REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — Serial video game executive Trip Hawkins has his eye on a new market: women.
“For the first time in history, women have taken over technology-buying for their families,” Hawkins said on a panel discussion about mobile advertising at GamesBeat 2013, VentureBeat’s annual game industry conference.
This development is only a couple of years old, said Hawkins, who founded gaming giant Electronic Arts and Digital Chocolate and who now runs London-based studio If You Can. Traditionally, manufacturers segmented home appliances into two categories: “white goods” for the kitchen and laundry room, such as dishwashers and blenders (bought by women) and “black goods” for the living room and den, such as video game consoles and TVs (bought by men). But that’s changed, starting with the advent of the iPhone and iPad, Hawkins said. Now moms are the primary purchasers of electronics for their families, and they’re also the ones who manage their families’ media. (Women also spend more than men on virtual goods in games.)
“This is a really big social-cultural change, and it’s going to open up dozens of new markets — both for the women and for their kids,” Hawkins said.
For instance, game publishers who want to reach underage users could advertise to their mothers via “mommy blogs,” Hawkins suggested.
Animoca chief executive David Kim, who was also on the panel, agreed with Hawkins.
“I’m surprised more game developers haven’t caught on to the whole ‘women’ genre and the strength of it,” Kim said. ”There’s definitely a more steady buying power [from female players] that we’re noticing in our own games.”
Kim also pointed out that brand advertisers haven’t yet exploited mobile-social games. Right now, most ads that appear in these games are for other mobile-social games. In the future, however, brands that want to reach specific demographics will be able to target these games — so the day may soon come when moms playing Candy Crush Saga will see ads for General Electric dishwashers.
As for the rest of the industry, Hawkins repeated the classic advertising advice: Get in front of your customers wherever they already are.
For instance, Hawkins said, ”What preteen kids are doing is looking at a lot of YouTube videos. They really get into it.” So if your game encourages kids to share YouTube videos or has created an ecosystem of related YouTube videos (like this hilarious Minecraft video), that’s a good thing.
Another place to find customers: mobile-messaging platforms like WeChat and Kik. These are already seeing heavy use from many consumers, so building games — and game advertising — on top of these platforms makes perfect sense.
As far as making money from those players once they do find your game: That’s another problem altogether. Hawkins ventured some advice on this, too.
“The industry as a whole is struggling to turn virtual-goods economies into a science. It’s currently more of an art form,” Hawkins said. But for inspiration, he said, you might start with casino gambling.
“The monetization of casino games is so addictive and effective that it’s regulated by the government — that’s how we know it’s working,” Hawkins said.
Michal Pilawski, an executive with NativeX, which sponsored the panel, pointed out that mobile advertising for games has a different function than TV advertising. You don’t just want to build awareness of the game — you want to filter out potential customers who aren’t going to turn into long-term players.
“If you want to lose them somewhere, lose them before installation so you’re not paying for users who aren’t playing the game,” Pilawski said.
Do that, and monetization becomes much easier because your advertising has prequalified potential customers before they’ve even installed your game.