobile gaming has become an integral part of the gaming industry.
By 2019, 45% of all gaming revenues derived from mobile gaming, a sector growing at over 10% year on year.
With 2.4 billion people now playing mobile games around the world, it is surprising that so few major brands have sought to engage with the industry.
The advent of 5G is tipped to revolutionise mobile gaming by radically improving the gaming mechanics and graphics which phones will be able to support. It was predicted that 2020 would be the year to validate the technology, then subsequent years likely to see it becoming accessible to everyday consumers, with a current lack of a comprehensive network infrastructure and affordable devices.
Additionally, developments in ‘cloud gaming’ will allow much more advanced mobile gaming by streaming titles from exterior servers, instead of hosting them on the device. Google’s new Stadia service boasts the ability to ‘play anywhere’, with no hardware except a controller. However, Stadia has been beset by criticisms regarding its narrow smartphone compatibility, and the necessity for high-speed internet to really ‘play anywhere’.
Wired magazine terms it ‘a terrible but tantalising glimpse of the future’, suggesting viable mobile cloud gaming is still yet to be actualised.
However, with 5G, cloud gaming, and prestige gaming franchises like Call of Duty releasing mobile games in 2019, the bar for mobile gaming is being raised.
Brands must be intelligent about developing mobile gamification, as offerings risk becoming antiquated in the face of rapid technological development.
If brands cannot access the newest gamification technologies, a more effective route may be to harness the power of mobile game advertising.
‘Hyper-casual’ gaming is particularly popular, with simple mechanics suitable for short use such as on commutes. 37% of commuters in a recent UK poll declared they play mobile games on their journeys to and from work.
Stat: One third of all mobile gamers are aged 36-50.
As these games are usually free, revenue is generated by utilising short adverts to allow players to move to the next level, or to receive certain rewards. Other games supplement this by product placement. These adverts are often for other mobile games, or low budget promotions for individual products. However, some major companies have successfully integrated their brands into the mobile advertising space.
Stat: Gamers are more likely to pay attention to mobile games adverts (41%) than those on the internet (17%), in magazines (15%) or on billboards (15%).
Rewarded adverts are a proven success in targeting multiple demographics.
Three in four millennials and 67% of parents said they are more likely to engage with a video ad in exchange for a reward.
One of the best brand investments in this area is Nestlé. It ran a campaign across the games company King’s titles, including Candy Crush Saga, the third most popular mobile game of all time. Due to rewarding players, 99.5% of the ads were viewed to the end, with a 3% click-through rate. Choosing the right titles, as Nestlé did, provides a great platform for ad engagement.
In addition to formal advertising, some companies have successfully utilised product placement. Product placement is most effective when it fits seamlessly into the game’s logic, such as Coca-Cola’s partnership with Cooking Fever, which made Coke the soft drink customers order in the game.
Even more successful was Starbucks combination of product placement with AR technology in Pokémon Go, the most successful mobile game of all time. Starbucks turned almost 8,000 stores into ‘Pokestops’ or ‘Gyms’ where users were more likely to find certain Pokémon. Investing in AR mobile gaming drove in-store traffic, and creating a custom drink called the Pokémon Go Frappuccino helped take advantage of this increased customer base.
Risk and reward
Many of these older hyper-casual gamers are playing big name mobile games such as Candy Crush, which has 270 million users worldwide. They are unlikely to be gaming experts who seek out smaller games, and are therefore unlikely to seek out and download standalone branded game apps, which have less mainstream recognition. Similarly, more experienced mobile gamers who play less hyper-casual games are likely to see through the gimmicky game mechanics of apps such as these.
For this reason, branded mobile game apps risk being a wasted investment.
However, gamification is still a vital tool in the marketing arsenal.
Some brands have very effectively used brand games to stimulate consumer engagement. What separates these efforts is that they have hosted games on their own platforms, rather than a separate app, which will already have a lot of traffic.
Additionally, with Pokémon Go making $2.6 billion dollars in revenue in three years, brands should aim to analyse the game mechanics which made it so popular: AR technology and location-based services. Brands that utilise these newer technologies which enhance the gaming experience have found great success.
A great example is Lancôme’s AR game, which created a real-world scavenger hunt, in which players searched for the makeup brand’s Genfiques product and scan them for the potential to win prizes.
By integrating a reward system and using contemporary technology, consumers are more likely to engage with the game.
Furthermore, by pushing consumers into close proximity to your product, the location element is also likely to drive sales.
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