In the competitive mobile game industry, licensing high-profile IP gives developers a serious edge. That’s why they increasingly partner with entertainment brands to create some of the world’s most popular (and profitable) gaming apps. Still, one particularly promising avenue remains untapped: partnerships with OTT streaming platforms. After all, developers have already seen tremendous success producing apps for shows like South Park, X-Files, and The Walking Dead. Each of these games is massively popular, and that’s before we look at recent hits like Game of Thrones: Conquest.
Many OTT originals now have a cult following. In July of 2019, Netflix subscribers flocked to their streaming devices to watch the third season of Stranger Things. At the same time, fans caught a glimpse of newly-announced licensed app tie-ins, including a Stranger Things 3 game and a standalone AR-inspired RPG, produced by a third-party studio. IP partnerships like these existed for decades, yet the popularity of OTT IP has the potential to elevate this strategy to new heights.
Today, more than ever, users are either consuming OTT content on mobile devices, or using their “second screens” while watching on a 10-foot UI. It’s clear that whatever content is being consumed, OTT viewers and mobile gamers are two market segments with a high degree of overlap. Both developers and streaming platforms stand to benefit enormously from this emerging opportunity.
Netflix has come a long way from its mail-order DVD days — today, it’s a digital powerhouse. In addition to its streaming capabilities, it now maintains an immense database of consumer information and viewing habits. These metrics are analyzed internally by machine learning algorithms to determine which content will hook and retain subscribers. In the context of an IP partnership, that data also creates opportunities for mobile game developers.
Most licensed mobile game projects such as Avengers or Star Wars still rely on IP, brand recognition, and traditional paid user acquisition (UA). If data sharing was included in these license agreements, these apps could be marketed directly to engaged audiences, reducing the need for paid UA. If both parties collaborate to ensure that consumer data privacy is upheld, data sharing could be a major competitive advantage.
Imagine if the Frozen Free Fall game was revamped to enable users to log in with their Disney+ credentials. Players could get in-game bonuses as a reward for linking their accounts. Meanwhile, Disney could then share data and insights with the developer (in this case, Jam City), and vice versa. In such a partnership, app creators would gain access to viewing habits, while the OTT platforms would gain access to their mobile gaming habits. This exchange could unlock immense marketing potential and highlight promising licensing prospects.
Even if customers don’t link their profiles, OTT providers can look up the device IDs for users who register and watch content from smartphones. This grants access to shared metrics that can be used to calculate which cohorts frequently play mobile games, and paid marketing budgets can be adjusted accordingly.
The “Streaming Wars” are now in full swing, as new and legacy entertainment companies vie for control over the future of TV. Mobile game partnerships have the potential to become a strategic advantage as the market consolidates.
Disney’s bid as a streaming service aggregator comes in the form of its Disney+ platform, which launched in November of 2019. The entertainment giant has bundled its own IP with ESPN Plus and ad-supported Hulu. In what is surely no coincidence, Apple launched Apple TV+ on the same timeline. HBO Max also plans to launch its beta in late 2019, which will feature content from a wide range of properties owned by AT&T and Warner Media.
How will games fit into the new bundling model of the OTT ecosystem? Gaming studios are already experimenting with mobile game deployment on OTT devices, specifically the Apple TV. Major titles like Crossy Road and EA’s Real Racing 3 are migrating to the tvOS ecosystem in an attempt to attract OTT viewers to play games. To navigate the tremendous amount of competition, streaming giants may consider leveraging mobile game partnerships as differentiators. These platforms each need to offer something different and exclusive — as media consumption becomes less fragmented, mobile games could be a viable option.
In 2018 alone, Netflix invested $12 billion in original programming. What if this investment extended to partnered IPs in the mobile game space? As the gaming and streaming demographics continue to merge, mobile games may soon be invited to the table.
[Streaming companies] absolutely need to have their own original or exclusive content. Leverage is how they’re going to drive people to a direct-to-consumer product. And when streaming companies offer something that consumers can’t get elsewhere, they increase leverage.
Mobile game partnerships are an untapped opportunity in the OTT space, and a lucrative one at that. They combine the popularity and monetization potential of mobile games with the brand recognition and digital delivery capabilities of OTT original content. We are only just starting to see brands capitalize on these opportunities in 2019, but make no mistake — Stranger Things won’t be the last game based on streaming video content.
If you’re a mobile game developer looking to learn more about ad monetization or branded partnerships, the monetization experts at Tapjoy would love to hear from you. Get in touch and learn how Tapjoy helps mobile game developers maximize ad revenue using premium rewarded ad placements.