On average, people in Southeast Asia are spending more than an hour per day gaming—whether in a quick session on the way to work or a dedicated one at home.
By comparison, that’s more time spent each day on average than broadcast radio, online news, or print media. Yet when it comes to the role of gaming in a media and marketing strategy, it is rarely valued at the same level.
Ads are nothing new to gaming, and according to InMobi, “Gaming apps consistently show the highest viewability and completion rates compared to other app categories.” So, the reason why they are treated differently must be something else.
Basically, gaming doesn’t get the proper acknowledgment within media strategy because it’s often still viewed as a “niche activity,” and there seems to be a general gap in understanding around the unique dynamics of the medium. With that in mind, here are four reasons why gaming should be a key channel for your media and marketing strategy.
The audience for gaming is also increasingly diverse. The demographic composition of the mobile gamer audience—the largest audience in gaming—stands in stark contrast to the stereotypical image of young, single male gamers. Instead, the current mobile gamer audience is predominantly female (55 percent) across a wide range of ages, with 47 percent aged 25 to 44, and 32 percent aged 45-plus.
Unlike news media, user-generated video or radio content (UGC), which is usually geared toward short engagements at high frequency, game-based experiences are designed to retain people’s attention across extended periods of time. As Jim Brown, senior designer at Epic Games, says, “Game Systems are specifically designed to affect the player over long periods. As time goes on, the systems can affect player emotion, and that can affect behavior.”
The short engagements found in most digital media are often designed to drive impression volumes, which aren’t a good measure of ad effectiveness or capturing an audience’s attention. Comparatively, gaming provides a much better foundation for quality attention and effectiveness because it is designed to retain players with a variety of game-play techniques. Value exchange ads—or “rewarded ads”—are common methods and examples of the convergence of player-retention strategies and ad effectiveness.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) describes value exchange ads as “premium ads that offer consumers something of value in exchange for their attention.” Pioneered in the gaming sector, those ads may already be familiar to you. These are the formats where users agree to watch ads in exchange for in-game assets, such as extra lives or some form of currency.
This style of ad makes major strides toward creating a better and more direct relationship between advertisers and audiences by making the value proposition more transparent and tangible to the audience (i.e., “Watch this, get this”). And because this exchange continues throughout the life span of a game play, greater retention leads to more rewards for the audience, advertiser, and developer. As Brown also says, “The more you come back, the better you become.”
Gaming is also designed to be an inherently social experience—whether in real life or online. This creates a number of extensions to gaming’s media footprint that amplify engagement and retention, while also offering marketers channels beyond in-game ads to reach their audiences.
Streaming is possibly the largest extension of the gaming experience, and 2018 was its biggest year on record. On average, Twitch had more than one million concurrent viewers throughout 2018, and total viewing time topped 47 billion minutes per month, which is more than a 50 percent increase over the previous year.
Live streaming on gaming-focused platforms like Twitch is also expanding to other types of content, such as cooking, beauty, and the performing arts—all of which have been gaining popularity within the gaming and streaming communities. This diversification of content provides brands with products or services not traditionally aligned to gaming with the ability to become relevant to gaming audiences in new ways.
Esports streaming has also been significantly increasing its hold over other streaming categories. The IAB found earlier this year that 40 percent of live streaming viewers in APAC are tuning in to watch gaming sessions or Esports, more than talk shows (31 percent), celebrities and influencers (30 percent), and even sporting games/matches (28 percent).
As a testament to the growth in Esports, viewership records were shattered in 2018. At its peak, the DOTA 2 International drew 14.96 million concurrent viewers. Similarly, the competitive Grand Final for Overwatch drew 10.8 million viewers. By contrast, the record-holding Game of Thrones season 7 finale, The Dragon and the Wolf, drew 16.5 million viewers across TV and streaming apps.
However, global Esports advertising doesn’t seem to be growing in parallel yet. Advertising (US $163MM) and sponsorship (US $277MM) revenues only represent less than half of one percent of global worldwide digital ad spend according to PwC and eMarketer. And with Esports properties garnering a cultural magnitude similar to franchises such as Game of Thrones, it’s surprising that demand and revenue haven’t followed suit yet. This suggests that Esports may be a largely untapped market for advertisers looking to get high-quality inventory without the upward pressures on pricing that often come when supply is limited and demand hits saturation.
The points above demonstrate that gaming is a media channel with lower demand, greater supply, high quality, and large audiences, as well as unique dynamics that benefit both advertisers and consumers. When developing your next media or marketing strategy, carve out a section for gaming, and start thinking about how the gaming experience makes sense for your brand.
About Dave Goodfellow
David Goodfellow is the Partnerships Lead for Oracle Data Cloud JAPAC and sits on the Regional Board for the IAB SEA+India.