Dec 28 2012
Noor Naseer

Mobile Gaming: What’s It Really Worth for Advertisers?


I have always been skeptical about the role that ad executions play in mobile games. Gaming publishers often defend the space by contending smartphone and tablet owners spend a significant amount of their device time in mobile gaming environments.

Market research confirms that defense. Gaming authority Newzoo released a report in March of this year citing that the number of US mobile gamers surpassed 100 million, up 35% from the year prior. eMarketer and Comscore similarly released reports this year showcasing gaming ranking amongst the most common mobile activities.

While I have no qualms with recognizing the volume of time mobile users spend playing games, I am wary of attributing time spent gaming equaling a valuable spending environment for advertisers.

Gaming publishers may contend a gamer’s attention will transfer to an in-game ad unit, but I can’t find reason to believe it. Gamers are actively invested in one thing – completing the current level of whichever game they are playing.

I’ll share an old-school example of my own experience. When I was a kid using a Nokia ‘brick phone’ in the late 90s, I wanted to do one thing – play Snake. If I was in the middle of a tight round of slithering my way towards a hard-to-reach apple, nothing short of a house fire could distract me from my mission of game play.

Someone could counter that I am referring to a time before the birth of mobile advertising. However, I would say that the single-mindedness of a gamer largely remains the same. Gamers are unlike mobile users consuming any other form of content.

A mobile user reading an article can stop at the end of a sentence to acknowledge a mobile banner. Mobile video requires viewers to view an ad before seeing content. However, if a mobile ad pops up during game play, many gamers’ only interaction with that ad will be trying to click out or away from it.

To note, I do think there are some gaming environments where gamers are more likely to be receptive. I’ll give credit to gaming interstitial executions that interrupt users between levels and also gaming market places. I’ll even give it to in-game brand integrations. However, many integration executives acknowledge brand integrations as strictly valuable for brand awareness and recall.

Advertisers shouldn’t be wooed just by how much time a user spends in a particular mobile environment. Thinking from the perspective of a marketer, the primary concern should be on the likelihood of a given user actually interacting with a brand.

I might be coming across as a Debbie Downer regarding mobile gaming’s potential to be a valuable arena for advertising. However, I’m waiting for a gaming ad advocate to explain to me how and why I’m wrong. If you agree or feel differently, share your thoughts below.