Commentary

Still Casual, But Less Dirty: Mobile Gaming

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, January 25, 2021
About a year ago, I explained that mobile gamers are, in the eyes of console and PC gamers like myself, "dirty casuals." This is not meant to be an insult, but rather an acknowledgment that the mass majority of mobile gamers are counted as such regardless of what kind of game they play on mobile devices.

For example, people who play solitaire on their phones are just as much the "mobile gamer" as people who now play "Call of Duty" on mobile. Obviously, those two games are worlds apart -- shooting enemies left and right vs. flipping cards at your own pace -- but more and more marketing opportunities are coming to mobile gaming.

In light of this, I am revisiting this subject to make an important addendum. While mobile gaming still might be for more casual players overall, many high-profile gamers have created mobile-friendly versions of their games, signaling the increased presence and marketability of mobile gaming.

"Fortnite," "Call of Duty," and "PUBG," while generally played more often on PCs and consoles, are garnering a strong mobile presence. "League of Legends" is the most recent on this list, with the upcoming release of "Wild Rift," a mobile version of the original PC/Mac game.

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Just the other day, Twitch announced that Samsung will be the exclusive mobile gaming partner for its "Twitch Rivals" esports competition series.

While details have not yet been provided, Samsung users will get bonus perks and rewards for tuning in to Twitch via their smartphone, and have a regular event called “Mobile Mondays” where mobile gamers can compete for cash prizes.

Samsung is not the only mobile provider to move further into esports and gaming.

AT&T -- a company that has recently become involved in gaming through its relationships with ESL Mobile tournaments and 5G capabilities -- just entered another partnership with esports/gaming brand 100 Thieves. Together they will create “original gaming content and live events highlight 5G and AT&T Fiber.”

In addition, mobile gaming is getting some console integration support. Many console controllers can now be connected by Bluetooth to phones for convenience, with phone-case maker Otterbox even producing clips to interconnect user's phones with the controller at a comfortable resting position.

Mobile gaming generated $73.8 billion in 2020 -- more than half of total digital video game revenue at $126 billion, according to SuperData. Total revenue for 2020 is projected to be somewhere around $180 billion. In addition, 8 of the top 10 highest-grossing free-to-play titles in 2020 were mobile games.

While I still believe mobile gaming is less sophisticated than PC and console gaming, from a marketing perspective, mobile gaming not only brings in dollars, but also garners a significant player base, with the rise of major titles becoming mobile-friendly.

Ultimately, the question will be how advertisers and marketers can work with mobile games to create unique and engaging partnerships, rather than continue the status quo of 10- to-15-second ads that interrupt free-to-play mobile gameplay and get little attention from players.

In fact, many of those targeted ads will no longer be possible, as Apple -- and probably soon Google/Android -- have announced that for further privacy protection there will no longer be automatic IDFA -- aka Identification For Advertisers -- for iOS/Apple products.

What this means is that advertisers will no longer be notified when a phone user has taken an action such as clicking on their ad in a browser and then installing, using, or interacting with ads in their app.

Although the data was always in aggregate form and never individual, it enabled advertisers to make more insight-driven decisions.

Without IDFA, advertisers can't just target and fire away ads on mobile platforms.

As mobile gaming gains an increased streaming and esports presence, marketers will have to consider authenticity, creativity, and format to achieve the best results.

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