Harnessing The Power Of Games For Brands &
NGOs [Definitive Guide]

25 Nov 2020

As a marketer, you’re obviously aware of the exponential growth of the gaming industry. However, you’re probably still a bit skeptical of their potential for driving brand awareness and sales. We get that, which is why we’ve created the definitive guide to gaming for brands and NGOs.

In this article, we’ll unpack some mobile gaming benefits, case studies, stats and how brands can leverage them to drive brand awareness and sales. We’ll also touch on the game dev process, costings, type of games and how to get started.

So let’s dive in?

The Modern “Gamer”

Firstly, you need to understand that the definition of a typical gamer has changed. It’s no longer a pimply-faced introvert, hunched over a console in their parents’ basement. The modern gamer is the average person, engaging with their phone when they get a spare minute- basically, your customers. 

According to recent large-scale trend reports, the majority (23%) of gaming enthusiasts are actually so-called “Time-Fillers.” These are people who generally only play games – usually mobile games – to fill time whilst standing in queues, waiting at the bus stop, taking breaks during the workday, and so on. 

The Stats & Impact of COVID

It was estimated that a whopping 2.4 billion people around the world were playing mobile games last year. In terms of revenue generated by the global mobile gaming market, the figure is expected to grow by 13.3% year on year, from an estimated $77.2 billion (about R1.3 trillion) in 2020 alone. That’s huge, right?!

Then there’s the fact that the global gaming industry saw a huge spike in both engagement and revenues this year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. More people are stuck at home, and are spending more time than ever playing games – especially mobile games.

The Benefits of Games

Games are a core component of human nature, they’re  deep rooted in our psyche. This gives them a range of benefits that brands can exploit- to drive brand awareness and sales. Just some of the many benefits of games:

  • They’re a great way for brands to engage with younger audiences, mainly Gen Zs & millennials 
  • They create a positive & memorable brand experience;
  • They have global reach, with the potential to be released (and found organically) on relevant app stores, in any country around the world;
  • They’re conducive for sharibility and virility, encouraging friends and family to share their experiences (and high scores) with each other

The Potential For Brands

Sure, the stats are impressive & the benefits make sense, but how can brands leverage the power of games?

  • Enhancing brand awareness and customer engagement – adverts on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms have, to a large extent, stagnated. Audiences are more numb to their effects than ever before, so it’s time to try something new. Mobile games more reliably keep people engaged, and are more likely to leave a lasting brand impression on your target audience than more traditional marketing methods. 
  • Driving sales – games are a great way for brands to drive sales, by linking hard sales to in-game objectives (eg: buy all flavours to unlock all in-game characters);
  • Launching or promoting a product – follow examples set by big brands like Audi and McDonald’s and use an interactive, attention-grabbing mobile game to kick up some fuss over your newest product in a really powerful way
  • Edutainment – there’s absolutely no better way to teach than games & gamification, which can come in handy for brands and services providers in the training and education sectors

The Potential For NGOs

Games work just as well, if not better with NGOs & NPOs than private companies. They allow for social companies to communicate their cause, drive donations and build a community- engaging and educating the public with a new and exciting medium. We call these types of games, Games For Good – as there’s no better use for games than helping companies who help others.

The Case Studies

The proof is in the pudding, as they say. These are just a handful of recent success stories of companies which chose to tap into the potential of mobile gaming to raise awareness and give their brands a boost:


KFC Japan Case Study

Earlier this year, KFC Japan decided they would market their new line of shrimp menu items using a mobile game – KFC Shrimp Attack. This unique marketing campaign was outrageously successful in driving store sales, which increased by 106% compared to the previous year. In fact, KFC had to end the campaign halfway through because they actually ran out of stock.


M&Ms Eye-Spy Case Study

Perhaps you want to enhance your social media presence in a big way? You could always do something that M&Ms did, which is to create a game to drum up some social media buzz around their brand. They launched the super simple (but super addictive) Eye-Spy Pretzel game. The results? 25,000 new likes, 6,000 shares, and 10,000 comments on their Facebook page. Not bad.

Unicef’s Right Runner Case Study (Games For Good)

You can harness the power of games for reasons other than driving sales, too. NGOs and NPOs might be interested in creating something like Unicef’s Right Runner, which is a completely free-to-play runner game aimed simply at raising awareness about human rights. It’s available now from both Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Integrating Games Into Your Marketing Campaigns

There’s two approaches for brands to integrate games into their marketing campaigns. Both types allow for brands to integrate the game into the campaign and align it with the overarching campaign or brand objectives.

