With large parts of the world under lockdown in 2020 all eyes turned to esports as a way for audiences to participate, for sports clubs to engage their fans and for brands to activate in a time when physical events were limited.

Fast forward to now and esports is still seeing the benefit of the increased visibility from lockdown but brands should keep an eye elsewhere.

In my previous article I raised the point (via the research from ABM) that less than half of games players class themselves as “gamers”. This means there is a large part of the audience who play but don’t associate with the tags and identities used elsewhere. These players often sit closer to what could be labelled a “casual” player and casual games form a large part of the industry.

Looking at App Annie’s “State of Mobile 2021” report it is clear that casual games have a lot of impact although impact is subjective. For this article I’m talking about time spent and not revenue. Revenue from mobile games helps the game publishers and not brands. However, time spent is a good measure of how engaged a playing audience is.


This first graph highlights the download percentage for 2020 between each top-level category of Casual, Casino and Core. Casual games saw a bump in download numbers with games like Among Us capturing attention. For brands the question here should be “how can I link my brand or message to game downloads if so many people are downloading casual games”. The answer will vary depending on circumstance, but one key consideration should be about relevance to the audience.

This second graph paints another picture of casual games – the time spent playing casual games in 2020.


While not as much time was spent on casual compared with core games it is important to note that casual still has a pretty big percentage. Based on ABM’s 6 gaming personas it is likely that these casual players skew around 45 years of age across both female and male.

Category growth in casual games



The “Arcade” sub-category of Casual Games saw a huge jump in time spent growing to 4.5 Billion Hours through 2020 while games like ROBLOX and Minecraft helped the Sandbox sub-category grow to 7% of the total market.

How to get involved

This raises a different question for brands – “how do I get myself in front of players in this audience if there are no broadcasts or tournaments like esports where I can see tangible deliverables?

Mobile gaming and casual gaming provide a very different set of tools for audience engagement from Reward Video Ads (where players are rewarded in-game for watching a video advert) and traditional banner advertising through to working with the game publishers to identify how the brand can best sync with the audience.

I appreciate that the above present a wide and narrow approach as advertising can go wide across multiple titles easily while working with game publishers may be a narrow approach due to limited resources.

The key point is that there are other ways of looking at the gaming space depending on who you are aiming to target and that casual games may be a valid consideration.

If you are interested in learning more about how your brand can get involved in the gaming space I encourage you to get in contact.

Philip Wride