Online gaming, primarily on mobile devices, has become massively popular in India. In a relatively short time, the country has become one of the top five markets for gaming globally. During the months of lockdowns, downloads of popular games such as Ludo King, PUBG, and Carrom rose sharply, and people spent significantly more time playing online games. The highest spike was recorded in late April, as people played games 62% longer compared with the number of hours spent during the pre-COVID period in January 2020.
The internet user base is expected to reach 829 million mark by 2022 which is primarily led by the affordable mobile data rates, widespread adoption of smartphones or hybrid feature phones. Increased internet penetration in rural India has been largely driving this growth, with 40% of the active internet user base. This means that there is significant untapped potential for brands and advertisers to leverage programmatic digital advertising to reach younger target audience.
Approximately 97% of the internet users across India access internet through mobile devices. The affordable mobile data is giving a boost to the Indian mobile gaming industry as well and according to Google KPMG study the Indian online gaming segment will grow by $ 1.1 billion by 2021.
Brands and advertisers need to boldly rethink marketing strategies to adapt to changes in consumer behavior in a post-pandemic world. The rapidly- evolving world of mobile gaming enables advertisers a new opportunity to reach customers based on their personal interests and behaviors.
Mobile Gaming’s Expansion in India
The rise of mobile gaming has coincided with the emergence of digital media and over-the-top (OTT) streaming services in the country.
The demographics of gamers have also shifted from mostly young urban males to a more diverse audience that cuts across gender, age groups and interests. Indian women were found to be more active mobile phone gamers than men in a poll of 2,000 smartphone users. A study of moms in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany also found that they made up almost half of the parents who are gamers and are quickly closing the gap. From professionals playing games during breaks at work to moms seeking entertainment, the universe of gamers has grown more diverse.
This popularity of mobile gaming has attracted the attention of advertisers due to its ability to reach consumers using location and real-time targeting. However, only a handful of brands have adopted mobile games into their brand strategy to date compared to the more glamorized OTT platforms. This leaves tremendous, untapped opportunities on gaming platforms for advertisers. For advertisers seeking broader, long-term brand awareness in an environment where consumer behavior is constantly changing, mobile games can be the best medium for digital campaigns.
Leveling up to in-game ad formats
Mobile game advertising can be delivered through banner ads or in-game ads. Banner ads are a great way to get started as they are simple and provide a full-screen brand experience. However, if it breaks the flow of the game, the gamer will be more likely to skip the ad. Video ads that are tied to rewards in the game can also be skipped but gamers receive a reward, extra life or unlock a new level in exchange for their attention, which encourages gamers to develop more favorable feelings about the brand.
In-game advertisements enable brands to run awareness campaigns that integrate seamlessly into games without the option to skip. The interactive nature of these ads allows advertisers to keep players engaged by rewarding them with game benefits such as extra time, power boosts, or other features available through in-app purchases. These ads are almost impossible to ignore, which means that players are exposed to every ad that is also providing a positive stimulus
While garnering content from the community of mobile players. Advertisers can leverage this merging of gaming and content creation for brand interactions. The high engagement of mobile gamers combined with the inherently social nature of user-generated gaming (UGG) makes it an ideal environment for in-game ads.
A safe brand environment to score the best outcome
As players in the media advertising world look for ways to uphold the integrity of transactional data and strengthen the transparency model for digital marketers, game publishers are also working on creating a safe environment for brands and advertisers. In-game advertising is expanding and becoming a key segment of digital marketing. With this development, game publishers protect their brands by offering inventories that are highly viewable and creating intelligent brand safety for marketers and advertisers. Top games such as Candy Crush, Ludo King and Carrom work with third-party measurement companies for inventory verification and domain transparency.
Besides providing brand safety, the mobile gaming industry generates a rich trove of data, which grants marketers opportunities to do precision targeting based on age, gender, geo, device, language and interest segments to reach relevant audience and maximize return on investment (ROI). Moreover, with real-time data and analytics, advertisers can optimize on-going campaigns for better performance.
Mobile gaming’s powerful blend of expanding reach, demographic diversity and high engagement in India, is exposing it as a valuable digital marketing tool. Brands and advertisers should consider this channel in the ad mix going forward because the influence of mobile gaming will only continue to grow and evolve.
The author is National Head of Product and Marketing Science at Xaxis India.