Hypercasual is dead!
Not really, I just thought it was customary to start articles about mobile gaming in December with greatly exaggerated reports of the death of hypercasual...
It’s true that mobile gaming is branching out, attracting core players through titles such as Genshin Impact; competitive PC players with League of Legends: Wild Rift or PUBG Mobile; and crypto enthusiasts on Axie Infinity. This is largely happening alongside the continuing success of hypercasual titles like Subway Surfers and Helix Jump.
The upshot of new content and new audiences is that the ways mobile games make money and advertise need to evolve. Although mobile gaming monetisation methods are driving the revenue increases of apps generally, and the free-to-play model is taking the console and PC markets by storm too, mobile gaming is the ultimate testing ground for the next generation of ad formats.
In the age of ad blocker, user privacy, and the emerging metaverse, it’s time to get creative once again.
Rewarded video is a format popular with developers, publishers, and gamers alike. Studies indicate that Gen Z generally favours videos that are less than 10 seconds in length, meaning longer rewarded videos may quickly become a thing of the past.
But there’s a huge opportunity here not just for rewarded video, but rewarded ad content of all formats. The growing popularity of play-to-earn mechanics offers a lesson for ads too. We’ll likely see more integrations of branded NFTs and crypto rewards that increase game revenue and user stickiness.
But what about rewarded playables that grant in-game currency or even cryptocurrency, in-game items such as skins, or cosmetic NFTs? By integrating ad formats with the preferences of Gen Z and the prevailing direction of gaming mechanics, publishers could be on to a winner.
Tolerance for interruptive, intrusively targeted ads is waning across the board: enter in-game billboards and video. These ad units pioneered by the likes of Admix blend with the game’s content rather than distract the user from gameplay; a plus point for players, publishers, and advertisers.
I expect to see continued growth for these formats as well as in-game audio, which has been shown to be more impactful than legacy ad formats such as interstitials.
A staple of hypercasual campaigns, playable ads are becoming a vital string in the bow for mobile games marketers across genres (and even helped Joe Biden become the US President). And while mobile gaming is universal, studies have shown that the important Gen Z demographic in particular has a shorter attention span than previous generations, preferring ads that aim to engage and entertain them.
There are many other factors driving the growth of playable and interactive ad formats, such as higher-quality graphics, easy-to-use templates and editing options that make A/B testing super easy, and the integration of added value to end cards such as video ads and quiz questions. Likewise, as the 5G rollout ramps up worldwide, it will be possible to create even more engaging, higher-fidelity playable and interactive ads for players on the move.
Supercell partnered with YouTuber Mr Beast’s recreation of the Netflix phenomenon Squid Game, which has 167 million views at the time of writing. Though this was doubtless a pricey move for the publisher, downloads of Brawl Stars, which was plugged heavily throughout the video, escalated dramatically, bringing in a 54% increase in revenue that generated $8.2 million.
This type of activation is obviously not doable for the majority of publishers, but tying mobile gaming to hot IP and pop culture, looks to be a smart UA move for those that can afford it.
Pokemon GO developer Niantic was recently valued at $9 billion, showing the strength of its blended Mixed Reality model. Again, there are lessons here for mobile advertisers.
American insurance giant State Farm developed an XR treasure hunt for digital NFTs, some of which also awarded real-life counterparts such as autographed footballs. The potential to add value for players through XR, in combination with other new technologies, is essentially limitless.
Dive into the metaverse
It’s coming whether you like it or not, and it’s bringing with it a mind-bending number of ways to advertise. I’ll try to paint a picture of just one of the admittedly hypothetical ways the metaverse can refresh mobile and digital advertising experiences...
So imagine you’re in a gamified metaverse, right? It’s a recreation of that cool 80s mall from Stranger Things. You head to the arcade for some retro gaming action, but you’re out of crypto quarters for the machine. No problem, you can unlock it by checking out a video ad for the Ralph Lauren boutique down the way, or even earn some via one of the other games in the arcade!
Read the room
As mobile games advertisers, we’re so conditioned to advertising based on audience. But what if we could advertise based on content? Contextual advertising can already analyse the content of webpages and audiovisual content to serve appropriate ads - why not mobile games?
Combined with data that users are happy to share, this would make it possible not only to show relevant, engaging ads - but also offer the rewards and value add that users want most.
Mobile gaming is branching out, bringing new devices, new content and new audiences. Our players’ understanding of the advertising content they will tolerate and the data they’re willing to share is heightened. Gaming and advertising technology are evolving by the day. I’ve no hesitation in saying that only mobile gaming can address these challenges and be at the vanguard of not only making advertising continue to work for players and games publishers, but for consumers and advertisers in all industries.