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Mobile Game Developer Articles

Mobile Game Marketing

Greystripe's director of product management explores whether mobile games are sticking with marketers.

Advertisers are embracing mobile marketing, and many are moving even faster than when they adopted online advertising in the late 1990s. At the same time, analyst reports show that although the desire for mobile gaming is growing among consumers, they remain highly price sensitive. In this article, we'll explore how these factors suggest that advertising in mobile games is a huge opportunity and poised to explode over the next one to three years.

Advertising in mobile games around the world

Big brand names are already investing in mobile advergaming development, and the results have been worthy of some "high scores." For instance, Coca-Cola launched a mobile game in India called "Thumbs Up Everest--" a rock climbing adventure that included weekly prize giveaways and a top-score board. The results were impressive with more than 350,000 games downloaded each week. Advergaming also proved successful in creating pre-release buzz for Bollywood film "Jurm," where approximately 150,000 people downloaded the movie's puzzle game the first day, and volume approached 500,000 by the end of the week. Furthermore, the advergame for Jurm was a successful viral marketing tool, spreading from urban areas (where it was mostly advertised) to small towns by word of mouth, providing even more exposure for the movie.

Asia-Pacific countries lead the way for mobile game advertising opportunities, with 28 percent of consumers playing downloaded single-player mobile games at least once a week, according to Parks Associates' research. Europe and North America lag behind, with only 13 percent and eight percent, respectively, downloading mobile games, although far greater numbers play preloaded games.

Sparking Mobile Games through Advertising

Right now, there is a strong consumer desire for more fun and informational cell phone services. Recent Pew Research studies show that cell phone owners want to do more with mobile technology, and game playing ranks high on the list. Wider deployment of 3G networks, additional investment from game publishers, and more powerful devices will all improve the mobile gaming experience.

Despite all these factors, game downloads in Europe and North America have not been growing as a percentage of subscribers (about 13 and eight percent, respectively). Why the contradiction? A May 2006 M:Metrics report indicates price sensitivity is a major reason. Simply, lower price points are required to meet strong consumer demand and really ignite mobile gaming. And advertising sponsored mobile games can enable those lower prices.

Why are advertisers interested in mobile games? Demographics are certainly one reason. In the U.S., a May 2006 M:Metrics report indicates mobile games are downloaded at a rate of five million per month and, of the 16 million unique players, 35 percent are in the 18-34 male demographic that is so sought by advertisers. From trends in online gaming, we can expect to reach a more diverse group in the future. For example, women in their 30s and 40s account for a significant segment of game aficionados on the web, playing everything from solitaire and puzzles to casino and retro shoot-em-up classics.

Games are an ideal way to integrate mobile into an advertising campaign because they support larger and richer creatives than WAP pages. Games fill the whole screen and offer advertising without competition for user attention. Gaming is also attractive since it is a leisure time activity when users are more receptive to marketing messages. In a recent Mobile Entertainment Forum survey, 60 percent of respondents felt mobile games were "perfectly" or "very" suited for advertising. Additionally, around-game sponsorships are a cost-effective way to create positive brand associations without disrupting game play and without the cost of custom advergame development.

Mobile Game Ad Networks

Before mobile game advertising can really take off, some of advertisers' trepidations about this new market must first be allayed. Ad networks with reliable metrics, broad reach and sophisticated targeting will be a requirement. Advertisers will expect many of the same features they receive from online networks: self-service web interfaces, geotargeting for regional advertising, and impression capping. And critically important, reliable impression measurements are required. With these types of features, both large and small advertisers can tap mobile advertising with the same ease that they use Google AdSense and other online networks.

To be most effective, mobile game ad networks should support the creative formats and new actions that let advertisers tap the unique features of mobile devices. Mobile specific features such as click-to-call, location-based ads, opt-in for SMS and MMS, and consumer-to-consumer viral marketing will also drive the value of mobile ads. Looking to the future, advertising solutions should also provide a path to supporting emerging formats like mobile video.

M2M: Mobile-to-Mobile marketing

One of the most attractive opportunities for mobile ad networks is in Mobile-to-Mobile (M2M) marketing, which uses mobile-based advertising to drive sales of mobile ringtones, videos, wallpapers and games. These can be uniquely sold through mobile advertising since conversion can be immediate; there are anecdotal reports of click-through-rates over 50 percent.

M2M is precisely the strategy that GPShopper is employing to market its Slifter location-aware shopping application. Mobile advertisements placed through the Greystripe AdWrap network reach a wide game-playing audience and encourage them to download the free Slifter mobile application right there and then. To maximize effectiveness, the advertisements are targeted only at consumers using phones capable of running Java applications and wireless carriers that allow downloads.


As seen around the world, there is growing interest in mobile gaming and a great opportunity for in-game advertising. The key will be how advertisers take advantage of the technology available and where they invest their resources. Brands and advertisers can capitalize on the current sophisticated technology available, which is providing better reach, reliable metrics, and unique ways to engage mobile customers. Furthermore, they can leverage the momentum of gaming among a diverse and growing population that is more open to new forms of marketing. Let the games begin!

Jim Durrell is the director of product management at Greystripe and one of the inventors of Greystripe's AdWrap technology. Jim represents Greystripe in the Mobile Marketing Alliance, where he participates in the Ad Standards and Metrics committees. Prior to joining Greystripe, he was responsible for product management of location-based services at TruePosition, and before that accumulated more than ten years of telecommunications experience in management, sales, and engineering


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