Gaming platforms are no longer a space for just small-time companies to sell their wares. As more people take to gaming, a host of reputed brands across categories debuted on these platforms this year looking to amplify their reach and engagement with target audiences.
They included a healthy mix of endemic as well as non-endemic brands, from sectors across beauty, fashion, FMCG and travel.
Advertising on mobile games was one of the most preferred marketing tools during the year. A report by INMOBI says, 6 in 10 advertisers started leveraging mobile gaming advertising only in the last two years – leading to a two-fold increase in ad spends since before the pandemic. This is a result of having witnessed engaged audiences, measurable solutions and hence, an increased return on investment.
The report also says 98 per cent of gaming advertisers have claimed to increase spends on mobile game apps in the past year resulting in a 2X year-on-year jump in mobile gaming ad spends.
Brands like Gillette, H&M, ICICI, Beardo, EaseMyTrip, Hyundai, mCaffine and many others partnered with gaming brands to reach out to their target audience.
Mobile gaming and brands
Most of the growth in terms of collaborations with brands came from the mobile gaming segment.
According to Anand Jain, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at CleverTap, a SaaS-based mobile marketing company that services a host of gaming brands, India had the second-highest downloads of mobile games and applications through 2021, accounting for 11.6 per cent of all app downloads around the world. As a result, advertising on mobile gaming apps took centre stage during mobile marketing strategy discussions, and this trend continues.
“India has one of the largest mobile gaming audiences with over 430 million gamers. Advertisers are drawn to these large volumes of users and high levels of engagement. In terms of monetizing gaming apps, 14 per cent of total mobile game revenue is based on advertising, while 48 per cent is based on in-app purchases and 38 per cent comes from paid downloads,” says Jain.
“Till about a few years back, gaming wasn’t considered a mainstream form of entertainment and brands didn’t park significant marketing budgets for advertising on gaming platforms." - Piyush Kumar, Co-founder and CEO, Rooter
The mobile gaming industry generates a treasure trove of data, which allows marketers to conduct precision targeting based on age, geography, gender, device, language and interest segments to reach relevant audiences and maximise ROI.
“Brands have taken the trend of advertising on gaming platforms because these apps enjoy higher audience attention and engagement. Looking ahead in the New Year, advertising on gaming apps will continue to help brands acquire new users,” he adds.
Collaborations beyond advertisements
Advertising, however, was not the only way of associating with gaming brands.
Brands that do not allow in-game advertising are also constantly engaged with gaming platforms. Baazi Games for instance worked with a series of non-endemic brands throughout the year. BalleBaazi, its fantasy sports arm, roped in Astro Pay as the wallet partner, FMHax as the fashion partner and Man Company as the styling partner during the National Fantasy Cricket Championship in 2021. Further, during this year’s T20 World Cup, EaseMyTrip joined hands with the company as its brand partner. Also, for PokerBaazi, Beardo signed up as the grooming partner for Texas Holdem Poker Championship and mCaffine was the grooming partner during Baazi Turbo Series.
What brands get when they work with gaming companies
Varun Ganjoo, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Baazi Games elaborates on some of the advantages of associating with a gaming brand.
“Gaming is one of the major recreational activities for most consumers and the time spent on gaming has only seen a rise since the pandemic. In-game advertising allows brands not only to gain mindshare but also to engage with their target audience in innovative ways. Further, ROI on their investments within the defined metrics is very clear. The platforms can even give real-time analytics in terms of what will work for their consumers,” Ganjoo says.
Anirudh Pandita, Founder at Loco, says the scope of earning through gaming alone has expanded significantly in recent times.
"We have elevated the experience for the gaming community by taking e-sports to television and OTT platforms. Such collaborations have helped several non-endemic brands reach a wider audience. These collaborations were not just sponsorships but more of partnerships,” Akshat Rathee, MD and Co-Founder of Nodwin Gaming
“Brands have actively been partnering with game streamers and e-sports athletes for endorsements and product placements. Some of the top streamers on Loco, alongside their strong growth, have also had a chance to collaborate with well-known brands such as Monster drink, Adidas, Corsair, and Tezos, among others. Loco users today are able to redeem Swiggy money using the gold they earn on the platform by watching streams, playing games, etc,” Pandita says.
