If your image of a video gamer is a 30-something guy chugging Red Bull and playing first-person shooters all night, think again. Mobile social gaming — a space that includes everything from Electronic Arts’ Pogo lineup to Zynga’s Words With Friends and FarmVille — is changing the video game space in a very big way.
That’s the takeaway from the results of a survey of more than 60,000 mobile gamers released last week by mobile analytics firm Flurry. The company found the average mobile social gamer is 28, about six years younger than the average player on consoles or PCs. More surprisingly, women account for 53 percent of the worldwide mobile social gaming market.
Nearly two-thirds of mobile social gamers worldwide are in North America, according to Flurry’s data; Europe accounts for 30 percent. The rest of the world takes a mere 6 percent chunk, a figure that will grow as iOS and Android migrate beyond Western markets. The average household income of U.S. mobile social gamers is more than $66,000 — about 50 percent higher than the median household income in the U.S. And American gamers are more than twice as likely to have at least a bachelor’s degree than the average U.S. citizen.
Just as important as those demographics is the fact the surge in smartphone usage has spurred an explosion in app usage, with mobile gaming being a primary driver. Flurry has detected more than a quarter-billion unique iOS and Android devices in the market, and discovers more than 750,000 new gadgets daily. In other words, the installed base of devices running those two mobile platforms is larger than either the combined worldwide installed base of Wii, Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 (pegged at 180 million units) or the combination of Nintendo DS and Sony PSP (roughly 200 million units). In fact, Flurry claims its network sees 26 million users every day who play social games more than 25 minutes a day.
It’s clear, then, that mobile gaming has finally gone mass market, and the continued proliferation of smartphones is laying the foundation for dramatic long-term growth. Here are the important angles for the players in the space:
For advertisers: Mobile social gaming is far more mainstream than the world of console gaming. So its audience is low-hanging fruit for a wide variety of potential advertisers, especially those looking to target both women and men. Unlike other types of mobile ads, social gaming is well suited to the kind of “actionable” advertising strategies that ask a consumer to engage with a brand or click to call. But those ads should be more than just the pedestrian banner ads that increasingly ignored by consumers (and that often just push other mobile games). Instead, advertisers should work with developers to integrate their campaigns with well-known games, and cross-promote them via traditional media and online ads.
For developers: Developers should employ every available strategy in monetizing mobile social games, from the promising freemium model to simple paid downloads to free titles supported entirely by ad revenues. And mobile social gaming is a particularly good fit for in-app purchases that encourage users to cough up a few dollars to acquire virtual tools or access new levels. (As long as those games don’t encourage kids to ring up ridiculous charges on their parents’ phone bills.)
For app store operators: The likelihood of an app being found gets increasingly harder as the Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market add more titles. So app store operators can cash in on the exploding space by making sure the best — and most lucrative — games are easy to find. They should spotlight the most popular and highest-quality games as “featured” titles, especially those from established, trusted publishers, and make it easy for gamers to find relevant titles by using recommendations based on past purchases and reviews. And app stores should leverage the social component by encouraging users to suggest specific games to their friends who opt to receive those suggestions.