Mobile gaming in India: 4 reasons to invest now, not later

Authored by Amit Rathi, Country Manager, India, AdColony

India is the fastest-growing mobile game market in the world with 250 million users and more than double that expected by 2020. Revenue is also on track to hit $1 billion next year. Average annual spend per paying mobile gamer is projected to grow by 75%, an enormous increase compared to China (3%) and the United States (1%).

While that level of growth might seem shocking to consumers or even economists looking from the outside, those of us in the industry are not surprised at all. To put it lightly, India is the perfect storm for mobile gaming. 

We are a mobile-first country where the majority of people access the internet from their phone, and as devices become even more affordable, the number of users will be growing not by the millions but by the hundreds of millions. 
Data constrictions are going away; within two years, the cost of data will drop to a quarter of where it is today. 
Frictionless payment systems (e.g., PayTM) are rising, and we have a growing middle class who can and will pay for in-app content, and also serve as a key target audience for brand advertisers.
The Indian mobile gamer – a top-tier demographic

One of the common stereotypes of a “gamer” is that of a young guy; someone who wastes their time playing games all day and has little to no buying power. This is a stereotype borne from the console gamer but doesn’t translate over to the realistic profile of a mobile gamer in India today. Mobile gamers are fairly evenly split female to male (45-55 ratio) and one in three are over 35 years old, with disposable income.

Other activities conducted on phones include shopping, banking and food ordering, so consumers are comfortable spending money in mobile environments. These consumers care about brands and represent enormous market potential for everyday items you see at major national retail, grocery and fast-casual restaurant chains – as well as big-ticket items like laptops, cars and travel services.

If you ignore mobile gamers because of what you’ve heard in the past, you’re passing up an opportunity to reach a potential customer or client that could have significant lifetime value for your brand.

Getting into hard-to-reach places with the greatest of ease

Another story that marketers used to tell about why they don’t advertise in mobile games is that they “don’t need another channel.” It’s true, being a digital marketer today can be overwhelming with the number of channels and buying choices in front of you. But if you are like many advertisers who think sticking with Facebook and Google will allow you to reach all of your audience, I have a wake-up call for you: You are missing out on 30% of the population! That is, you might think you’re reaching the majority (90-95%) when you buy target audiences from the big players, but you are not.

Furthermore, social media and search platforms are always changing the rules on you; one minute your ad spend gets you a certain number of leads, the next minute you have to pay more and still might get less. These channels, unlike mobile gaming, are also dominated by user-generated content which is not always brand-safe. Measurement in social channels can also be a challenge and doesn’t always allow you a solid understanding of your return on ad spend (ROAS).

Additionally, some buyers have a misunderstanding that buying high-impact units (e.g., video) in mobile apps must be done manually, while in reality the technology is quite sophisticated and you can quickly and easily buy programmatically, as well as customized – a curated list of apps can be put together to reach any audience you need.

Advertising experiences in mobile games is top-notch

To succeed in mobile games – and mobile gamers do want to win! – you must be focused. To that end, gamers look to play in uninterrupted time slots, such as home (86%) and while traveling/commuting (42%), according to the ‘Gaming in India’ MMA study. The benefits of these dedicated time slots is that it puts gamers in a receptive mode to receive, interpret and evaluate information – and that includes ads. And if they are incentivized ads, gamers opt in and pay even closer attention. Nearly 6 in 10 mobile gamers watch rewarded video, and they have even come to expect (and prefer) them! According to our survey, one in six users prefers to encounter ads in mobile games, compared to just one in 14 on Instagram. And what they see, they buy:

1 in 4 mobile gaming users purchased advertised products & services.

Many mobile gamers are also playing daily – 3 out of 5 gamers play two times or more a day. This provides unique opportunity on the part of a brand to impact them throughout the day, and we all know what frequency does for brand recall.

More inventory, technology as investment pours in 

Mobile already represents half of digital media spend in India, and for all the reasons listed above, it is expected to grow to 67% by 2021. Right now, there is plenty of space for that growth in ad spend, as the Indian games market is a healthy combination of global titles like Candy Crush and local favorites like Ludo King, Little Singham, Sachin Saga and Golmaal Jr. -- spanning across genres, although hyper-casual and sports games do perform the best. But there’s even more money coming into the industry due to increased overseas investment and partnerships, mostly from China. In 2010 there were 25 game development companies in India, and now there are over 250.

Some marketers are keeping a close eye on Over-The-Top advertising, as that is an area that is also seeing investment and growth from international (Amazon Prime) and local players like HotStar, TelCo and Voot. But despite Indian users’ adoption of online streaming services, they are still spending less time (45 minutes) per day with these services than they are in mobile games (60 minutes). And over 40% of gamers spend more than an hour per day playing mobile games.

It’s clear that the stage is set in India for explosive growth. We have a high volume of active and engaged mobile users who can and will spend money, not on IAP (<1%), but who will watch video in exchange for content and in-app rewards. We have a seemingly infinite amount of brand-safe supply, both local and international, available at a reasonable price. And we have a key differentiator from other advertising channels: No ad blocking. In fact, quite the opposite – we have users choosing to watch ads. The question now is not how to catch the wave of India mobile gaming, but when? There’s no reason to wait any longer. 


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