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How to Play the Game: Upwardly Mobile

Mobile gaming will continue to democratise competitive esports to a global audience and bring better opportunity for brands, writes Kieren Jacobsen, Director at Levergy, part of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment Group

How to Play the Game: Upwardly Mobile

There was a time, not too long ago, when it was unimaginable that a telephone would one day not only serve as a device that facilitates two-way communication, but rather allow you to essentially run your entire life from the palm of your hand. The mobile phone has become so ubiquitous in the human experience that it’s impossible to imagine life without one.

It should not come as a surprise, then, that the continued rapid advancements in smartphone technology along with inevitable global adoption of high speed, low latency 5G internet is fast bridging what was historically a considerable gap into competitive and professional esports for the casual gamer. Historically, for someone to level up into competitive gaming, it would require a significant hardware investment in either PC or console technology and compel the gamer to continuously stay up to date with hardware and software upgrades. The proliferation of the smartphone and 5G has shattered this barrier to entry and esports publishers, titles and leagues have been banking on the accessibility of mobile gaming to drive competitive esports to a far broader global audience as a result. They have been proven right.

Earlier this year, ESL launched its inaugural competitive mobile gaming ecosystem ESL Mobile, partnering with top global publishers to create formalised, competitive mobile Esports leagues spanning North America, Europe/MENA and Asia-Pacific. This, and other notable moves that we’re seeing from publishers and leagues across the globe (particularly from East Asia, which we know to be the clear early adopters in this category) are dispelling the myth that mobile gaming is a steppingstone for casual gamers to graduate into a ‘real’ competitive esports ecosystem driven by PC, laptop and console titles. 

With a clear understanding of how competitive mobile esports will now grow and sustain their own ecosystems, fresh opportunities for brand partnerships and integration are going to become more available. Previously, where the majority of big opportunities existed within the tournament / big event environment in a PC and console driven ecosystem (picture the typical setting of the finals of a big esports tournament to a packed arena/stadium), mobile has the unique advantage of decentralising these opportunities to anyone who has a smartphone and even a remote interest in gaming. Based on the sheer size of the audience alone, a growing mobile esports ecosystem will bring brands the ability to tap into a more democratised and diversified gamer and spectator base than ever before. 

The smartphone is creating competitive gamers and die-hard fans out of parents, children and the elderly with no prescribed skill or interest level. Over and above a broader audience, the variety of opportunities to create impact inside the mobile gaming experience will increase as better technology empowers smartphone companies, network providers, publishers and titles to improve the mobile gaming experience for the end user. All of these stakeholders are placing particular focus on how to monetise the audience at every possible touchpoint in the future.

Given the above, what is more important for marketers to think about is how they integrate, and not why (based on an ever-increasing mobile audience as cited above). Global Web Index’s 2020 Gaming Playbook provides research that shows 42% of the mobile gaming audience believe that sponsoring brands play a critical role in the success of esports and 47% of gamers notice / recall brands that sponsor events, teams or athletes. Yet, the gaming audience remains sceptical to inauthentic advertising that does not seek to provide any sort of value to the community. According to the same GWI study, 55% of gamers will have used ad-blockers in 2020. Opportunities that advancements made by mobile publishers and titles will provide will allow for far more tailored in app/game opportunities that augment the gaming experience and elicit more meaningful engagement with the community, rather than a typical in-game 30” commercial or branding exercise. 

With a mobile gaming industry that’s now worth upwards of USD$1bn and that grew 26% YoY in 2020 according to SensorTower, laser focus on giving your brand a clear and authentic purpose inside the gaming experience so as to create meaningful impact and endear you to a vast, yet discerning community. Innovations in mobile gaming and the competitive scene that mobile gaming is manifesting will no doubt present the opportunity – the big task for marketers out there is to define what will create meaningful impact.




Kieren Jacobsen, Director at Levergy in South Africa, part of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment Group. Read more from M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment's esport series here.
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Category: Gaming , Sports and Leisure