Home > Lai Kok Fung > Mobile Entertainment Comes of Age, Revealing a Treasure Trove of Opportunities for Brand Engagement

Mobile Entertainment Comes of Age, Revealing a Treasure Trove of Opportunities for Brand Engagement

By KF Lai, CEO

Anyone who still believes that mobile gaming is the domain of the spotty teenage boy urgently needs to update their thinking. All age groups are now engaging in regular and immersive mobile entertainment activity on their mobile phones, and the proportion of women playing mobile games is rising fast. Those agencies and brands that understand the new dynamics of mobile entertainment can take advantage of this powerful channel to reach mainstream consumers with “byte size” commercial or branded messages.


Mobile entertainment has certainly come of age. Whereas consumers previously indulged in ‘casual snacking’, the mobile lifestyle has become more structured and sophisticated, resulting in significant growth of immersive and regular mobile gaming activity across all demographics. 42 percent of consumers in the UK now use a smartphone[1]. Only 9% of mobile users globally claim that they have never played games on their mobiles.


Advertiser activity has increased too, with investment in the marketing of games, music and lifestyle content growing consistently over the past few years. That adspend is obviously generating results, with 46% of mobile users having purchased virtual products such as games, ringtones and MP3s.

Changing demographics

Many marketers still fall into the trap of thinking that mobile entertainment is all about the teenage market. The typical mobile user is aged between 20 and 25, and more mature gamers are beginning to emerge. The over-40s market is growing particularly fast, and already makes up 12% of gamers in the US, 19% in South Africa and 8% in Malaysia

Although the mobile gaming market has traditionally been male-dominated, we’re starting to see the rise of female gamers (they already make up 29% globally). Countries leading the way here are the US and Thailand (both 49% female), and South Africa (47% female).

Interestingly, both men and women share a preference for action and adventure games (41%) followed by sports and racing games (21%). 8% of users prefer social apps, and 9% prefer puzzles.

Regular engagement

Mobile users are no longer so casual about gaming. There’s structured regularity in both the discovery and consumption of games. 32% of consumers download new games sporadically, and a majority (46%) demonstrate a weekly or fortnightly regularity in their download activity. 40% of gamers play every day.

Games are being relied on more than ever as recreational time-fillers, and we can see patterned breaks such as after work, while waiting, or before sleep. 32% of users claim that they will play a mobile game ‘at every chance they get’.

Most mobile users know precisely what they want. Their preferences suggest sophisticated plotlines beyond the traditional idea of casual games. Role-playing games, multi-level quests, social games and strategy games all require interaction, engagement and skill development over time. 46% of users play to learn something new, or to get the most out of their phones.

We’re also seeing discernment, prior knowledge and background thinking when it comes to purchasing decisions. Based on user search behaviour, a significant portion of downloads come from users who are already aware of the game title that they’re looking for, and less dependence on discovery.

With all the games on the market, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s impossible to create a new game that will be of interest to the mobile user. In fact, 12% claim they can’t find what they want. Our research showed that users felt that many games did not cater to their age or vocation, or teach them something new – a clear market opportunity for games developers.

What opportunities are there for marketers?

Whereas mobile gaming might once have been viewed as a simplistic activity that users stumbled upon, marketers are now learning that mobile entertainment is a mainstream activity, and a set of targetable consumer products.

So if you’re looking for the next opportunity in mobile entertainment, where do you start? With the significant regularity of user interaction (both playing and downloading new games), ad-supported games or advergames look to be a good opportunity – particularly where branding is a key campaign objective.

Distribution is crucial, and you’ll need to collaborate with platforms that encourage discovery, and make use of every media opportunity to build consumer awareness prior to download.

With all the hype around top-end smartphones, particularly handsets such as the iPhone, it may be tempting to focus on developing for this segment exclusively. Don’t forget, however, to direct some resources toward feature phones too – they still make up a significant segment of the market, and could well be low-hanging fruit.

Consider the longevity of your game too. It goes beyond the length of a single campaign, so plan for a lifespan of at least 1+ years.

Opportunities exist to create games or applications that target a female audience (our data shows this is clearly a growing market). There are also opportunities for recreational applications, or games that can be used as much for stress relief as mental exercises.

With a wide and growing variety of channels available to reach the mobile user, it is crucial that marketers develop their understanding of the mobile user and his/her behaviour, effectively optimising their content to suit these. By understanding the consumer as well as possible, marketers can reap the rewards of successful mobile campaigns.

This article was originally published in Fourth Source on 1 September 2011.

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