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Mobile games industry trends for 2023: Publishing predictions: Part two

MobileGroove's Peggy Anne Salz looks at intellectual property and brands, social media, streaming, and esports
Mobile games industry trends for 2023: Publishing predictions: Part two
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Launching a game is an enormous achievement in and of itself, but it’s just the beginning of marketing and monetizing your hard work and creativity. Intellectual property-based (IP) video games and entertainment tie-ins are accelerating in the industry, and this is just one of the trends that should be on your radar this year. As well as the use of IP, social integration is just as hot, as is streaming for spectators and creating esports-ready games. And so it's more vital than ever to be aware of, and understand these changes in how we approach game publishing.

Below, we break down the current gaming trends that should be on your watchlist for 2023.

IP games will gain a larger share of the market

Video games and other entertainment tie-ins with movies and TV programs have a long history. Today, these tie-ins appear to be accelerating, as shown with recent mobile releases for franchises such as Harry Potter and Stranger Things.

“Well-known IPs are proving increasingly popular, and game makers can leverage these to increase their market share and revenue,” said senior marketing manager Chris Uglietta in a recent Pocket Gamer interview. “Creating a game based on an established property can help widen the acquisition funnel. The potential return from investing in existing IPs with an established fanbase has increased.”

Analytics firm Newzoo came to a similar conclusion last year. As noted in its report, IP-Based Mobile Games: Overcoming UA Challenges With Franchise Power “Five out of the 10 most downloaded franchises in 2021 were originally TV series.”

Both Uglietta and Newzoo temper their enthusiasm for IP-based games, noting that a game won’t automatically grab a larger audience just because it’s based on a movie or TV program. “Proper market research and meticulous business case-modelling are necessary to succeed when implementing IP,” Uglietta said. “You can’t just slap a famous name on a game.”

With IP holders increasingly looking to use transmedia strategies to extend market reach across various media, Newzoo concluded that, “The entertainment industry is embracing gaming to unprecedented levels… IP holders can’t afford to miss mobile games as part of their launch strategy.”

Working with high-profile brands

Just as IP can be immensely useful for boosting user acquisition (UA), partnerships with high-profile brands are also helpful, becoming associated with household names such as Gucci or Nike can immediately bring a new game to the attention of a wider audience. In addition to giving consumers new ways to interact with established brands, the partnerships offer an opportunity for developers to raise profitability.

Gucci, in particular, has made significant inroads with digital experiences. As well as establishing its own piazza in metaverse platform Roblox, the Italian company has partnered with the likes of The Sims, Pokémon Go, and Animal Crossing. Vogue Business reported that the fashion house, “has embarked on a broad strategy to create and sell digital clothing and accessories for avatars and games. This generates revenue for the luxury brand and appeals to gamers by allowing them to express themselves.”

If gamification becomes passé in 2023, brand partnerships will take up the slack. There’s a lot of potential for brands to extend their reach by interacting with consumers in exciting new spaces such as games and the metaverse.

Integration with social media

The metaverse may have captured most of the headlines in the past year, with some critics believing social media is in serious trouble. Mark Zuckerberg's vision of a metaverse-first platform has upset investors and Elon Musk’s high-profile buyout of Twitter had users running for the Mastodon hills.

But behind the headlines – and until the metaverse takes over our online interactions – people are still talking about games on social media. Twitter Gaming reported record conversation volume for the first half of 2022, which amounts to 1.5 billion tweets or a 36 percent year-on-year increase in tweets about gaming.

“Twitter is a dominant force within games communications,” Evolve PR's Colin Cummings wrote in 2022. “This is where much of the industry lives, in terms of individuals and companies. This is a platform that has high engagement rates (if you are consistent!) and best lets you link to outside platforms, like your store page! Twitter offers one of the best chances you have to gain wishlists or directly drive game sales through its inherent discoverability with retweets and high engagement percentages.”

Paid media remains an expensive marketing channel, and many analysts find that users are experiencing influencer fatigue. This is why good old social media continues to represent a low-cost, high-reach option for marketing on a budget.

In its 2021 gaming spotlight, with intelligence firm IDC, found that “across all major platforms, games with real-time online features such as PvP (player-versus-player) indicate an appetite for connection and social experiences exists across the gaming spectrum.”

Developers should not only look to establish and support online communities, but also make it easier for them to connect. This will have the dual benefit of encouraging user retention through shared experiences, as well as helping to bring their titles to the attention of connected users on social channels.

Streaming for spectators

Streaming media is another stalwart tool for enabling outreach for UA. In fact, streaming is now more important than ever as Evoplay CCO Vladimir Malakchi told Gambling Insider. “Collaboration with streaming celebrities and other personalities seems logical for game developers since it provides the target audience with an already positive attitude towards a product,” he said.

He continued, saying “Marketing campaigns that capitalize on the influence of streamers often provide a fivefold increase in game revenue and a 30% increase in player numbers. We have approximately 45 streams of our games quarterly, generally resulting in a reach of 16.5 million potential players.”

Established streamers are the most obvious route to market, but don’t underestimate the importance of making it easy for everyday gamers to share their clips with friends, as well as the world at large.

YouTube remains an important outlet for video overall, but gamers are attuned to Twitch, which earned a PCMag Editor’s Choice shout out for the best video game live streaming service for 2023. Twitch, “continues to reign as the platform for live streamers to broadcast their video game sessions, and many other works, to the web,” PCMag said.

In a recent open letter, Twitch Chief Product Officer Tom Verrilli detailed recent innovations for streamers, such as lower payout thresholds, and also outlined future developments. Among these developments is making it easier to promote Twitch streams on other platforms for content discovery, as well as streamlined ad programming. The net result could be an even broader outreach campaign and improved monetization without any additional time invested.

Esports-friendly game options

What better way to engage with streaming output than ensuring your game is esports ready? Not every game needs the clout that Call of Duty Mobile, PUBG Mobile or League of Legends: Wild Rift has to find an audience.

“The number of esports enthusiasts will grow to 318 million in 2025, with a CAGR of 8.1% (2020-2025). In 2025, the total audience will surpass 640 million,” Newzoo reported. They also drew attention to the fact that digital and streaming are the two fastest-growing revenue streams for esports, with 2020-2025 CAGRs of +27.2% and +24.8%, respectively.

It's all too easy to presume that the big-name games on console and PC dominate the market. But as Edward Gregory of Fnatic pointed out at the recent Discover: Esports event, for smaller brands the answer is simply to reach out. Design a game to be instantly watchable and shareable, as well as playable and you’ll find a bigger audience.

In terms of mobile esports, venerable top-hat aficionado Oscar Clark told Pocket Gamer last month that “it won’t be long till a uniquely mobile-first esport game that really feels native to my smartphone smashes the esports charts.”

Missed part one of our publishing predictions? Check it out here.