Is Gaming the Silver Bullet that can change Brand Marketing in 2021?

18 Nov,2020

Barack Obama used in-game advertising hoardings in the game Burnout Paradise among others, during his 2008 Presidential campaign

 

By Bhuvi Gupta

 

Bhuvi GuptaThis is the first time I am going on the record to admit that I have spent a lot of time playing online. Luckily though, these obsessions were recognised before they became addictions after an unhealthy time spent on Farmville, Angry Birds and lastly Candy Crush, before I admitted that I would not go down the slippery rabbit hole that can be gaming and have kept myself away since 2015.

 

I am definitely the exception. In the last few years, driven by increased digital penetration and bandwidths, (and this year COVID-19) mobile gaming in India has exploded. As per a report from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, Indians installed 7.3 billion games, nearly 17% of all worldwide downloads in the first nine months of 2020, beating countries like USA and Japan to the number one position.

 

Basis the Google-KPMG Media Report 2020, the Indian gaming industry will cross USD 1.1 billion in 2021. With around 500 million people in India having smartphones (give or take a few million) and around 300 million+ gamers, there is no denying that this market is growing with the lockdown having helped accelerate the growth. The biggest USP of mobile gaming is the level of engagement that the audience has while playing a game. A GroupM- Mobile Marketing Association report (link – https://www.groupm.com/mobile-marketing-association-and-groupm-launch-mobile-ecosystem-report-2020/) highlighted that gamers are more than twice as likely to pay attention to advertisements placed in mobile games at 41 percent, as compared to ads placed on the internet at 17 percent, in magazines or on billboards at 15 percent each.

This implies the inherent value of digital impressions becomes much higher.

 

Marketing during gaming takes three forms primarily –

:: Integrations – which are well-integrated into the narrative like branded ‘Virtual Real Estate’ like banners within the game, branded items like clothes or accessories worn by avatars, and fully branded modes or levels

:: Advertisements for additional lives, etc. which can be typically purchased on ad exchanges

:: Events such as e-sporting leagues

 

Barack Obama used in-game advertising hoardings in the game Burnout Paradise among others, during his 2008 Presidential campaign

 

Barack Obama used in-game advertising hoardings in the game Burnout Paradise among others, during his 2008 Presidential campaign.

 

In India, Gaming in India can primarily be classified into four heads-

:: Fantasy Gaming – which already has 100 million users with companies like Dream 11, Mobile Premier League dominating.

:: Action games – such as PUBG and Fortnite. While Fortnite doesn’t have as many users in India it has been the front-runner in terms of brand integrations globally.

:: Real Money Gaming – like online Rummy, Poker, and Ludo King. This comes under the purview of gambling and hence basis Indian law is subject to laws as dictated by states. While skill-based games such as Poker and Rummy are usually permitted, games of chance are prohibited. The recent PayTM First Games ban on the Google Play Store was also related to the definition of what constitutes ‘Gambling’

:: Live Trivia apps – such as Pocket Aces owned Loco

  

Why Gaming?

 

With more people coming online there is ad fatigue that takes place due to the high number of ads users see. Many users also use ad blockers, and hence awareness and engagement with even well-targeted ads is low as the audience is just waiting to skip the ad.

 

This is as opposed to the active audience that plays online games, where they are tuned to engage with the gaming platform to maximise scores. By using product integrations, or branded levels, brands can also help create immersive experiences for the target audience.

 

Poco introduced their new launch, POCO M2 Pro via the game Tappy birds. A weeklong tournament called ‘Tappybird showdown’ was held where the mobile phones were placed inside the game, and players had to collect the phone to earn extra cookie points.

Secondly, as the market is still nascent, brand integrations remain relatively unexplored. With 5G coming into India in the next 5 years, gaming will become immersive and hence technologies such as AR/VR will help create a value-added gaming environment, which is perfect for marketing.

 

Poco introduced their new launch, POCO M2 Pro via the game Tappy birds. A weeklong tournament called ‘Tappybird showdown’ was held where the mobile phones were placed inside the game, and players had to collect the phone to earn extra cookie points.

 

Thirdly, emergence of e-sporting leagues and tournaments and live game streaming allows brands to leverage gaming influencers, do cause marketing, sponsorships etc. for a well-defined audience. The Google-owned YouTube has a vibrant community of gaming live streamers such as Tanmay Bhat, Gagandeep Singh (Sikh Warrior), Manasvi Dalvi (Manasvivi) etc. in India. Globally such campaigns are have already become common, for e.g. P&G’s Gillette has hosted the Gillette Gaming Alliance on Amazon-owned live streaming platform Twitch in 2019 and 2020 with a team of five Twitch influencers to create content for their fans, and highlight other campaigns and causes.

 

Lastly, just like in digital advertising, brands can target users on the basis of demographics and geographies, which makes in game advertising all the more effective. There is also high prevalence of gamers in Tier2 and Tier 3 cities, which can be leveraged by brands.

While it may seem that Gaming is more relevant for youth-focused brands, the 35+ age group has high usage in more traditional games such as LudoKing, Online rummy and Poker. Hence, depending on the target audience, brands should choose games online to create impact.

 

The timing is right, the lockdown has helped accelerate user growth, and Indians brands must strike when the iron is hot to make the most of a relatively undiscovered avenue for advertising before it gets too crowded.

 

Bhuvi Gupta is a marketer with over 10 years across industries, of which the last six have been in Media & Entertainment. She has been a part of many launch marketing campaigns – specifically at the Times of India group, Republic TV and the latest in marketing a Bollywood film. She will write on A&M (mostly marketing, but often on advertising too) every other Tuesday. Her views here are personal. She tweets at @bhuvigupta3

 

 

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