Mobile gaming is on a seemingly endless upward trajectory, with smartphone owners worldwide playing anything from Angry Birds to Clash of Clans for hours at a time. In fact, people spend an average of 43% of all their smartphone time interacting with game apps.
Looking at today’s top iOS app rankings according to App Annie’s leaderboards, about half of the most downloaded products are games.
As this trend continues, mobile game marketers will need to reevaluate their strategies and technologies in order to successfully reach the growing variety of demographics that represent the future of mobile gaming.
Today, mobile game marketing and advertising are going beyond popup ads and in-game promotions. To reach the modern mobile gamer, marketers need to get more creative. For instance, Zynga is now working with Snapchat, who ranks number one in marketing ROI in the casual gaming category according to the AppsFlyer Performance Index, an industry benchmark measures the effectiveness of various mobile app acquisition channels and marketing platforms. Zynga is using this partnership to help build traction for its new Tiny Royale shooter game, available for social playing without any installs via the new Snap Games platform.
With mobile gaming set to reach upwards of 70 percent household penetration in the U.S. by 2020, marketers have to be savvier than ever about how they connect, engage and market to gamers of all shapes and sizes. Advertisers are now honing in on consumer gaming trends like impulse buying, word of mouth adoption, and social gaming to meet tomorrow’s gamers on their own turf.
Embracing Impulsive Gamers
One of the biggest trends that marketers have identified in mobile gamers is their tendency towards impulse purchases of games. It only takes a few minutes to browse the app store and download a new game simply because it looks like it might be fun.
Mobile gamers can download and start playing a game faster than ever, knowing that they can simply delete it and move on if they’re not engaged.
This puts even more pressure on game developers and marketers to focus on appealing to customers immediately. According to recent data from Facebook, gamers are more than willing to impulse buy in-app for things like extra lives, upgrading their avatars and gaining additional tools or resources to help them progress.
Gaming advertising platform CrossInstall, for example, has addressed these trends with its highly playable ads that get users engaged from the get-go. It’s also investing heavily in artificial intelligence (AI) to better target gamers with ads and games that they’re most likely to enjoy right off the bat.
CrossInstall was ranked number in universal growth in the AppsFlyer Performance Index, arguably on the heels of its successes in catering to the impulse buyer.
Tapping into Word of Mouth
Despite today’s marketing tech sophistication, many tried and true methods still apply when it comes to reaching today’s mobile gamers, who are highly influenced by the opinions and recommendations from friends, family, and other gamers. While peer recommendations are pivotal in any industry, it’s the social aspect of mobile gaming that makes word of mouth especially impactful in this vertical.
For this reason, gaming marketers need to focus on the shared experience of gaming and find innovative ways of encouraging players to share and recommend games with friends.
If the AppsFlyer Performance Index is any indication, marketers are doing more than ever to influence gamers via social channels. They’re using social proof and “lookalike” audiences to target people with install ads, and they’re nurturing relationships organically, turning players into advocates who recommend games to their social graphs.
Indeed, in most categories of the index, including overall power ranking, Facebook ranks as the platform that’s most effective for reaching the modern gamer.
That’s not to say that Facebook doesn’t have competition, with Google climbing rapidly to the number two spot in the index. But with social media being the “new” word of mouth for today’s mobile gamers, Google will need to formulate an effective social strategy to overtake Facebook as the top mobile game marketing platform.
Capitalizing on Gaming with Friends
Today’s mobile gamers aren’t just about getting recommendations from friends and playing on their own. They also want to be able to play with (and against) friends and their social networks, with over half of all gamers aged 14 to 21 saying that friendship is an essential part of their gaming experience.
Smart developers will integrate more features than ever that allow gamers to connect and play with their friends in-game, and marketers are also doing their best to capitalize on this trend. Take another Snapchat game, Bitmoji Party, for example. The core feature of the game involves the player, along with seven other friends, participating in a series of fun, simple mini-games that can be picked up easily. Players compete with friends, earn points for upgrades, and have access to an ever-present chat bar for trash talk.
It’s no wonder that in the Casual Gaming category of the AppsFlyer rankings, Snapchat and Facebook dominate the field. By integrating social elements into games that allow people to play with friends, gaming companies and marketers are tapping into the increasingly social and collaborative nature of mobile games and players.
Who’s Winning the Battle?
Despite Facebook’s dominance in reaching the modern mobile gamer, the app market is fiercely competitive and ever-changing. IronSource, for instance, jumped from 12th to 6th in this year’s rankings in the universal gaming category. That’s due to not just a significant improvement in game quality, but also growth in their video and “playable ad” network that’s likely capitalizing on social and word of mouth trends.
When it comes to the overall share of gaming app installations, mobile gaming marketing platform AppLovin actually clocks in at number one. AppLovin’s approach is to offer a “single, comprehensive platform that offers everything developers need to publish, finance, monetize, and grow their mobile apps,” according to Rafael Vivas, president of the company’s new publishing division, Lion Studios.
And while their formula for success remains closely guarded, Vivas says that a good part of it can be attributed to focusing on the hyper-casual segment of mobile games. “Hyper-casual is fun and it’s easy to jump right into and play in short intervals, but it still has the depth to keep people playing for months on end,” he explains.
That’s not to say that the Facebooks and Googles of the world won’t eventually follow the lead of innovators like AppLovin and IronSource, but the bottom line is that there are still a variety of strategies and technologies available to help gaming marketers engage with the global gaming market.
Moving forward, marketers invested in established platforms, as well as rising stars, would be wise to take full advantage of trends like impulse buying, word-of-mouth recommendations, and social gaming to truly maximize their mobile games’ potential in the market.