The world of mobile has opened up a variety of new routes to market.
But as well as being a medium for content, it’s also a pretty powerful platform for marketing. In that context, mobile is a important way to communicate with and acquire customers. Smartphones can keep them engaged with retail-oriented games brands when they’re not in front of a TV or PC.
There are challenges, of course. How do we give customers an experience without damaging the big screen? And who pays for this: the developers or the marketers?
MCV plus mobile marketing and advertising firm Velti brought together execs from Ubisoft, Namco Bandai, IGN, Codemasters, Mastertronic and NCsoft to debate the answers.
Many publishers are already exploring the avenues that mobile offers, with either original games, titles connected to other releases, or companion apps. How can the traditional games market bring a brand to mobile without damaging boxed product?
Namco Bandai has some answers. Until recently, the mobile games side was run as a separate Namco Network, but is now deeper integrated into the overall games business, bringing digital and physical games teams closer together.
“We recently launched Tekken Card Tournament, which was our first free-to-play effort as well,” explains marketing and PR director Lee Kirton.
"We took the cross-platform approach by launching across iOS, Android and web browsers, and we're currently at nearly four million downloads. The UK is actually trailing behind the likes of larger markets like Russia and Asia, which shows the different kind of audience we have reached through mobile.
"In terms of communications, our strategy has been very social focused. We've not spent a great deal in terms of marketing, yet. This summer we add secondary functionality, and it will be based around trading cards that connect to the game. The next part of the plan is based around working as closely to apps as possible, and continue to use social marketing."
Digital games content like that has demanded better digital marketing, and has caused some seismic shifts in the industry.
“The days of posting ads is over and a waste of time,” says Mastertronic and Appy Nation’s Andy Payne. “Mobile gives you deep analysis in real-time, and that’s the really exciting thing about it. Sales guys have to become analysts, making decisions and understanding how games are made.”
According to IGN’s Ian Chambers, the real winners in this shift are publishers who develop every strand of their business, and find out how to link the two.
He says: “Those with both strong PC and console games and a mobile business are winning here, and doing well when they share brands. The publisher has spread the brand in the right way – they have reached different people.”
Chambers points to console games that have mobile platform sister titles – games like Injustice, Football Manager and FIFA – where “they can get you to spend £50 on a box… and then can get more money for paid downloads or for example £30 average revenue per user on a free-to-play game”.
“More platforms bring more opportunity. The mobile business model for FIFA doesn’t cannibalise consoles, rather it just gets you to play it even more.”
Ubisoft has seen first-hand how mobile apps can support physical game releases.
“One of our most successful apps wasn’t directly connected to the game,” says digital marketing chief Alan Dykes. That’s the Just Dance companion app AutoDance. It had over two million downloads in the UK and customers used it to film nearly 20m videos of them and their friends dancing. Each video automatically featured Just Dance branding and millions were shared on Facebook. A brand manager’s dream.
“For us that was a relatively small investment but it gave us a huge amount of shared media,” says Dykes. “It didn’t interact with the game itself, but offered the same thing to consumers as the console game: shared experiences with friends. It definitely contributed to sales of the game.”
Most importantly: “We don’t treat mobile distinctly than any other medium – it is really important either as an original place to view content or as a companion. It’s all about your audience, know your communities. There are some groups of people out there, say people who go to ComicCon, who will see a QR code and just scan it – there are other audiences that just won’t.”
Apps can help “brands make a huge amount of noise,” says Kirton. “You can create apps that celebrate what they are trying to promote, not just promote it.”
He points to a recent Paramount Pictures Star Trek Into Darkness app which asked users to complete challenges – visit a location, take a picture of a landmark, scan a magazine cover – as a way to get customers to look again or enjoy at content that’s already out there.
In old fashioned marketing speak, this makes mobile an ‘opportunity to see’, but a valuable one all the same.
“The peril in that is to see mobile as just a response mechanism for selling a game directly. If you view mobile only as immediate response to drive purchases off-device, you can actually kill momentum,” says Dykes. “What you really want is ubiquity for your brand across media touchpoints.”
That’s important when it comes to understanding the role mobile has in customers’ overall media use, and how they buy things.
“People want to buy from multiple sources and they want choice,” agrees Payne. “People shop around, they want to know where they can get it from for the cheapest.”
Retailers have seen this first hand too. Amazon and Argos act as much as a display opportunity as a shop. People browse but not always buy, yet when they do the experience is convenient. The addition of mobile apps for retailers is moving that on, creating a tangible link from bricks-and-mortar to mobile and back again.
But ultimately, marketers will always be looking at what percentage of their budget they can apportion to mobile. Mobile campaigns that point to pre-orders and official sites run by publishers have regularly proven to secure genuine customer relationships, either making them part of a community or just convincing them to order a game.
Codemasters’ Hayley Holland says using mobile helped the firm expand its reach globally.
“The UK and USA are comfortable with mobile marketing. But other territories have needed a lot of convincing at first – yet we’ve seen in countries like Germany that mobile ends up delivering better results and higher engagement figures for our games than desktop.”
Are there any concerns about other ways mobile cannibalises current businesses?
Many publishers have looked at selling DLC through mobile, and working out how it could be done. But there is weariness that it could take a slice from revenue.
Sarah Rogers at NCsoft says the firm has looked into this for its PC-based MMOs, and that the games firms will always weigh up the pros and cons.
She says: “We want people to be able to monitor in-game elements through mobile as a retention tool, and then ultimately we would want them to transact as well.
“But there is a question as to whether it cancels out PC engagement, time or money spent on PC. When you are selling microtransactions through an app is it adding to your sales or just replacing them? Or should it be considered as purely a marketing cost?”
For marketers, that’s the big challenge. Not every campaign will need a huge mobile element, but no campaign should ignore the opportunities. Finding the right answers to these questions is the dream for publishers working across this now-fragmented market.
And with smartphone penetration estimated to be around 75 per cent amongst gamings’ core audience of 16 to 34-year-olds, no publisher can afford to ignore it.
As competition rises, gamers are becoming more sophisticated in the way they consume content. Velti has compiled this report to demonstrate how to use mobile as a means for increasing user acquisition and retention.Download your complimentary copy here.
Velti is the leading global provider of mobile marketing and advertising technology and has worked with some of the biggest names in games on apps and campaigns. For a consultation with its industry experts contact Dominic Barry, Director of Gamesdbarry@velti.comT: 07825 531443www.velti.co.uk