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Who is a modern mobile gamer? (shifts of the ‘gamer’ demographics)

We all have an idea of a "gamer". But as technology changes, so do the habits of people change. The modern mobile gamer is far off the "gamer" stereotype. Google named “mobile gaming” the future [...]

May 21, 2019

8 min reading time

We all have an idea of a “gamer”. But as technology changes, so do the habits of people change. The modern mobile gamer is far off the “gamer” stereotype. Google named “mobile gaming” the future of leisure time. Slowly, but steady, Google has been tapping in the world of gaming. The mobile gaming industry is expected to top $100 billion by 2021, and Google doesn’t want to miss out on all the fun.

In 2020, mobile is expected to pass TV in time spent. Source: eMarketer

The mobile gaming industry is growing very fast, and in 2018, it accounted for 51% of the global games market. That’s 25.5% year-over-year growth! Mobile gaming will continue to be the largest segment, after 10 years of double-digit growth following the launch of the first iPhone in 2007.

This young industry sure has grown a lot. We can’t imagine our days without smartphones, and the vast majority of the time we spend on our phones is in apps. There are plenty of monetization strategies that enabled developers and publishers to make money from their apps. Some of those strategies don’t even require a purchase from the user.

Subscriptions are a big trend, with more than 70% year-over-year growth in games subscribers on Google Play.

Distribution of free and paid apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play as of the first quarter of 2018. Source: Statista

Currently, less than 6% of apps in the Google Play Store are paid. With so many free options and freemium apps, it will be had for users to make a decision to buy an app without even trying it. Paid apps are most often produced by well-known software companies to stand a better chance of reaching more users. Some of the top selling apps in the Google Play are Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed Identity – already established and familiar titles.

The Mobile Gamer

But we should get back to the “modern mobile gamer”. Who is he, what is his age and more importantly, why is he playing mobile games?

When you call somebody a gamer, you probably have a picture of a guy playing Playstation, wearing a headset, yelling on a TV in his living room. But gaming is so much more. Mobile is a far more popular place to play games. Actually, mobile gamers make up to 88.8% of digital gamers and span across all ages.

According to e-Marketer, it is expected that 147.8 million of people in the US will play mobile games, in comparison to 91 million console players.

Rise of the (hyper)casual

Games are getting easier, and many of game player wouldn’t identify themselves as gamers. Games shouldn’t require a set of skills, a learning period or high concentration of the game player. Hyper-casual games should be able to play in public transport, while you’re watching the tv, even on the toilet 💩 Actually, those are some of the most common places where the hyper-casual games are played 😂

Modern mobile games are simple, so they can be played on public transport, while waiting, even on the toilet 😂

Hyper-casual games are characterized by simple gameplay mechanics. They have very few features, opposite to core games. A hyper-casual game should be so simple that it can be “explained in a screenshot”, as former Rovio vice president Eric Seufert said.

Mobile is expected to top TV in terms of daily screen time in 2019, according to Google. Out of those who use mobile games, they spend an average of 6.5 hours a week on them. TV is a still huge part of our lives, but it has one clear downside: you can’t take it with you.

Google surveyed more than 3,500 mobile gamers to find out what motivates them and what are their gaming habits. For them, there are three main categories of gamers: casual gamer, strategy gamer, and fantasy gamer.

Casual gamers play to relax and take a break. Strategy gamers play to compete and work as a team. And fantasy gamers play to escape from their world.

But what actually motivates each type of mobile gamer?

For casual gamers, it is to pass the time and because they’re easy to understand.

For strategy gamers, it is to pass the time and to challenge themselves.

For fantasy gamers, it is to pass the time and to escape their world.

Interesting fact for mobile advertisers: most casual gamers who don’t pay would still watch an ad in return for in-game benefits. So if your monetization strategy is advertising based, you need to understand your users and what you’re offering them even before the launch of the mobile game.

Displaying ads in the game is maybe the easiest and the most common way to make money through your app. The bigger your user base and the more engaged your users are, you’ll be able to earn more from displaying ads in your app or game.

Casual games dominated the top charts in 2017 and 2018, and we’re only expecting that trend will continue in 2019. On an average week in 2017, 6 out of the top 10 most popular games in the US app stores (both Google Play and the App Store) were CASUAL GAMES. That number increased to 8 out of 10 in 2018!

In a survey AppLovin conducted with Censuswide, they interviewed more than 4000 smartphone owners about their mobile gaming habits and perceptions. They found out some interesting results, like that over two-thirds of smartphone owners don’t identify themselves as gamers.

Smartphone owners aged 55 and older generally don’t consider themselves as gamers, even though they play mobile games every day! Only 14% of respondents older than 55 told that they never played a mobile game in their lives.

What matters the most to a modern mobile gamer?

  • Game is easy to play

Gamers of new age don’t have time to go through tutorials and take time to learn complicated game mechanics.

  • Game is free to play

For 66% of respondents in the AppLovin survey, one the most important things is the ability to play for free. According to the Google’s study, casual gamers who aren’t willing to pay for a game would still watch an ad in return for in-game benefits.

Modern mobile games are simple, easy, and can be played anywhere!
  • Game can be played anywhere

Mobile gamers nowadays are far from a stereotype about a mobile gamer. They play mobile games while waiting for a ride, in public transport and even on the toilet 😂💩

As the number of mobile game players increases, brands across the globe started to take advantage of this opportunity. According to Scott Swanson, CEO of Aki Technologies, previously games were thought as a low-quality space; brands wanted pre-roll, YouTube-type experiences, but they’re seeing it’s not just kids playing anymore. Large brand advertisers are accepting the space for the first time.

To sum up:

The mobile gaming industry is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Console sales are not high-as-expected, Sony announced in the latest update. Many of the popular games like PUBG are going mobile.

Games like PUBG Mobile, Fortnite and Free Fire showed us how powerful mobile devices have become. Mobile games was the fastest growing category of gaming overall, leaving behind consoles, desktop games and handheld gaming. PUBG Mobile was the most-downloaded game in more than 100 countries during the first week of availability, becoming one of the fastest games to reach this achievement to date.

Multiplayer style of battle royale titles is very attractive to strategy gamers, and casual gamers will usually enjoy spending their time playing casual or hyper-casual games. According to Google’s study of mobile gamers, there are three different categories of mobile gamers. Each one of those three categories has different reasons for why they engage in mobile gaming and also enjoys different mobile game titles.

To fully understand the potential of your mobile game, you need to understand your target audience. If you’re going into the user acquisition, one of the first steps you would need to do is target audience research. If you have a clearly defined target group, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how, where and when to reach it.

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About Udonis:

We are an award-winning marketing agency specialized in mobile apps & games. We help scale products that people love, keeping the attention on data and results. Have questions, need help? 🤗 Email us at hello@udonis.co!








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Slavica Grgić

I'm Slavica, Social Marketing Manager at Udonis. If I'm not writing new blog posts, I'm making sure that everything is picture perfect.

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