Post 2020, 51% of the UK population now plays online games, according to research by Marmalade Game Studio and Consumer Intelligence. That’s double the amount of gamers pre-2020! Another surprising trend is that 55% of mobile gamers in the UK are aged 55+; that’s more than double the number of gamers aged 25-34 (which is 21% of the population). Which trends are behind these figures, you may ask?

Gaming for Mental Health

Surveying 1022 Britons aged 18+, researchers found that 28% of adults in the UK had recently downloaded an online game for the first time by Q4 2021, as a coping mechanism to support mental health. Over 30% of survey respondents used gaming to improve their mental health. 42% said that playing multiplayer games, sometimes with friends and family, on the whole made them happier. This is compared to 16% of EU gamers who reported that online play was helpful to them from 2020-2021.

The Rise of Social Gaming

Social Gaming is enjoying daily audiences of 50 million players, as is the case with Farmville. Novel technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) have piqued the curiosity of many after quirky filters or activities featured in viral videos on social media platforms like TikTok. Pokemon Go! being an excellent example of how a novel experience in gaming can take the community by storm! This in turn drives demand for better AR and VR experiences, including the ability to experience AR or VR with others, for example on platforms such as VRchat.

The increasing accessibility of streaming (without the need for gaming consoles) has also created audiences loyal to gaming influencers. These followers will tune in regularly to watch others play their favourite games, either on Youtube or on Twitch. It is the combination of the above factors that has attracted audiences never reached before. Impressively, these factors have led to gaming outpacing the film industry in terms of consumer spend – no mean feat!

Community Building & Loyalty to Gaming Influencers

The top 1.2% performing live streamers in the gaming market (especially those on Twitch) generate approximately 15.8% of all streaming revenues, with the biggest gaming influencers on average responsible for $841,000 in annual revenue. The combined audience on Facebook Gaming, Twitch and YouTube drove a 21% YoY growth in terms of hours spent consuming gaming content. These viewers watched approximately 653 million hours of live streaming, each week on average!

What is especially noteworthy is the sheer level of sway over the hearts, minds and eyes of their audiences that gaming influencers have. According to Nielsen’s Esports Playbook,  over 50% of those surveyed in the US, France, Germany and the UK have positive attitudes towards their favourite influencer securing sponsorship for their content.

Add this to the fact that gaming audiences are more attentive to the content they consume, are more receptive to making purchases, and that sponsorship usually promises commissions to content creators for every purchase made, marketers who are not investing in in-game ads could be walking straight past a gold mine!

The Future of Mobile Gaming Post 2020/21

Mobile gaming is booming worldwide, and as an early adopter of gaming, the UK is no exception. Given this massive growth, gamers can expect bigger, better and mindblowing innovations that enrich their in-game experiences. 

From Call of Duty, to Mortal Kombat, PUBG, more and more traditionally console and PC-only games want a piece of the action, so are experimenting with mobile ports or extensions of existing games. With gaming being such a competitive industry, gaming developers are careful not to miss a beat to keep producing more and more knock-out titles with phenomenal customer experiences, so it is unlikely that the mobile gaming industry will slow down any time soon.

Anticipated trends include better graphics on smartphones to get as close to matching the graphics of PC and console games as possible, within the limitations of the smartphone’s hardware. Game streaming without the need of a PC or console will also likely become more prolific, as more and more countries update their internet infrastructure to adopt 5G.

The Highest Grossing Mobile Games, 2020-2022

PUGB Mobile grossed a total revenue of $191.6 million in February 2020, and this shot up to $232 million by April, landing it first place as the top mobile game with the highest revenue of 2020. Among Us was December 2020’s most downloaded mobile game, with 240 million global downloads. Android’s Google Play accounted for an eye-watering 82% of the total number of downloads! The game’s success was no doubt spurred by the hype from gaming influencers on YouTube and Twitch, as well as its multiplayer gameplay. As of August 2022, Subway Surfers is in the limelight.

Fast forward to today, the 5 highest grossing mobile games as of Summer 2022 are:

#1 Tencent’s Honor of Kings at around $1341.34 million in consumer spending

#2 Tencent’s PUBG Mobile grossed $1213.09 million, followed by 

#3 miHoYo’s Genshin Impact, which reached a gross revenue of approximately $1017.92 million. Coming in at fourth place is 

#4 Candy Crush Saga by King, at $758.41 million and 

#5 Roblox comes in fifth place with $612.42 million in gross revenue.

The Future of Advertising on Gaming Channels

Despite the fact that the overall mobile game audience increased by 50% in 2020, developers will not enjoy growth in revenue to the fullest extent possible if they only produce content geared towards one particular demographic at the expense of others. For example, New Zoo found that 47% of gamers reportedly do not engage with games unless they feel the game is ‘for them’, and as many as 1 in 3 gamers can feel like they don’t belong in the wider gaming community; feeling that a game was not ‘intended for them’ is a definite push factor for players. Most gamers, however, are open to playing games in which they feel represented, whether that be by disability, gender, race or any other protected characteristic.

Twitch accounts for a massive 71% of livestream viewership, whereas YouTube live is seeing a slight decline, so it is worth marketing teams considering how best to tweak their online marketing strategy to possibly include sponsorship and ads on Twitch.