By Naresh Gupta
Exactly a decade ago, the mobile phone screens were invaded by suicidal birds and maniacal pigs. The game called Angry Birds quickly became a rage and even became a movie. Possibly the first instance where a pure virtual product became a brick and mortar brand too. A couple of years later came another game that became an even bigger rage. Candy Crush has nearly 250 Million monthly active users and is the world’s most played game ever.
We do tend to dismiss both Angry Birds and Candy Crush as minor players that have become popular for no specific reason. A quick look at numbers will tell a story of a category that has become the leading source of entertainment and will seriously challenge conventional choices of brand communication.
Consider this: Online Gaming industry is on way to become a $5 billion category in the coming years. Mobile gaming is already bigger than Music and Cinema industry combined and is growing at a faster growth rate than both. In the next few years, online gaming will become as largest entertainment category by revenue displacing TV and Video. With rapidly declining data prices the growth of the gaming industry is outpacing everyone else.
Mobile Gaming is not just about regular games like Candy Crush, the bust is also about skill-based games, that engages serious ‘gamers’
Now if the word ‘gamer’ evokes imagery of young millennials wearing headphones, immersed in their phone with fingers flashing all over the screen, you would be badly mistaken. Today’s gamers play card-based games and play fantasy games. Both these are categories that are a high investment and high involvement genres for gamers.
Just in India, there are over a hundred players that offer games like Rummy, Poker, and Teen Patti. The mobile payment behemoth PayTM is one of the leading players in this segment. Similarly, there are over 50 players in the fantasy gaming segment. The leading fantasy game brand, Dream11 is among the biggest spender on TV. This is a clear indicator of how mainstream fantasy gaming is becoming.
We know that games like PubG have become immensely popular with the young players. PubG today has global gaming championship which the brands actively sponsor. They even have in-gaming brand placements creating a brand-consumer bond that is difficult to create.
The rise and rise of gaming industry will have two big driving forces. One of them is the expected driver but the other is a surprise.
The expected trend is about the younger audience dominating the gaming category. Over half of active game players are today under 25 years and that will not change dramatically. But what it means is that Gaming will become more important than music to connect with this audience. In near future we will see music inspired by games and game-music to become a big fad.
The unexpected trend is growth of women players. As of now the Internet penetration and smartphone ownership is disproportionally higher among males than females. Card games are changing that rapidly. More women are adopting skill-based card games, and are even winning big monies through the games. Women gamers will grow at much faster pace over next couple of years compared to males, making gaming a real category to engage women consumers.
The rise of mobile gaming will mean exponential growth of professional e-sport category where the prize money will become a serious draw.
With gaming likely to become larger than TV industry, brand will have to find ways to engage with these consumers. This will mean creating brand assets that are game specific at one end. The bigger challenge will be to contextually engage with gamers who more and kore may see plain advertising as an irritant.
Angry Birds may be fading away, but the new emerging games will become the new playground for brands.