Becoming Mainstream by Scopely Director of Strategy Tim Smith


This year’s Super Bowl was notable in many ways, but one particular aspect that stood out were the three commercials for mobile games. This year was the first time that any mobile game has advertised during the Super Bowl, and it shows how mainstream mobile games have become. Interestingly, there were more ads by mobile game publishers than mobile phone companies, alcohol manufacturers, or soft drink companies, and there were no ads for console or PC games (though the Madden simulator did correctly predict the final score).

2015 Super Bowl Advertisers by Industry

It’s worth reflecting on where we’ve come from. At the start of 2009, when I first started working in mobile games, only around 9 million people in the US downloaded a mobile game each month. Just 300 million people worldwide had a smartphone and the iPadwas over a year away from being announced. Google’s Android Market had only been available for two months, only 15,000 apps were available on Apple’s App Store, and in-app purchases for free games, which enabled the freemium model that fueled a lot of the market growth, didn’t become available until later in 2009.

Compare that to today, where over 1.5 billion people worldwide play mobile games, there’s over 2 billion smartphones and tablets in use worldwide, and both Apple and Google’s stores contain over 1 million apps. Apple says that over 600,000 jobs have been created in the US alone from iOS apps, so the worldwide total of jobs from mobile games is likely in the millions. In 2014 mobile gamers worldwide spent around $25 billion on games, roughly $12 per person, and in 2015 more money will be spent on mobile games than on console or PC games.

While the last 6 years has seen an incredible amount of change, we’re likely to see lots more in the near future. The market is forecast to continue to grow rapidly, driven by continued growth in smartphone installed base, especially in Asia, and higher adoption of people playing games. We’re already seeing traditional console/PC genres such assports or MOBAs growing on mobile, and there’s definitely a noticeable long-term shift towards more core games at the top of the grossing charts. Wearables could lead to innovations around gameplay mechanics or introduce new game genres.

Meanwhile, the publishers of the three games advertised at the Super Bowl will be closely monitoring their installs, retention, and conversion figures to understand their return on a combined spend of $16M for less than 2 minutes of exposure to over 100 million Americans.