  1. Permanent-brand games: permanent brand games are, as you guessed it, more permanent. The brand simply creates a game that resonates with the overarching brand objectives and has the potential to update/change the game when new campaigns come out (eg: launching a limited-time, Christmas-themed update, during the year-end festive season then another for Easter and so on)
  2. Campaign-based games: unlike permanent-brand games, campaign-based games consist of brands creating a game for one specific campaign, that will be discontinued when the campaign comes to an end (eg: launching a game around the release of a brand new product range)

The Game Dev Process & Costs

The game dev process is similar to any other project, except we go through quite a bit of user testing and incremental releases- in order to get feedback on gameplay and expose any bugs. The typical process consists of: 

  1. Strategy & Research: determining the objectives of the project and how it will tie in with the overall campaign or brand objectives
  2. Idea Conceptualisation: deciding on the type of game (hype-casual, casual, puzzle, strategy etc), the core mechanics (main controls), the theme and potential expansions (unlockables, character variations, ad-ons);
  3. Project scope & planning: Once we have the objectives and game idea, we scope out the project in terms of timelines, budgets and milestones;
  4. Prototype phase: creating the core/ skeletal version of the game, with no animation or design in order to test out the viability of the gameplay and core mechanics;
  5. MVP (minimal viable product) phase: combining the animations, design and updated gameplay into a rough version of the game. The game is shared with all stakeholders at this stage, in order to get relevant feedback;
  6. Beta phase & user testing: A smoothed out, polished version of the MVP with all add-ons and additional features in order to complete the game. The game undergoes rigorous testing through focus groups and stakeholders, before the game is signed off and positioned to go live;
  7. Launch: The last phase sees the app being released to the relevant app stores in the relevant countries and is heavily monitored for reviews and feedback during this time;
  8. Post-Launch: The post launch depends on the nature of the game and can include: game updates, maintenance and any potential bug fixes

Games can either be costed on an hourly basis or per project, depending on the size of the project and agreement between the client and game dev studio. The costing components consist of: 

  • Strategy, game ideation & scoping of project;
  • Dev work (coding the gameplay & functional elements);
  • Animation work (character, environment & prop modelling);
  • Design work (buttons, app icons, splash screens etc);
  • Music & sound work (sound effects & game music);
  • [Optional: stock budget, for stock animations, sounds etc]

[Optional: app store licenses, if the brand wants to set up their own app store accounts]

The Types of Mobile Games

There’s different genres of mobile games, each plays a different role and evokes a different response from players. Some genres just aren’t feasible and viable for marketing campaigns, but these ones are:

  • Hyper-Casual: super simple games, allowing players to quickly jump in and out of play. They utilise a core mechanic, essentially a repetitive movement- running, jumping, twisting and flipping through swiping & tapping game controls (example: Crossy Roads). This is usually the most popular choice for brands, as it’s the most affordable and engaging out of all the genres;
  • Casual: a simplistic game with a few game mechanics, that allow for level progressions and skill building. Angry Birds is a  great example of a casual game;
  • Strategy: players work with minimal resources to advance through the game, learning various game controls as they progress (example: Plants Vs Zombies) 
  • Puzzle: evoking players’ problem-solving abilities, prompting players to solve sequential puzzles. These could be as simple as a matching and merging game, like Candy Crush  


The type of games you should go for depends entirely on your brand – its image, its objectives, and its target audience. That last one is arguably the most important factor to consider.

So, if you’re aiming to reach women and/or middle-aged consumers, research suggests you should opt for more puzzle-based games. When it comes to a young male crowd, however, action-adventure games – perhaps with a more competitive edge – are likely a better bet. Basically, it all starts with who you’re wanting to reach, and keeping that in mind as you brainstorm ideas and strategies to implement is the key to success.

Monetising Your Game

You’re most likely to avoid monetisation if you’re looking to develop a game for your brand. However, mobile games have the potential to generate revenue- creating an alternative stream of income or helping to offset the costs of the development process. Some of the main monetisation options include: 

  • Freemium  (In-app-purchases) – free to download but some content/characters/props/levels can only be accessed through purchases; 
  • Paid/ Premium – Users pay to download the game from the app store (not ideal as it creates an upfront barrier);
  • Subscriptions – Users pay a monthly fee in order to continuously play the game;
  • In-app Ads – Showcasing adverts in your game, through an automated tool, which feeds relevant ads to your users

Where To Start?

Hopefully, by now you should have a strong understanding of mobile games and their potential for driving brand awareness and sales. We’ve got some final tips for you to keep in mind:

  • Ensure the type of game fits the style of your brand and resonates with your target market;
  • Hardwire your objectives into the game, ensuring it contributes towards the success of your campaign;
  • Build a social, sharing element into the app- allowing your customers to share their high scores, unlockables and achievements with their friends- creating further word-of-mouth buzz; 
  • Add an extra 3 weeks onto your timeline, to allow for the app store submissions and approval (Apple is very stringent on the apps/games they approve);
  • Leverage ASO (app store optimisation) techniques and other marketing tricks that are native to mobile games, once you launch


If you’re keen to further explore the use of games for your brand or revving to get going, we  recommend checking out our mobile game dev brief form- which will allow you to put your rough ideas into a centralised doc. 

Good luck!

Who is Hamba Digital?

We’re just a small team of game and app developers, based in South African. We work with brands and NGOs from around the world, helping them engage with their customers through the power of mobile games. Visit our website, to find out more about our mobile game development and mobile app development services or give us a shout on hello@hamba.co.za if you have any questions.


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