Video games have become the most popular and lucrative form of entertainment in the world. According to industry forecasts by Newzoo, the Global Games Market is projected to bring in $137.9 billion in 2018, and capture the attention of people across all age demographics. Thanks to the surge of free-to-play mobile games, gamers now represent the largest segment within the entertainment market.
But, while games have become part of many people’s daily lives, the gaming boom has not yet reached its potential in one key place: Airplanes. Current options available inflight don’t meet what gamers expect from their modern gaming experiences. This provides a unique opportunity for airlines to understand, implement and capitalize on the rise and popularity of the gaming industry. Here’s what airlines need to know about integrating games into their passenger experiences and revenue models.
What Gamers Want
Look around on subways and buses, and you’ll notice two things: One, gamers are everywhere now. Two, they have a desire to play while traveling.
This represents a valuable opportunity for airlines, but one that comes with high expectations. Gamers want the same high-speed connections, access to gaming community forums, and video content for double-screen experiences just as they experience at home. Further, they don’t want low-quality games that are thrown onboard as an afterthought. Instead, they expect a high-quality, immersive experience that provides entertainment value for the entirety of their flight.
Airlines looking to facilitate better passenger experiences and revenue opportunities need to keep that in mind. As Peter Warman, the CEO and co-founder of gaming market intelligence firm Newzoo puts it: “What’s important to gamers is that they feel respected.”
Managing Technological Logistics
Gamers expect playing Candy Crush to look no different than it does on their current generations of tablets and smartphones. Airlines considering integrating gaming into their inflight experience need to ensure the technical specifications of their inflight systems are always up to date.
There’s also the need to deliver fast and dependable inflight connectivity to appeal to the immense popularity of social and multiplayer gaming experiences. That means airlines must continually invest in the latest technology to keep gamers of all stripes happy.
Airlines can take comfort in knowing people already enjoy using inflight entertainment and communications (IFEC) systems. Seatback monitors, due to their screen size, are an inherently better option for gaming than a smartphone. Customers are ready to use seatback screens for games, and that willingness-to-play can turn into a great deal of value for savvy for airlines.
How Monetizing Inflight Gaming Will Work
Given the $137.9-billion value of the gaming industry, a question arises: How can airlines monetize inflight gaming and get a piece of the profits?
It’s a pertinent question given the costs involved in bringing onboard IFEC technology up to speed, and the expenses associated with licensing games like Clash of Clans or Angry Birds for passengers.
First, airlines could offset licensing fees by leveraging the billions of passengers who use Panasonic Avionics systems every year. For example, say a passenger has never played Clash Royale. If they see it as an IFEC option inflight, give it a try, and love it enough to want to keep playing it on the ground, this could benefit both the airline and the gaming company. These new users are worth a lot to gaming studios, which may persuade them to waive licensing costs.
It can also provide long-term revenue-sharing through splitting a percentage of any in-game purchases made inflight. Another avenue would be for airlines to partner with developers to create exclusive inflight, in-game incentives or deals.
While not everyone likes paying for in-game features in free-to-play mobile games, the small percentage that do pay, equate to big profits. “For a single game in mobile, a maximum of five percent of the people that play a game in a month spend any money,” says Warman. Still, considering mobile games represent a $50.4-billion industry, five percent isn’t chump change either.
Nonetheless, airlines can also pursue alternatives. For example, they could offer hundreds of games to stream through a pay-per-access model similar to PlayStation Now, which functions like a sort of Netflix for video games offering a vast catalogue of gaming options. In short, there are revenue options for airlines willing to pursue them.
“Gamers want the same high-speed connections, access to gaming community forums, and video content for double-screen experiences just as they experience at home.”
What Gaming Content to Deliver to Passengers
Technical updates and monetization won’t mean anything for inflight gaming without good content. Airlines need to deliver gaming experiences that mirror what gamers want and expect elsewhere. Airlines looking to succeed at inflight gaming need to think less about making the flight tolerable, and more about providing an experience that passengers look forward to.
Creating a pleasurable experience will require good gaming content. Mobile games are the most natural fit because they offer broad demographic appeal as well as a vast variety of family-friendly content.
Facilitating console-based and virtual-reality game experiences will also be key in the future, even if that means providing additional equipment to customers. Until that happens, another form of gamer-friendly content is also available: Video content.
“Video content is so popular, and gamers like to switch between their lean-forward experience of playing a game, and the lean-back experience of watching a game,” says Warman.
Twitch, the most popular live-streaming video platform for gaming has nearly 10 million active users a day and two million streams created per month. Amazon eagerly paid nearly $1 billion to buy Twitch — which is to say, video is huge.
“That is good news for inflight entertainment because video content is something that everybody already does,” Warman says. Further, airlines could offer Twitch as a live streaming service, or even partner with professional gaming leagues like Overwatch League to include highlights or replays of recent tournaments.
More than ever, airlines need to understand the importance of immersive entertainment. Passengers don’t just want passive entertainment options, but active ones that will keep them engaged throughout their journey. By providing gaming options, airlines can tap into an exciting market that both exceeds passenger expectations and drives revenue opportunities.