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Understanding the mobile gaming spectrum: a look at demographics

For a region that’s home to the video game giants of Nintendo, Sony, Sega, and the Chinese mobile publisher, Tencent, it’s no wonder that gaming is big business in APAC. In 2019, the region’s games market was predicted to generate over $72 billion in revenue — 47% of the global games market. In addition, mobile accounted for the largest proportion of this figure. In 2020, smartphone and tablet games are forecasted to generate almost half of all gaming revenues, larger than any other segment, including console, PC, and web browser games.

Though games are the largest category in the App Store (around 25% of apps, they are also still highly misunderstood by advertisers. Some figures suggest that mobile games only account for 7% of total mobile ad spend. With over 1.3 billion gamers in APAC,and mobile games only becoming more popular, marketers in the region will need to ensure that mobile games become a core component of their advertising strategy in 2020 and beyond. However, in order to reach the right audiences, marketers should understand the four major types of mobile games and the demographics that can be targeted within each genre.

The four mobile gaming categories

Hardcore

This genre consists of immersive, detailed games similar to console experiences and designed for long sessions of gameplay. Examples of hardcore games include Gangstar Vegas and Iron Blade. Globally, 91% of hardcore gamers are male, and the story is no different in the APAC region. Data from Smaato’s platform shows that only 9% of ad requests from hardcore mobile games in APAC originate from female players. When it comes to hardcore gaming preferences by user generation, Generation Z (13 - 23 years old) accounts for 56% of ad requests in APAC — slightly behind the global average share of 61%. Insights also show that hardcore games are slightly more popular with APAC’s Millennials (24 - 38 years old), at 27% share vs 23% globally.

Midcore

Midcore games are more accessible for users than hardcore games. Generally, they are easy for players to learn, but they are much harder to master. Examples of this genre include Plants vs. Zombies and racing titles like Asphalt 9. Just like hardcore games, male players in APAC also prefer the midcore genre, accounting for 87% of in-app ad requests. This is also consistent with the gender split for this genre throughout the world. Midcore players in APAC are also of similar generations to the global average, consisting of predominantly Gen Z (47%) and Millennial (34%) users.

Casual

Casual mobile games are exactly what their name suggests. Designed for a mass audience, gaming apps like Wordscapes and Solitaire allow players to engage in frequent and shorter sessions of activity. Smaato data shows that on a global level this genre is dominated by women, who account for 58% of ad requests. But APAC offers a different picture, where males hold the majority of in-app activity for this genre with 64% of ad requests. Globally, the Baby Boomer generation (55+ years old) can be found playing casual games, where they hold a 35% share of ad requests. However, Smaato data shows that Boomers in the APAC region have less affinity for the casual genre, only accounting for 13% of the usage. Once again, the prolific gamers of Gen Z hold the majority here with 53% of ad requests.

Hyper-Casual

The hyper-casual genre consists of lightweight, simple, and instantly playable games designed for short sessions and often featuring 2D or retro graphics. Examples of this genre include Helix Jump, Sandwich!, and Icing on the Cake. When it comes to in-app ad requests by gender demographics, women are the champions of the hyper-casual genre. In APAC, they account for over 57% of ad requests — the global figure stands at 63%. The Gen Z demographic also love playing hyper-casual games. On a global level, they drive 53% of ad requests. However, in the APAC region, nearly 71% of hyper-casual usage is driven by the younger generation.

Who is advertising in mobile games in APAC?

On a global scale, mobile games have gained the trust of the retail advertising sector. Smaato data shows that retail advertisers contribute nearly 50% of all global ad spend in mobile games, a significant increase from its 19% share in early 2018. In APAC, the story is somewhat more scattered, with both retail (39%) and media (32%) advertisers holding large shares of ad spend. Though behind the global share, it’s clear to see that retailers in APAC are beginning to recognize the huge popularity and diverse audiences gaming apps have to offer. We can expect their investment to increase as more brands continue to recognize the power of mobile games.

APAC’s generation Z is key

As mobile games grow in popularity across the region, APAC’s Generation Z will become more and more important for the region’s advertisers. Global figures show that the mobile environment is second nature to this demographic, and that they account for 60% more in-app sessions per user than older generations.[1] This trend is even clearer to see in APAC, where Smaato data shows Gen Z holding the largest share of ad requests across the mobile gaming spectrum. By recognizing this, advertisers in the region have the opportunity to tap into impactful campaigns, or risk missing out on reaching a mobile-focused generation of users.

Delynn Ho is general manager, APAC at Smaato.

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