Mobile Gaming Saw Explosive Growth in 2020 – Here’s How Brands Can Capitalize On That Growth in 2021 and Beyond
Since their popularization in the 1970s, video games have relentlessly pushed the boundaries of technology. From flippers and arcades to computers, consoles, and now even smartphones, video games have evolved to become a staple of our society as it pertains to culture and recreation. It has also developed into one of the most lucrative industries in the world. Many would think that the most successful games would be tailored for gamers, yet many of the world’s top titles appeal to even the most casual enthusiasts. It’s one of the primary reasons that the mobile game industry dominates the market with $64.4 billion in profit in 2019 alone.
In a pandemic world where virtual is the new normal, profits and proliferation will only continue to increase. From gaming Youtubers to Twitch streamers and everything in between, the explosive growth of the gaming industry has created a growing interest in how brands can leverage this rise in popularity. Today, we will dive into some of the key changes that have taken place in the industry during the last year and discuss some tips that will put you a step ahead of your competitors. Here’s how brands can capitalize in 2021 and beyond.
The Growth Of Mobile Gaming
People are playing games more than ever before, as many of us continue to search for social interactions and fun ways in which to spend our free time. It goes without saying that the Coronavirus pandemic is only accelerating the upward trajectory that was taking place before its onset.
Estimates from Newzoo indicate that by the end of last year, mobile game revenue hit $76.7B, representing a 12% increase from 2019. For the sake of context, the global Box Office revenue was $42.5 billion and the global recorded music industry generated $20.2 billion in wholesale revenues in 2019. Essentially, mobile gaming alone was responsible for generating more annual revenue than the music and film industries combined.
That’s big business and a potential treasure trove for brands looking to connect with Gen-Z consumers. Here are some more statistics and trends to help shed some light on what to expect from gaming in 2021.
Mobile Gaming Industry Statistics & Data
- GameAnalytics reported that in Q1 2020, the number of mobile gamers grew from 1.2 billion people to 1.75 billion per month, an increase of 46% over the previous year.
- Newzoo reported that the number of mobile gamers in 2020 surpassed 2.6 billion.
- In Q2 2020, consumers spent over $19 billion on mobile games, which represented the largest quarter yet according to App Annie
- 25% of iOS and 21% of Android app downloads are games
- Predictions indicate that Android games will be responsible for 56% of all mobile game revenue by 2022
The Growth Of Gaming Influencers
Gaming has been a growing business sector for the better part of a decade, but 2020 brought things to a new level. Whether it be a result of the ongoing global pandemic and stay-at-home orders that have lasted for nearly a year or technological advancements and innovations within the industry, gaming skyrocketed in 2020.
In turn, we saw a growing number of gaming brands reaching out to influencers on Youtube and Twitch to vlog or stream their first experience playing their game. Brands have partnered with influencers and contracted them to play with other gamers online, either providing tips and tricks on how to win or sometimes just creating an opportunity for fans to play with their favorite gamers.
Over time, online creators have built massive audiences that are interested in engaging with and learning about both mobile and console games. Additionally, eSports has also grown exponentially in recent years, giving fans the perfect forum to watch live streams of competitive gaming. Before the onset of the pandemic, hardcore fans would even attend live physical eSports tournaments. These games have significantly risen in usage, especially during COVID-19. As compared to pre-lockdown months, there has been a 40% increase in ‘screen-time’ on mobile games, and about 13 billion games were downloaded during the first quarter of 2020 alone.
Influencers are rightfully considered both relatable and trust-worthy because of the transparency they have established with their fans. In return, they have a significant impact on the intent-to-buy of gamers.
The name PewDiePie is one that many people recognize, and for good reason. With over 108 million subscribers on Youtube and an astounding 26 billion views, he’s one of the biggest social media stars on the planet. Though not all influencers have an enormous audience as he does, their impacts are nonetheless considerable and profound in their own right. According to Kantar research, the emergence of the new generation of gamers is Gen Z – with almost 90% who consider themselves gamers. Additional research adds that Gen Z has a purchasing power of around $44 billion. This is just one of many data points that shows there is a huge pot of gold that can be accessible when brands partner with gaming influencers.
Here at Viral Nation, we have had the honor to activate a plethora of campaigns centered around gaming and gaming influencers. From our experiences in Dubai at the PUBG All-Star Challenge to our partnership with Twitch, there is no agency better suited to activate an influencer marketing campaign around gaming than Viral Nation. Reach out to us below if you are interested in discussing your next campaign, or simply continue reading.
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Increased Focus On Inclusivity
One way of standing out in the ever-changing market of mobile games is to assess the inclusivity of the game itself. One good example of this marketing strategy is Fortnite. It’s one of the world’s most played games has gained popularity through the variety of different characters that can be used. These characters were more relatable to the public than the usual testosterone-filled fighters of games past, and it made the game instantly appealing to a whole new demographic of gamers.
