Entertainment and gaming is a ruthless business, not just the games themselves, but also behind the scenes when it comes to new tech and platforms in gaming.
However, with the exponential growth in mobile gaming - with a global user base of around 2.1bn and annual revenues of about $60bn, the era of gaming on the go is getting no less exciting than the traditional games played on consoles.
The dopamine effect
Games like Candy Crush have staying power. Since its inception in 2012, it still maintains over 200m monthly active users. It’s the unicorn game that every app developer wants.
According to AdColony’s general manager of brand in North America, Jude O’Connor, it does a tremendous job of playing towards the dopamine release in the brain. People relish the immediate gratification of clearing a level, defeating an opponent. “It's similar in how people post pictures to Facebook, to get likes. It's an immediate gratification, an immediate win. It keeps users engaged, keeps them coming back, and keeps them entertained throughout the process.”
Epic Games’ console hit Fortnite also plays a similar role in giving the user what they want, that instant gratification. It’s the newest breed of game that allows cross platform playing which has users within one arena at one time, live with each other. Something that Candy Crush does not have, being a mobile only game.
Founder and managing partner of Collabsco, Valerie Vacante says that connected play is the idea of having a physical and digital experience. It can be everything from IoT to AR to VR to near field communication technology (NFC). “It's basically where something physical can interact in the digital world.”
“They are wildly different experiences,” insists O’Connor. “When someone is playing a console game they are setting out to do that as their primary experience, that's all they're doing. They might play for an hour or two, or more, but it's still the only experience they are doing within that timeframe.”
Mobile games on the other hand, are a far different experience. It’s something that the user does as part of other experiences like on the commute to work or during commercial breaks. It’s about different experiences for different users.
Making the connection between brands and games
Mobile gaming may be on the rise - currently a $46b industry - however brand ad spend remains low. For instance, total ad spend accounts for a measly 15% to 17%. Compare that to the $138bn spent from other mobile developers seeking new users, it’s hard not to see the disconnect.
O’Connor says that brands have been slow to adopt or accept mobile gaming environments as premium environments. “To the typical brands advertiser, when they think of premium environments, they're thinking the ESPN and CBS.com's of the world,” he explains. “They're not thinking about these mobile games which have an unfortunate correlation to console games and the old stereotype of a gamer who lives in his, and the stereotype is always male, parent’s basement. That's not even remotely accurate but it is the stigma that is related over to the mobile gaming world.”
It’s an education for the brand and agencies of the world to steer away from those stigmas and stereotypes, which AdColony plays its part in.
Accepting the value exchange
From the consumer’s point of view and in particular children’s, it’s not about whether it’s on a console or mobile device, it’s just about gaming, insists Vacante. For them, it’s all about playing. “They'll jump into Fortnite or Overwatch and when their time is up, they then pick up their tablet, their mobile,” she explains. “They're playing their favorite game and they're watching the ads to get the power-ups because it's about how you can level up faster. I'll ask if they're OK with that and they are, because they get to level up faster.”
That is the value exchange, O’Connor adds. The predominant form of video within gaming apps is a sort of user-initiated value exchange video. Mobile gaming offers brands the opportunity to engage with consumers, at scale with data, and to provide positive moments with them.
Who’s winning the game?
The brands that are really succeeding are those like Disney. With movie trailers they have evolved it beyond a TV commercial spot to an engaging active experience that the end user can participate in, explains O’Connor. From the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean film, AdColony worked with Disney to create an innovative experience for users.
“During the trailer, the user was prompted to play a search game and find objects within the trailer itself, tap the screen and it was almost like a playable ad experience, he adds. “Then, when they were able to find additional pieces it unlocked new content, additional trailers for them, character content at the end of the video. The user then became part of the experience.”
Disney has built off that experience with ads for their movies in mobile over recent years, with ads for both Marvel and Disney being more interactive on mobile than anywhere else.
Vacante suggests that the children’s channel, Nickelodeon have hit the nail on the head with their work on interactive TV. At the Kid’s Choice Awards 2018, kids were prompted to use their mobile devices with the Nickelodeon app when indicators came on the screen during the show. There was then an AR experience when they scanned the screen with their smartphones.
“The user had that additional engagement with the TV show itself, but on top of that Nickelodeon were doing a good job in terms of advertising, promoting, in-app, get ready for the event and making it more of an event.”
That's what really propelled the console games, exclaims O’Connor. Console games were always wildly popular, but once it became an experience where the user can log on, online, play against people you know and don't know in a more competitive realm with ranking's etc, that’s what really propelled the console games forward. “And that's what's going to propel mobile games forward once it can enter that same arena easily.”