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NEW DELHI : With people spending more time indoors and using gaming to beat stress, online gaming platforms are becoming an attractive avenue for brands to advertise. According to the mobile app market intelligence firm Sensor Tower, India topped the global market in terms of game downloads with Indians installing 7.3 billion games, nearly 17% of worldwide downloads between January and September this year. The growth in the sector has also prompted the government to suggest a self-regulatory body for gaming and advertising code for platforms.

The surge in usage across genders has led to freemium apps such as World Cricket Championship (WCC), Super Ludo, and Indian Gaming League (IGL) witnessing 20-50% jump in ad revenues. Brands from categories such as Fast-moving consumer goods, technology, automobile, smartphones, apparel and e-commerce marketplaces are using multiple ad formats to engage with users on these apps.

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"Our advertising revenues has seen over 50% jump over last year. The increase has been significant in the last two quarters. Brands have an opportunity to connect with highly engaged users who are spending an average of 20 to 30 minutes daily on our apps," said Rajan R. Navani, vice chairman & managing director at digital entertainment and tech firm JetSynthesys.

The company operates a wide portfolio of gaming apps such as Sachin Saga (Sachin Tendulkar's official mobile game), Being Salman Khan (official game of the actor), Super Ludo and WWE Racing Showdown (official WWE game) in India. It has worked with a variety of brands including Burger King, Acer, Paco Rabanne, Apollo Tyres, Gillette and DBS Bank.

Increased user engagement has also motivated casual and freemium gaming platforms to leverage technology to create less intrusive ad formats. Currently, the most common way to target online gamers is through banner ads followed by interstitial (ads that cover full screen of the app as an image or video), short video and rewarded ads (that give free goodies in the game after they are watched).

"Usually, rewarded ads give better revenue per view, followed by video interstitial and native ads. To bring more value to advertisers and seamless experience to the players, we have recently partnered with Israel based ad solutions provider, Anzu, to bring advancement in blended in-game advertising for the second edition of the gaming franchise World Cricket Championship," said P.R. Rajendran, co-founder and CEO of Next Wave Multimedia that owns World Cricket Championship.

The advertising revenues are also coming through brand sponsorships for various e-sports platforms. The Esports Club said it works with key technology firms through a sponsorship model.

"We've seen a 30% increase in e-sports sponsorship revenues as compared to the pre-covid times. The largest advertisers/sponsors in the space currently are endemic brands with a direct vested interest in gaming and esports. The likes of LG Ultragear gaming monitors, AMD, Lenovo, Dell all are top tier sponsors for our various events and IP's," said Ishaan Arya, co-founder, The Esports Club.

According to a KPMG and Google report, India's online gaming is expected to reach a market value of $1 billion with approximately 310 million online gamers by 2021. To be sure, YouTube’s current monthly active users stand at 325 million while Facebook’s userbase in India is over 270 million.

Mobile video advertising platform Pokkt said that despite Google and Facebook taking a chunk of digital ad spends, mobile gaming is gradually emerging as an effective advertising platform offering formats such as rewarded ads with which users actively engage.

"In India, the in-app purchases are disproportionately low therefore advertising becomes an economic way for players to go ahead in the game. They prefer watching an ad to win coins and go to the next level in the game. We have found that such ad formats have a highly positive brand association," said Rohit Sharma, co-founder and CEO at Pokkt.

Joy Chatterjee, GM, sales & marketing, Mankind Pharma said "Advertisers are increasingly eyeing the online gaming space to gain traction from customers especially among millennials. We have recently advertised with Pokkt for our leading brands Manforce and Gas-O-Fast."

An increasing number of brands have started spending 10% of their digital media spends on online gaming as the category has evolved witnessing participation from large age group and gender said Shradha Agarwal, co-founder and COO at digital media agency Grapes Digital.

“A sports shoe brand, for instance, will target male consumers playing a shooting game app while a beauty firm targeting women might want to advertise on Ludo or Carrom apps," she added.

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