Mobile Gaming Projected to Top 3 Billion Users by 2023

As COVID-19 continues to compel consumers across the globe to stay home well into 2021, mobile gaming has experienced burgeoning growth. According to gaming and esports analytics provider Newzoo, there are already 2.69 billion gamers worldwide; this figure is expected to top 3 billion or 39% of the world population by 2023.

Beyond the growth in gamer numbers, the global games market is also slated to exceed $200 billion in revenue by 2023, with growth driven by key markets such as Asia-Pacific.

In Southeast Asia, the number of mobile gamers is estimated to grow to 250 million in 2021, with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines accounting for most of the growth.


Additionally, the region’s mobile-centric culture has contributed to the growth of mobile esports, with the esports scene recording close to 30 million viewers in 2019, up 22% from the previous year.

As the mobile gaming frenzy continues in 2021 and beyond, advertisers cannot afford to ignore the growing influence of mobile gaming and have to leverage these platforms to better connect with audiences.

The first step to effective consumer engagement is understanding the consumers and various demographics that make up this increasingly large market.


Understanding the evolving consumer

In past years, gaming may have been considered a traditionally male-centric activity, but the landscape today features a rising proportion of female gamers. 43% of women play mobile games more than five times a week, compared to only 38% of men who do so.

As the overall audience pool starts to comprise more female gamers, this group also contributes to increasing sales, especially on mobile gaming platforms. A deltaDNA study revealed that 4.5% of female gamers make in-app purchases, compared to just 3.3% of male gamers — resulting in the former group accounting for 39% of mobile game revenue. There is untapped potential for advertisers.

Female gamers also possess their own distinct gaming habits and preferences. They spend up to 7 hours gaming a week compared to over 8 for men. They also lean towards genres such as multiplayer online battle arena, puzzle, and shooter games, and are particularly fond of playing as female characters.

The closing gap between male and female gamers is a testament to the growing universal appeal of mobile games, presenting advertisers with greater opportunities to tap into large and diverse audience bases on these platforms.

Even amongst mobile gamers, there are nuanced differences in gaming behavior, giving rise to categories such as hyper-casual, softcore, and hardcore gamers—which are determined by gaming behavior, motivations and response to in-app advertisements.

Notably, through 2020, the popularity of hyper-casual games grew globally—GameAnalytics data reveals that hyper-casual titles grew from 8% to approximately 10% since the start of the year —with time spent per user increasing from 71 minutes to 81.

The increase in hyper-casual gaming can be attributed to the ease of gameplay, leading to low entry barriers. Hyper-casual gamers are also twice as likely to watch in-app video advertisements as compared to those playing other genres.

As mobile gaming audiences today become less homogenous, mobile gamers also see increasingly diverse interests and lifestyles. Beyond greater gender balance, gamers today hail from all walks of life.

In the Philippines, market penetration of 60% was recorded for mobile users aged between 35 to 55 years old, and this reached almost 80% for those between 16 to 44 years of age in Thailand. Interestingly, mothers are also a notable consumer group in markets like Thailand and the Philippines, where their average gaming time was recorded at 66 and 43 minutes respectively.

Given the widespread variation of mobile gamers in demographics, preferences and lifestyles today, advertisers should no longer rely on traditional insights and methods to reach target audiences.

Understanding their motivations and behavior will help brands determine the best strategies to engage with these groups.

How can advertisers leverage these trends to reach their target audience?

As brands begin to consider how best to plan for available budgets through 2021, the prolonged impact of COVID-19 has caused much greater scrutiny and caution, especially in relation to maximizing ROI and optimizing spend.

As a result of this climate, it is crucial for advertisers to gain an in-depth understanding of growth opportunities available within the context of mobile gaming, and find ways to leverage these to drive business objectives.

To achieve success, brands must avoid adopting a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to reaching consumers, and tailor strategies accordingly to cater to different demographic groups. In today’s mobile-first world, the accessibility, convenience and always-on nature of mobile devices makes this platform ideal for advertisers to reach out to consumers.

To best reach specific groups such as hyper-casual and casual gamers, advertisers have to consider the frequency and tone of advertisements and ensure that these are delivered to and resonate with the right audiences.

With this omnichannel approach rolled out in gradual stages, marketers can connect with consumers in a calculated and moderated manner—rather than overwhelming them and risking alienation.

Beyond gaining a deeper understanding of audience profiles and segmentation, advertisers should aspire to create stimulating and interactive advertising content, to mimic the most engaging aspects of today’s mobile games, and attract similar audience types.

Mobile games typically provide highly visual and engaging content that capture user attention across a period of time. With this consideration, mobile advertisements must strive to deliver the same levels of engagement, by incorporating interactive elements for an immersive and seamless experience.

This has had notable success—for example, a large proportion of hyper-casual gamers are willing to view advertisements in exchange for in-game rewards—with 79% of developers claiming rewarded videos to be their most successful ad format.

Furthermore, when compared with non-gamers, gamers are 43% more likely to buy or use brands with interesting or engaging advertisements, suggesting significant potential for brands to tap into the reach and effectiveness of advertisements.

The road ahead in 2021

As the world gradually makes headway into economic recovery, advertisers have to diversify their arsenal of tools, instead of returning to pre-COVID advertising strategies. With upward growth trends forecasted for mobile gaming in the near future, more and more brands will look to leverage advertising on these platforms and reach out to a growing audience base.