Look Out Social Gamers – Here Come the Marketers!

Mark Stephens

If you like your social games pure and unadulterated then look away now.

Get ready for the inevitable invasion. When the printed word was king, the marketers didn’t take long in getting their ads in print; when radio came along, the ad men were suddenly in our ears selling us stuff; then TV came – and we all know what happened there; when the Internet came along it threw the advertisers a little – it was a new world, where people were in control of the content they read and watched – but soon banner ads and Pay Per Click came along.

Wherever people go, the marketing men follow and that’s why we shouldn't be surprised at what’s happening to social and mobile gaming.


There’s a big blank piece of space called “gaming” that currently has few company names in it – and that must be changed!

On the Rise

The raw numbers show more and more people are taking up social gaming and it’s high on the radar of business.

eMarkerter reported recently about the game market in the US:

“The digital games market, which includes downloadable games on PCs and game consoles, mobile games, social games and free online games, grew 39% between January 2012 and January 2013. SuperData pegged the digital games market at $960 million at the beginning of this year, up from $691 million in January 2012.”

That’s almost a billion dollars in the US alone. Wherever that much meat is on the table, the vultures start circling!

The Lure for Marketers

The large, captive audience that games provide is deeply attractive to marketing execs. They have a chance to profile the players of a particular game or game category and see whether it matches their own market.

There was a report published recently called “_Gamification 2012 – 2017: Opportunities and Market Outlook for Next Generation Brand/Product Advertising through Embedded Gaming._”

This predicted that the global “gamification” market would grow to $3.6 billion by 2017. It also estimated that 80% of Global 2000 organizations will have “gamified” applications and/or processes by 2017. It also expected mobile platform gamification to increase by 90% in the USA by 2017.

It’s not just corporations wanting in on the act, either. During last year’s US election, gaming was used an important engagement channel for Obama and Romney to target voters with their appeals for campaign contributions and to disseminate information.

What can we Expect in our Games?

The traditional big players in the world of marketing and advertising are still coming to grips with social media and the explosion of gaming; many know there are big opportunities for reaching their audience but don’t know exactly how to take advantage yet.

While radio, TV and print media has always been dominated by the companies who could afford the advertising space, the Internet has changed all that. It’s more of a level playing field.


As people have got used to accessing content they want – on demand – they are less likely to respond favourably to having ads forced upon them. If they want that they will watch TV still.

So the marketing men with their old skool hats on will probably fail, even for the big companies out there; those that have changed with the times and got creative with their marketing approach will win the day.

There seems to be an unspoken acceptance that, if you provide engaging content, then it’s okay to have a sales message behind it; if it’s informative, educational, entertaining – then people will put up with a little marketing. But otherwise you will be shot down in flames; you can rapidly lose an audience by using the old “push” marketing methods.

More mobile game apps will be sponsored by corporations and game development companies will be hired to create new games for branding purposes. This is happening already with the likes of Ford, Nike, Honda, KFC Domino’s Pizza and so on. The big players are scrambling hard to stay on top of this social phenomenon, on Facebook and on smartphone and tablet apps.

We will begin to see more pop-up and interactive in-game advertising; more branded virtual goods; and more in–game rewards requiring the watching of branded material or the sharing of content to unlock them.

But don’t panic. The games will still be there. You may just have to see a few images of super-size Cokes, buckets of chicken or hear a politician’s campaign message to unlock all the features.