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Why in-game ads often cause mobile gamers to quit playing

Why in-game ads often cause mobile gamers to quit playing

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With ad revenue for gaming projected to reach US$100 billion in 2025, many brands have their eyes on this sector in the hopes of getting a slice of the gaming revenue pie.

Delving deeper into mobile gaming, its popularity is mainly due to its convenience with 89% of APAC consumers engaging in some form of mobile gaming. In fact, countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Hong Kong experience a 90% and above penetration rate.

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These were the results of Omnicom Media Group’s latest report titled ‘Unlocking Gamers in Asia Pacific’, which also revealed that not all gamers identify as “gamers”. Overall, 62% of APAC respondents identify with the label which highlights that brands should adopt different labels such as “players”.

More specifically, 84% of respondents in Hong Kong considered themselves gamers while only 54% identified with the label in Indonesia. To circumvent the issues of a blanket term, brands should target gaming audiences based on subcultural behaviours when reaching out to different markets across the region, according to Omnicom Media Group. 

What do APAC gamers want from brands?

Especially in Hong Kong, respondents feel that too many repetitive ads make them perceive the brand as uncreative and boring.

In fact, most respondents say ads are too often causing them to stop playing the game, said OMG. Instead, gamers prefer if in-game ads are seasonal or on rotation in a game set-up.

“It is no longer enough to treat gamers as a niche audience because almost everyone is a gamer,” said Nina Fedorczuk, OMG APAC’s chief enablement officer.

“Brands need to find the sweet spots for this audience and think hard about how they can add value to the gaming experience, instead of blatantly interrupting it,” she added.

Agreeing with her, Jamie Lewin managing partner and chief strategy officer at Mana Partners noted that rewarded video as a media format is the most positively received format in all of digital media, because it establishes a fair value exchange with the player.

"For example, a player runs out of lives in angry birds and can watch a video from a brand instead of paying for extra lives. The 85%+ completion rates of rewarded video illustrates this point," he said. 

He added that as a company, it makes it a point to include asset development in the vast majority of its campaigns.

Slapping the same asset from TV or YouTube into a rewarded video format simply won't play to a player mindset. 

Adding to his point, Robert Gaxiola, creative lead and gaming consultant at Ampverse noted that targeting a gaming audience based on subcultural behaviors is also a smarter approach.

"The gaming audience is insanely diverse, if you have the right data going into this, you can be very impactful. Targeting communities clearly works as well, but you really need to know your stuff, as marketers, you just can’t fake it," he said. He explained that if you are going to put up ads in games, you have to make sure it is creative and entertaining enough to be relevant to players. 

In-game ads are often a deflated parody of real-world advertising, or worse just a straight adaptation.

Take it outside the game

Relying solely on in-game ads with APAC gamers will also not be effective as gamers are seeking real-world incentives from mobile game ads, added Omnicom Media Group. To further engage this market, brands can create original games, host gaming events and offer real-world and in-game incentives based on in-game performances.

Some brands have also leveraged existing popular games and created new experiences with gamers such as last year’s Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) gaming tournament. In Malaysia, Mister Potato featured beloved characters on its packaging and had merchandise at a gaming event.

Similarly in Singapore, McDonald’s Singapore had a campaign where fans were offered the chance to win a bucket of 1,500 Diamonds, the in-game currency for MLBB with every purchase of a bucket of Chicken McCrispy on McDelivery.

It is also important to note that some gamers are value driven and if brands are looking to generate more purchases, 47% of APAC gamers will make an in-game transaction when there is a sale. Other reasons for making gaming-related transactions include needing a power-up, gifts for special occasions or when the release is time sensitive.

Interestingly, 25% of APAC gamers are likely to make a micro transaction when a game they play partners with a brand they already follow, further incentivising brands to engage with their gaming consumers.

Tailored experiences and credibility

Within the gaming market, marketers must be aware of the preferences towards solo and social gaming that varies among the different demographics. For example, the younger generation seek connections and more immersion as 59% of them are inclined to have in-game or real-life chats while they game.

On the other hand, most APAC gamers prefer gaming solo with 45% of older demographics gaming by themselves at least twice a week and 42% preferring quiet gaming experiences.

“We need to understand the different nuances within the gaming ecosystem, including the types of moments gamers experience,” said Fedorczuk.

"For example, they can connect with friends via gaming over the weekends and be fully immersed in the experience but also play a quick puzzle game during a weekday commute,” she explained.

In addition to offering incentives and tailoring experiences, word-of-mouth is crucial for brands to win over the hearts of gamers. This holds especially true for family and friends whose reviews are held in high regard by 89% of gamers in the region.

Brands can also engage influencers that game. This is something that 90% of respondents felt has been useful in building credibility among gamers. While an influencer-led campaign would be particularly effective for Indonesia and Hong Kong, gamers in the Philippines place equal importance on recommendations from family and friends as well as influencers.

To gain traction with gamers who value tailored experiences and social credibility, brands need to constantly drive social amplification and seek ways to create more word-of-mouth opportunities.

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