Like most people, my moments of pure revelation come to me at times when I least expect it. Just the other day as I stood at a urinal, I heard a familiar jingle playing from the stall next to me. The music was unmistakable and I knew instantly what the gentleman was doing besides the obvious — he was playing Angry Birds.
Now, the fact that he was playing that specific game didn’t surprise me — as someone who has sat down on numerous occasions with the idea of “just playing a couple games” only to find himself two hours later still stuck on level 3 number 11, I recognize how terribly addictive the game is. Instead, what surprised me was how deep Angry Birds, and by natural extension, mobile games in general, has permeated the routines of our daily lives.
In the case of my bathroom mate, here was a guy who wasn’t content with just — pardon the pun — getting shit done; he needed something to entertain himself with during the process.
Now, as enjoyable as Angry Birds is, I don’t believe it’s the kind of game where a person goes out of their way to carve out playing time the way most gamers do for say, Call of Duty. Call of Duty players will detach themselves from their social networks, shut off their phones, close their blinds, lock the doors, and essentially wall themselves off from the rest of the world while they play — it’s that big of a deal.
But that’s not the case with Angry Birds, is it? In fact, the inverse is true — we play Angry Birds when we have nothing else to do or need to kill time while we wait for our class to start, budget meeting to begin, or have the tires rotated on our ’83 Ford Festiva. Mobile games fill in those mundane gaps of our daily routines when we’re faced with down time and need something to do.
So, it should come as no surprise that worldwide mobile app revenues increased to $2.2 billion in 2010, a 160.2 percent annual increase over 2009 revenues of $828 million, according to research firm IHS Screen Digest.
While mobile games don’t have the accompanying pageantry and geek fanfare that surrounds console games like Halo and Call of Duty – with their line of kung-fu-gripped action-figures, movie posters, and Hollywood caliber teaser trailers – what they do have is gaming ubiquity. In other words, they can be played anywhere and at anytime – the kind of entertainment dexterity the consoles just can’t compete with and the primary reason why industry experts believe mobile gaming poses a serious threat to the console gaming market.
Right now, mobile gaming is the largest growing and most actively engaged segment of the gaming population, especially among Millennials. Mobile analytics provider Flurry estimates the size of the mobile gaming market to be bigger than any primetime television show with more than 26 million unique users playing an average of 25 minutes per day, every single day of the year.
Let that wash over you for a moment.
That level of consumer engagement is nothing short of pornography for marketers. But, it’s feasible because mobile games, generally speaking, are non-committal in nature and can be enjoyed for a few minutes or a few hours.
If I’m at work and I start tweaking for a Halo 3 fix, there is nothing I can do to quell that need outside of feigning a major illness and going home for the rest of the day. However, if I’m at work and I want to check in on my Farmville crops or try to achieve a 3rd star on Angry Birds, all I need is my iPhone, an open bathroom stall and fifteen minutes.
In fact, the recent surge in mobile gaming is fueled in large part by the democratization of smart phones, most of which are being gobbled up by Millennials entering the workforce. According to a new survey conducted by Information Solutions Group on behalf of casual game publisher, PopCap, 93% of all smart phone owners play mobile games at least once each week, with 45% playing on a daily basis.
Flurry also revealed that mobile games are redefining the traditional gamer archetype; not only are there more women in this particular segment, but the average mobile gamer is more affluent and more educated than their console counterparts.
To wit: women now make up over 53% of the mobile gaming market; the average mobile gamer earns about $66,000 a year (an astonishing $22,000 more than the median U.S. income); and 61% hold a bachelor’s degree (the national average is 28%).
What this means is that mobile gaming can exist without buy-in from the traditional console gamer – although there is no doubt some crossover – because the market is attracting a new subset of players; players who are highly engaged, more educated, more female, and more affluent – attributes that represent the Mt. Rushmore for today’s marketers.
For social media and youth marketers, mobile gaming represents an enormous opportunity that has yet to be fully realized. If we can integrate our clients into the daily routines of their customers, especially when they’re in the midst of those mundane moments, we will have created something truly meaningful. We will not only have delivered an authentic and memorable conversation between brand and consumer, but it will essentially be a conversation that never ends — it merely gets placed on hold until the next time that person needs something to do. . . even if it’s in a public bathroom.