The Family That Plays Together: Emerging Co-Viewing Opportunities in Mobile Games

Parent and child co-viewing has long been a significant opportunity consideration in the advertising community, and with good reason. We may live in an age of individual mobile devices, but 61% of adult audiences still watch media with their families and children. Almost half enjoy viewing content on a smartphone in groups, in spite of the limited screen size.


For Tapjoy, this raised the question as to whether co-viewing habits – or even co-playing habits – apply to mobile gaming. While most contemporary studies address co-viewing in the context of passive media, the initial research on co-viewing and the culture surrounding mobile games shows great potential for publishers and advertisers alike. For example:


Smartphone apps are shared between young children and stay-at-home parents

The few studies that do consider mobile device co-viewing share some fascinating insights. While co-viewing on TVs and computers is more popular, smartphones and tablets are shared between parents and children over 60% of the time. Video games have the lowest reported co-use, but are still enjoyed by 50% of shared device users.


It’s not entirely clear whether this shared gaming time comes primarily from mobile devices or consoles, but as Nielsen recently discovered, these markets tend to have a significant overlap, with 60% of console gamers also identifying as mobile gamers.


The most frequent instances of mobile co-use occurs when children are less than 2 years old, as parents and their kids enjoy games and apps from the Children’s category of the app store together. Shared mobile experiences can continue as the child ages, but tend to decrease with each year. For parents, co-use is more frequent if they spend more time at home. In other words, most co-viewing audiences are stay-at-home parents spending time with their children.


Demographic changes suggest more families will play games together

As of 2016, the average age of a gamer is 35, which means many have already started, or will soon be starting their own families. Current research suggests that the number of parents and children playing video games to increase in the coming decades, and they will likely play together.


As such, a growing body of parenting experts have started exploring the idea of experiencing video games with your kids. Instead of worrying about what Fortnite is doing to children, why not play with them and find out? Some YouTube channels like FGTeev (the Family Gaming Team) are already catering to this market with videos that highlight shared play. These platforms are capitalizing on a emerging audience that many publishers and marketers haven’t fully grasped yet.


What’s more, a growing body of evidence suggests that children enjoy playing video games with their parents – and benefit from it. One particular study found that girls who played age-appropriate games with their parents experienced a 20% boost to strong mental health, good behavior, and family interconnectedness. Contrary to some popular belief, video games may actually help bring families together.


Mobile games are the new board games

Playing a game with your family used to mean breaking out Monopoly, or going outside to play sports. Today, the ubiquity of smartphones means everyone has a gaming device nearby, and many titles are built around similar social experiences. The board game nights of old have undergone a digital makeover, that parents and children can still enjoy together.


Some examples include literal adaptations of board games, like Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne. Countless trivia games can be downloaded to your phone that provide a challenge to all ages. There are also fascinating experiments in the mobile VR space, such as the group bomb defusal game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.


As more publishers start to recognize and cater to the rising demand for games that facilitate co-play between parents and their children, expect greater advertising opportunities to present themselves and for those that recognized the opportunity early to enjoy the benefits. Now is the time to update our co-viewing models to consider mobile games, interactivity, and cross-generational play.

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