The biggest and most powerful entertainment companies are no longer film studios or cable companies, but mobile gaming companies. And it’s no wonder, people do everything on their smartphones and spend 2.2x more time on them than they did just five years ago. Almost everyone plays some sort of mobile game. About 192MM Americans play regularly, and the average demographic of a player may be shocking: 36 with an almost 50/50 gender split.
Mobile games are attracting massive valuations, some even larger than the biggest American media companies. Activision Blizzard Studios (the maker of Call of Duty) is valued at $47B, beating CBS at $26B; Electronic Arts (the maker of Sims and Madden NFL) is worth over $36B, surpassing Viacom at $12.6B; SuperCell (the maker of Hey Day and Clash of Clans) shareholders sold a majority of the company to Tencent for over $8.6B or about 40% more than the value of Lions Gate. Mobile game developers have become so prominent and successful that there is even talk of them purchasing top American film studios.
Games dominate on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, typically representing 30-40% of the top 10 apps. People spend more time with gaming apps, about 7.6 minutes per session compared to 5.6 minutes for media and entertainment apps. In fact, 43% of all time spent in mobile apps is spent with games. A typical mobile game can attract an audience far larger than that of a broadcaster or cable television provider. For example, Pokemon Go, Candy Crush, Angry Birds, and Clash of Clans all have well over 100MM app installs with huge active user bases. On a good night, the top-rated broadcast comedy or drama only draws ~20MM viewers. In fact, television viewing among the coveted 18-24 demographic has decreased ~45% since 2011.
With theater attendance declining and cord-cutting on the rise, Hollywood is looking to the smartphone to scale its relevance and revenue with consumers. Almost every Marvel movie now has an accompanying gaming app, and some of the most popular television shows have also jumped on the bandwagon. Ellen DeGeneres launched the “Heads Up!” app, based on a game she plays with celebrities on her show. Andy Cohen launched his own game app called “Plead the Fifth.” Many classic games have also made the successful transition to app, including Monopoly, Clue, and The Sims.
Mobile games are so popular that Hollywood is transforming the most popular of them into content for the big screen and silver screen. Shazam, Candy Crush, and Angry Birds have all been made into commercially successful media properties. Shazam debuted as a game show on Fox to strong ratings this summer, and the Angry Birds movie made almost $350MM at the American box office in 2016.
Brands are also spending big bucks to reach their customers in-game. Mobile apps provide brand-safe environments, family-friendly content, and have become the new prime-time entertainment for hundreds of millions of people. What is even better is that people report feeling more relaxed, focused, and happy playing mobile games compared to social media apps.
It’s no wonder why mobile games attract so much attention; they are easy to purchase, boast hours of often free fun and have inherently long shelf-lives compared to other entertainment properties. Mobile games have forever changed content consumption habits, and with new technologies on the horizon, this is just the first chapter in a mobile gaming takeover.