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The 'Dirty Casuals' Of Gaming -- Understanding the Nuances Between Esports, Gaming, And Mobile Gaming

Worldwide, the entire video gaming industry is worth about $140-150 billion. That's larger than the film and music industries combined, and only continues to grow.

Opening weekend, the critically acclaimed Joker movie smashed many box-office records with $234m, but at the same time, the latest "Call of Duty" title raked in $600m. These are truly astonishing numbers.

As more and more brands and advertisers look toward the gaming world -- as they should in order to reach anyone younger than 34, which I have written about extensively in other articles -- it is important for them to understand what people mean when they talk about "gaming" in relation to esports and mobile gaming.

On a basic level, the key difference between esports and gaming is similar to that of basketball and the NBA. I can grab a group of friends and go play basketball, but we’re not suddenly in the NBA just because we play the same sport.

In the case of video gaming, just because I go and play "Fortnite," I'm not suddenly an esports player. I only become a professional athlete (whether in the NBA or esports) when I play competitively in an officially sponsored league or tournament -- whether that is amateur or professional in scope.

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When it comes to mobile gaming and “gaming,” the bottom line is: calling oneself a “gamer” and only playing mobile games is equivalent to saying you “play basketball” and only play on one of those kid-sized hoops in a child’s backyard -- they are simply not the same.

When we talk about “gaming” and esports, we’re really focusing on PC and console gaming -- almost none of the millions of folks on Twitch, Amazon's streaming service, or players in esports competitions are playing games on mobile devices, with few exceptions. It just isn't so.

This doesn't make mobile gaming any less of an important part of the gaming industry or opportunity for brands and advertisers. By the end of 2019, $68.5bn -- almost half of the global gaming market -- is expected to come from mobile gaming revenue (10% YoY growth).

This year, time spent on mobile devices in general has also outpaced time on TV by 8 minutes per day. What's more, the average age of mobile gamers is around 36 -- far higher than expected of the average stereotypical "gamer" -- and the gender mix is actually 51% female and 49% male.

Mobile gaming has seen plenty of advertisements, with around 50% of mobile gaming revenue coming from in game, opt-in ads. Loads of players will choose to watch an ad and subsequently get some kind of in-game currency for their game.

Even without the opt-in, mobile advertisers can guarantee that 90%+ of their user base sees an ad due to frequent use of un-skippable 5- to15-second ads in-game.

In addition, in-app purchases -- spending money to buy things (customizations, upgrades, unlockables, etc) -- make up almost all of the other 50% of mobile gaming revenue, but only come from around 5-10% of mobile game players (which is crazy).

Massive, reputable gaming companies like Riot Games and Activision Blizzard are all investing in and creating content for mobile devices too.

My point is, when talking about gaming (at least for now), it is important to separate the three now mainstream major categories -- esports, gaming, and mobile gaming -- appropriately.

Brands and advertisers should capitalize on all three, but as somewhat of a self-proclaimed spokesperson for gamers, we sometimes refer to mobile gamers as "dirty casuals" affectionately. People who play “Words with Friends” or “Solitaire Mobile” are technically -- by mobile gaming standards -- gamers, which is simply sacrilegious to those of us who proudly call ourselves gamers.

In fact, according to a recent survey, most people who play mobile games don't even identify themselves as “gamers.”

Yes, major titles in gaming and esports such as "Fortnite," "PUBG," "Call of Duty," and more are beginning to be available on mobile, but no large contingent of esports competitions (save "Clash Royale" and maybe "Arena of Valor"), influencers, streamers, or what have you is doing things through mobile gaming.

Mobile gaming is still a powerful tool for the reasons I have already mentioned, but also because it represents the democratization of "gaming" in general. At the moment, you have to have a $300-$600 console or a $1000+ gaming PC in order to play the latest games in the best quality.

With the advances of the smartphone and mobile game developers, blockbuster/mainstream games like "Call of Duty," "Fortnite" and soon "League of Legends," are becoming more accessible to the masses, hence the massive YoY growth in mobile gaming.

But please, if you want to talk to me (and I'd say maybe the folks at places like Twitch, ESL, YouTube, esports, etc.) about GAMING, don't toss mobile in with the rest of the crowd by default.

The nuances between gaming and mobile gaming are significant enough that it is damaging to a marketer or advertiser to explore and/or engage them in the same ways.

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