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Just before the launch of the Mobile Games Consumer Survey 2021, we invited speakers to discuss the big question of how to make money from mobile gaming, including Regional Sales Director for Gameloft, Jean Saltarin, Joanne Lacey – COO at games ad specialists AdInMo, and Bernardo Mendes – Chief Gaming Officer at DRUID, a Brazilian ad agency specialised in gaming.

Before the main discussion Phil Todd (Director at Stereoscope and author of the MEF report) shared some statistical highlights. Surveying 10 countries and 650 respondents, the results reveal common global trends and some interesting outliers too.

Brazil and Japan stand out at opposite extremes of gaming behaviour. Daily gamers in Japan stack up at 76% compared to 21% in Brazil (and 59% on average globally). Brazil comes out as a market of (36%) “casual gamers” who only play once every 6 months or less – a result attributed to device and/or data limitations.

Casual or consistent gamers aside, the report illustrates growing demand for gaming overall. With that, we opened our panel to hear more on the monetization opportunities for mobile games across the advertising value chain. When we talk about advertising though, the first question is of course – won’t that turn gamers off?

Jean Saltarin suggested gamers are well-accustomed to freemium/free-to-play models and therefore advertising. What’s more important, is how to integrate the advertising without breaking the user experience.

The easiest way to do this is using “point out” moments when the user isn’t playing – between one level and the next for example. An alternative approach is to put advertising front and centre. By offering gameplay bonuses in exchange for engaging with ads, developers can promote positive gamer-advertiser relationships through regular rewards.

How do advertisements get into mobile games though technically?

Joanne Lacey explained how programmatic solutions can dynamically insert ads directly into games – populating billboards and other urban scenery with sponsored content. Developers download the SDK and define which kinds of advertising to permit in which spaces. This level of control allows developers to filter what fits authentically as not to disrupt the player immersion.

In terms of immersion, Jo agreed with Jean that ads in games are nothing new. Consumers embrace great games for free knowing they’ll encounter advertising. The underlying threat then is churn. Whether it’s heavy-handed ad insertion or the draw of new games to play, keeping the user experience smooth is essential.

Bernardo Mendes shared two clear areas of growth when working with brands – immersive experiences and livestreaming. Instead of brands building their own games from scratch though, investing in a brand presence within existing games can be much more impactful.

When wrapping up the session, we heard that mobile is the single biggest gaming platform – a $90bn industry when summing up advertising, premium games, and subscriptions. Business is booming but Apple announced recently that app tracking is now opt-in only. How much of a shock to the ecosystem should be expected?

Bernardo reassured that there are plenty of companies who collect minimal data and remain successful. Furthermore, Jean agreed that the challenge will be adapting targeting to scenarios with scarcer gamer data. After all, user engagement and retention can only be meaningfully improved through an effective consumer data feedback loop.

Looking ahead the panel confirmed that increasing user acquisition costs will remain challenging but that immersive ad experiences and the emerging metaverse will be hot topics for the years to come.

Mitchell Cutmore