If mobile phones have replaced TV to become the “first screen” in terms of time spent, then mobile games are the new “must-see TV.”

More than two-thirds of US mobile users play a game at least once per month, and some of the most popular games get millions of players to engage, and in some cases make purchases every day. And it’s not just the US - It’s clear that, globally, mobile games are big business. But what motivates people to download, play and pay? And are there unique opportunities for brands to tap into these motivations while within the mobile game environment?

Absolutely, according to game analytics consultancy Quantic Foundry. Through ongoing surveys and analysis of over 150,000 gamers, the company has built a custom Gamer Motivation Profile that reveals the “hidden” reasons behind why and how people play games. There are 12 core motivations that loosely fall into three categories:

Action-social: The need for excitement, action & competition
Long-term thinking: The desire to complete things, solve problems and strategise
Storytelling-fantasy: The chance to be creative, tell stories and discover new worlds

The 12 motivations map to well-known psychology and personality profiles (think extravert vs. introvert), with consistency across countries, languages and gender. And the specific motivations of mobile players give advertisers a clear starting point for creating compelling campaigns in and around mobile games.

People game the way they are in real life

The first key finding from Quantic Foundry may be contrary to a common belief: people play games to escape from the real world. In contrast, the Gamer Motivation Profile revealed that people are more likely to play games that reflect or emulate their personalities, communication styles and purchase behaviours.

“We aren’t pretending to be other people when we play games,” said Quantic Foundry co-founder Nick Yee. “Gaming makes us become more of who we actually are.”

When it comes to mobile games, that means players addicted to a puzzle title like Candy Crush are likely satiating the need to categorise and organise, vs. a battle strategy MMO such as Clash of Clans, where players may have action and destruction on the brain.

For advertisers, this means going back to the initial research about a target persona -- what foods and activities they like, what their specific pain points are, for example -- and linking that data to the core objectives in any given game. “Chances are, the game your target audience plays is reflective of [their motivations], and your ad campaign should potentially reflect those as well,” Yee said.

Entice, don’t interrupt

Across the board, completion is the driving motivator that makes mobile players play. So advertisers that want to tap mobile games must be sure that their ads don’t get in the way of that need to complete.

This could mean working with ad units like rewarded video that offer players an extra life, in-game currency, or some other value, in exchange for them spending time with your brand. Marketers will also want to be sure that the game developer integrates ads into the game where natural breaks are -- such as between levels or after a player loses a life -- and not in a way that breaks up the action (or impedes the puzzle completion).

Tap into motivations by gender

Men and women play video games, but they often play for different reasons, and this is evident in mobile. The primary motivator for women with mobile games is completion, according to Quantic Foundry’s research, which ties into an even greater (or worse) motivator, and that’s guilt.

“The perception of availability of free time is different between men and women… because of how housework is traditionally split up among gender lines,” Yee said. “Even when women are at home they feel more pressure and have less free time. Marketers tap into this with [campaigns] that play up the social norm that women are supposed to feel guilty about making use of leisure time.”

This underlying motivation of completion (or guilt for leaving something unfinished) is partly what drives women to play games like Candy Crush or FarmVille -- they’re essentially productivity tools in disguise. But marketers interested in reaching women through mobile games don’t have to play up this guilt factor -- instead, they can be a partner to help women complete their task in a game, or be the sponsor of a branded reward for achieving a specific level.

On the other end, destruction is the primary motivator for men when it comes to mobile games. So an interactive ad that lets players destroy a logo, or branded enhancements that help make their weapons more powerful could be a great option for unique brands.

Ultimately, mobile games offer brands creative new ways to share their messages, increase awareness and even drive sales. The key to leveraging this medium is to first be clear about the target user’s motivations in the real world, and then find the games and ad integrations that mirror them.


By Erica Deas, Senior Director of Performance Advertising at Fyber

Erica Deas is the Senior Director of Performance Advertising at Fyber where she is responsible for growing and scaling North American demand relationships for the company. She oversees the strategy and execution of initiatives related to Fyber's advertiser sales. A veteran from the mobile and performance marketing space, Erica has helped build and grow sales teams. Prior to Fyber, Erica led the Mid-Market Sales teams at Tapjoy Inc.


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