The characters were also individualized, where many had their own special quirks and dances that were then adopted by players who made videos of themselves attempting the dances. This expanded the reach of the game even further, extending the game’s appeal to a new group of potential users who were now watching those dancing videos. The brand was able to tap into individuality, and it was considered as a breath of fresh air for gamers and consumers alike.
Society as a whole has a renewed focus on inclusivity, and both developers and character creators are following suit by providing different cultures, body shapes, skin colors, and features to their applications. Jenny Shi led a study on diversity and representation in video games. Of the 2,200 people surveyed, 87% stated that they wanted more inclusivity and said that this approach influences their gaming purchases.
Since the term “gamer” can apply to anyone, from the little child playing on his mom’s phone to the 60-year-old grandmother playing sudoku, it is not difficult to imagine how important the influence of inclusivity is in the modern consumer landscape. In fact, it’s more relevant and demanding of such than ever before. It also appears that the industry is taking into account the desires and interests of the fans, ready to take on the challenge of being more supportive towards marginalized groups and communities.
Building Customer Loyalty
Customer retention is one important factor for gaming brands due to the competitive nature of the industry. More immersive and innovative games pop up every single day, so it’s a tough business to break into, and maintaining relevancy can prove to be even more difficult.
The gaming industry is now using different ways to acquire the loyalty of their users by providing discounts as a gift or reward for achieving a certain goal or reaching a certain level. Offering discounts is an ideal means to encourage further purchases, especially when the promotion has a short expiration date.
Alongside reward points, many games provide daily challenges that issue badges upon successful completion. This ensures that the player is having daily contact with the game and can see his or her’s progress and achievements over time. Other games also provide leaderboards that spark competition among their users by revealing success relative to other players. However, they can have an adverse effect on gamers who are at the bottom of the list.
Some brands have even dedicated a website or discussion boards for players to provide feedback on any bugs or faults that affect their gaming experience. Another one of our clients, Activision Blizzard, is a perfect example of this. The company has empowered its employees to respond to concerns, from executives to game developers who regularly listen and respond directly to customers. Blizzard also reads all the comments on different forums and social media, doing its best to rectify any complaints from consumers. This yields transparent interactions between gamers and the brand and results in a passionate and loyal fan base.
Brands and organizations of every industry and can take a page out of this book and apply the same practice and ideologies to their customer interactions.
Growth In Sponsorships and Partnerships
Many brands are searching for new ways to access audiences and to create opportunities that align with their brand values and their core audience. Companies such as Nike, Coca-Cola, and Red Bull are now tapping into the eSports industry to promote their products with hardcore gamers. The 2018 World Championship for League of Legends – arguably the most popular international eSport game on the planet – had over 205 million views across numerous platforms and broadcasts with an average viewership of 46.5 million people. Even celebrities are investing in eSports; hip-hop superstar Drake and Scooter Braun were part of a large group who invested $25 million into 100 Thieves, an LA-based organization that is rapidly growing.
Fashion brands have also gotten in on the game (pun intended). Louis Vuitton had a partnership with League of Legends to design two custom skins for the heroes Qiyana and Senna. The designs were available for players to purchase with in-game tokens which allowed people who usually couldn’t afford to buy Louis Vuitton an opportunity to do so through gaming.
Another example is the partnership of Red Bull and Ninja, Twitch’s top eSports streamer where Red Bull provided a limited edition run of their energy drinks in cans with Ninja’s face on it. Ninja is an influential gamer with 23.1 million subscribers and nearly 15 million followers on Twitch. He also landed an exclusive deal with Microsoft’s Mixer streaming service before returning to Twitch back in September of 2020. This leads us to conclude that brands both big and small can greatly benefit from partnerships with eSports brands and gamers themselves.
Leveraging In-Game Ads
In-game advertisements represent a massive monetization channel for developers. Many of these games have been coded in such a way that gamers have to accept in-game ads due to their opt-in nature. IF the player wants an ads-free experience, there is often a small fee to pay, which increases profits for developers.
This presents a win-win situation for both developers and brands, as the companies get the exposure that their products or services need while the developers also gain value. According to a Swrve report, over 50% of the revenue obtained from mobile gaming comes from just 0.19% of the players. The vast majority spend little to no money on games, which signifies that in-game advertising has a big potential to monetize their audience.
Influencers can again be useful here because they often do promotional videos for products that are then used as ads in mobile gaming. Depending on the type of game and the demographic, influencers can be sought after whose audiences align with those of your brand’s core audience.
Contrary to popular belief, gaming isn’t just “for the boys”. In fact, 49% of all gamers are females and over 58% of them are mothers. This offers a fresh perspective to brands who may now realize that there is a very wide demographic of eclectic tastes and interests within the gaming industry.
Mobile gaming has continued to build upon its once unimaginable potential and grow into one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in the world. The true potential of this industry can be harnessed in a combination of great art, marketing, and engineering. Through the implementation of influencer marketing and some of the insights mentioned above, your brand has the ability to tap into a burgeoning market that doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing. As long as the smartphone continues to be the central hub of our everyday lives, the mobile gaming industry will be tailing closely behind.