Another example is Gillette. They forayed into gaming-led brand campaigns through content marketing on Loco last year.
Companies in the space have also worked towards increasing impact to cut better deals for brands.
“We have elevated the experience for the gaming community by taking e-sports to television and OTT platforms. Such collaborations have helped several non-endemic brands reach a wider audience. These collaborations were not just sponsorships but more of partnerships. Together, we were able to weave key messages in an innovative way and be relevant to the audience,” says MD and Co-Founder of Nodwin Gaming, Akshat Rathee.
Changing perception pushing growth
Change of perception around gaming has been a major contributing factor in boosting brand interest in the space.
Piyush Kumar, Co-founder and CEO, Rooter, says, “Till about a few years back, gaming wasn’t considered a mainstream form of entertainment and brands didn’t park significant marketing budgets for advertising on gaming platforms.”
Also, there was a limited view of how brands could engage with gaming audiences – it was typically done through sponsorship of e-sports tournaments or by running performance advertising in gaming apps.
“While there is still much to be done here, this year, we saw more brands opening up to partnering with platforms like ours. We only opened up our platform to revenue generation mid-last year. Already, 90 per cent of our revenue is coming from brand monetization, which is close to Rs 3 crore in monthly revenue,” Kumar adds.
“Web 3.0 and its offerings are definitely going to amplify the gaming experience. Blockchain technology is making in-app purchases simpler and Metaverse will enable brands to tap the audience through immersive experiences. ...once these aspects come together, it is going to act as a catalyst and transform the industry even further in 2023,” Rajan Navani, Founder and CEO, JetSynthesys Pvt Ltd.
Rooter has close to 50 million downloads, attracting more than 17 million monthly active users (MAUs), and 1.3 million monthly creators.
After they introduced personalisation capabilities, it saw people spending close to 38 minutes per livestream session compared to 25 minutes earlier, steadily creating a highly-engaged audience base to interact with.
From close to 20-30 brands at the beginning of the year, Rooter has worked with about 100 brands by now. Advertisers have also explored a host of advertising formats with the platform like display ads, pre-roll video ads, influencer ads and branded content. H&M, McDonald's, Airtel, TVS, Flipkart, Spotify, Intel, ACT, HP, Amazon, Shopsy, Moj, BYJU’s, Unacademy, Prime Video, Mivi, Infinix, Wings, ICICI, Vodafone, Logitech and Philips are some of the leading brands riding the gaming and e-sports wave with Rooter.
How leveraging tech is leading the way for more brands to enter the space
Gaming and e-sports brands are constantly updating their tech stack and building on the newest and most advanced technology and brands are eager to experiment.
For example, as a part of Nodwin Gaming’s most recent collaboration with Hyundai, customers enjoyed a Metaverse experience during the launch of the Venue N Line.
The gaming industry is well poised to unlock the next level of growth owing to a bouquet of offerings which are only slated to get bigger by virtue of AI/ML, 5G, and especially Web 3.0, says Rajan Navani, Founder and CEO, JetSynthesys Pvt Ltd.
According to him, when the gaming space was niche, it was difficult for enthusiasts and casual viewers to get the live event experience as the awareness was less. However, as the sector has grown, the viewership and interest of the new generation have both increased. This presents a great opportunity for brands to collaborate and advertise during tournaments as they get access to Gen Z and millennials, a section of the consumers every brand is trying to tap on.
Other than that, Navani says, “Web 3.0 and its offerings are definitely going to amplify the gaming experience. Where on one hand, blockchain technology is making in-app purchases simpler, Metaverse will enable brands to tap the audience through immersive experiences. The best part about these trends is that once both these aspects come together, it is going to act as a catalyst and transform the industry even further in 2023.”