Over the final few weeks of 2022, everyone had something to say about how the year went, and what lays ahead. We know today’s challenging economic and behavioral dynamics will force gaming and advertising to adapt and innovate. But pressure makes diamonds, and knowing what forces are at play in the gaming, and digital audio spaces help us prepare to successfully navigate through the unpredictable.
This year, mobile play will remain the dominant form of gaming over consoles and PCs and the most dominant form of global entertainment. Mobile gaming has moved from novelty to staple, and its relatively inexpensive nature (F2P, or ‘Free to Play,’ compared to traditional console pricing structures) and convenience means demand will remain resilient. However, there are new headwinds challenging growth. Hyper-casual games, which have long been driven by aggressive user acquisition spending and ad monetization approaches, took an increasingly heavy hit from Apple’s IDFA changes in 2021 and from Google’s recent change (September 2022) related to intrusive full-screen ads.
Some proclaimed this would be the death knell of hyper-casual, but instead, something else emerged: the new “hybrid-casual” genre is the result of developers moving into games that combine the fast pace and easy mechanics of hyper-casual with more sophisticated economies or complex gameplay. While Apple’s changes took the industry by surprise in 2021, developers and publishers are nothing, if not resilient and creative. 2023 will be the year of hybrid-casual games as developers continue to navigate a post-IDFA world, exploring new types of gameplay as well as new options for potential monetization.
Another definite theme of 2023 will be brands, finally embracing games as a legitimate and necessary channel for their media plans. The videogames industry has become an integral part of the cultural conversation in a way we’ve never experienced before. IPs including (but certainly not limited to) Candy Crush, Roblox, and Call of Duty have helped video games become dominant in the general cultural landscape – further bolstered and normalized by the uptick in casual gamers stuck at home during the pandemic and using games as a social entertainment medium.
At the same time, the upheaval in traditional ad-supported media – the move away from pre-programmed TV to streaming on-demand – has seen people cut the cord on their TV set-top box subscription. Collapsing TV ratings and a complex AVOD/CTV landscape have created so many avenues for media consumption that it has become difficult for brands to effectively reach their target audiences. One of the central tenets of advertising is to follow the audience. With the audience having completely reimagined its media “diet”, brands will be looking to alternative forms of media to reach their desired audience – and it’s likely their attention will shift to games as part of this.
Finally, programmatic audio advertising – which came to mainstream attention via services such as Spotify’s automatic insertion of ads between tracks for non-paying users – will make it to the big leagues this year. The progression from directly-sold digital advertising to programmatic advertising (automated and customized ad insertion) has been the key to growth for every single format: traditional advertising focused on displays of big banners and billboards, then the industry committed to video ads and commercials on TV and streaming services, and now it’s audio’s turn – and not just on audio-based platforms.
Emerging formats such as in-game audio advertising, which can be delivered in a non-intrusive way that does not break the flow of a game or interfere with a player’s immersion – are growing at a significant rate. Measurability and scaling potential across a gaming community of 2.9 billion players are creating new opportunities for a wide range of brands to get to their key audiences and, crucially, a new way for developers and publishers of all sizes to monetize their games. Our own platform has seen a growth of 300% in the last year, with over a billion ads heard and 10 billion ad opportunities created. Both advertisers and developers see the opportunity to unlock untapped ears (rather than eyeballs) and revenue, with developers seeing substantial increases in Average Daily Revenue Per Active User (ARPDAU) through audio.
This will be a year of change for our industry, and it’s those who adapt to that change who will be able to emerge successfully from the other side. Change, in both the gaming and digital audio space, means innovation – and the potential innovation 2023 has in store for us is very exciting indeed.
Amit Monheit, CEO and Co-Founder, Odeeo
Amit Monheit is the CEO and Co-Founder of Odeeo, in-game audio advertising solutions provider. Monheit and his co-founder Elad Stern started Odeeo in 2020 with a vision of connecting mobile games to the evolving digital audio ad ecosystem, building on their decades of success in digital advertising. Prior to starting Odeeo, Monheit served as Head of Growth and Monetization at Audioburst after leading several global business units in senior roles at ironSource for over seven years. Since launching Odeeo, the company has expanded across the Middle East, Europe and the Americas, and has already established partnerships with some of the top global mobile publishers.