Engaging players and unlocking spend in Spanish speaking Latin America
7 tips for successful games in Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Peru
This article was co-authored by Sarah Everitt.
The popularity of mobile gaming continues to grow in Latin America. According to Newzoo, the mobile games market is generating $3.5 billion in revenues from consumer spending in 2021. However, there has been very little research into players’ behaviors and opinions in these markets, especially in Spanish-speaking Latin America. So, in partnership with Savanta, we set out to understand more by surveying* players in Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Peru. Our goal was to discover:
- mobile gaming behaviors and experiences.
- drivers for engagement and spend.
- barriers to spending.
- social motivations.
Tip 1: Ensure your game performs well on low-end phones
Despite the popularity of mobile games in Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Peru, fewer than 16% of players said that mobile gaming was the number one influence on purchasing their smartphone.
In the region, players are most likely to be using low-spec devices with limited storage. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the survey found download size was an important criterion for deciding to install games: it was the 2nd highest factor affecting their decisions in all markets. At the same time, when it came to uninstalls, over a third of players had uninstalled games due to glitches and crashes.
Interestingly, almost 90% of players said that being able to unlock features using optional downloads, thus increasing game size only when needed, would positively influence their decision to install a game.
Therefore, to meet user expectations in Latin America, look at how you can:
- Minimize the size of your game download and the storage it uses after installation.
- Modularize your game assets and allow users to download additional game features when they want them.
- Optimize game performance for low-end smartphones.
Tip 2: Take data costs and network instability into account
Mobile networks are generally available in Latin America. However, data rates vary significantly depending on the location, affecting commutes and making mobile networks less than reliable for hardcore gamers. At the same time, network data costs are considered high by many players, and many have prepaid plans with limited bandwidth. Therefore, players prefer to rely on Wi-Fi to support quality online gaming.
The survey responses reflected this network access and data use environment. For example, concern about the data used by updates is a trigger for uninstalls. Around 15% of players across the markets have uninstalled a game for this reason. Interestingly, the frequency of updates alone can drive uninstalls with 27% of players in Mexico, rising to 32% in Colombia, having uninstalled a game because it updated too frequently.
Also, over half of the players consider playing a game offline important. The frequency of play in offline sessions is similar to online sessions: around half of the players play offline 3 to 10 times a week. Therefore, it was not surprising that around a quarter of players have uninstalled a game because there was no offline play option.
To address these challenges look at what you can do to:
- Provide for offline play during sessions.
- Minimize the frequency of updates.
- Enable players to choose to download additional features over Wi-Fi.
Tip 3: Drive engagement with notifications during key play periods
Push notifications can be a powerful tool for maintaining player engagement by providing nudges about game progress or features. However, these notifications are most effective if they are delivered when people are most likely to be thinking about playing.
The survey found that people play most often at afternoon breaks, just before bed, and on the weekend. It was interesting that time spent gaming while commuting ranks only 8th as a gaming occasion. This behavior differs from earlier surveys we’ve conducted in other regions, but we assume it reflects the impact of COVID-19.
Therefore, when planning scheduling for your push notifications, target afternoons, evenings, and the weekend to nudge gaming sessions.
Tip 4: Ensure you have a presence on YouTube for discovery and continued engagement
Recommendations from friends and family is the main discovery channel for new games. However, it’s interesting to see that in-game and social media ads and influencers are the other top discovery channels. These channels have increased in importance significantly.
Influencers play a key role in download decisions. 24% of all players in Mexico indicated that their most recent game download had been as the result of seeing an influencer play the game. The rate was similar in Colombia and Chile, at 26% and 25%, respectively. However, in Peru, 34% of players said this was the reason for their most recent game download.
The importance of YouTube is more than helping players discover games; the survey showed that YouTube is influential in helping players make the most of their games and, therefore, drives engagement.
Watching gameplay is also a key part of the experience, with 6 out of 10 players in each market watching more than an hour of smartphone gaming content online each week. This behavior is even higher among spenders.
A presence on YouTube is essential for any game, in particular:
- Ensure you’ve content beyond game trailers, for example, to promote features.
- Partner with influencers to promote your game and offer hints and tips.
- Provide influencers with pre-releases to generate interest in updates and new titles.
Tip 5: Take advantage of social motivations to trigger gaming sessions and keep players engaged
Spanish speaking Latin American countries have a strong collectivist culture. Therefore, relationships and connections with others strongly influence people’s social interactions. This behavior is also true for gaming, as around half of the survey respondents said they downloaded games to play with friends and family.
Challenges and invites are the top reasons to start a session: acting as triggers for around one in four players. Receiving an invite is a particularly strong reason for playing among 18 to 25-year-olds (24%) and heavy players (31%) in Mexico. Seeing a post on social media, getting a notification, and a friend sharing an achievement are also important session triggers.
Among social game activities, connecting with other players in real-time ranks as the number 1 activity across the 4 markets. Sending invites to friends is most popular in Colombia and Mexico, while discussing levels of progress with others is most prevalent in Chile.
To take advantage of players desires for social interaction, look to:
- Make it easy for players to invite others to trigger sessions.
- Post regular updates on your social media channels, and make sure you localize to Latin American Spanish.
- Make it easy for players to share their progress and achievements and for others to spectate matches.
Tip 6: Use a common approach across markets to engage and retain players
The survey showed that across the 4 markets, players have similar motivations and gaming behaviors. They play mainly to relieve boredom and to relax. The ability to pick up a game easily and progress along with the storyline and competition influence their choice of games.
However, these countries have different traditions and backgrounds, and players place a high emotional value on games that represent their culture. More than half of respondents said it’s important to have storylines and events or characters relevant to the culture in their country in smartphone games.
Therefore, you can adopt similar marketing and engagement strategies across all 4 countries; indeed, you can safely treat Spanish Latin America as a single region in this regard. Overall, you should emphasize testing skills and competing with others when marketing your game. However, incorporating local market characters and events into your games will help optimize success in individual countries.
Tip 7: Understand local purchase drivers and barriers
There is a significant opportunity to continue converting the popularity of gaming in Spanish speaking Latin America into spending. The key to achieving this is acting on the motivations and barriers to spending.
The survey found that making the game a better experience when playing with friends is the top reason to spend across all markets. Spending to compete better with other people is also ranked highly.
There was also a common pattern across the 4 countries for the most likely purchases. Spending to unlock access to additional elements in the game was the most common reason for spending. This was followed by purchasing battle passes, a category that has risen in popularity quickly with players.
Unsurprisingly, sales and discounts are likely to drive spend. Across all markets, over 40% of respondents said they spend when there are sales or promotions, and over 35% when there are limited-time discounts. However, around one in four players indicated that they spend when it’s needed to progress in the game, and one in five ‘’whenever I want to.”
The only major market difference is around spending “when I get paid”: 24% of players in Chile say they do this, 21% in Colombia, 19% in Peru, but only 15% in Mexico.
When we asked about the likely factors to discourage spending, the most significant barrier is high in-game prices. However, players are concerned that their purchases may not be good value for money. Also, given a general reticence to use digital forms of payment in these markets, concerns about trust and payment issues with credit cards also play a role.
To overcome barriers to spending in these markets:
- Use bundling, packs, and bonuses to make players feel like their purchases are great value.
- Ensure your pricing matches local purchasing power.
- Promote local forms of payment.
Mobile gaming is popular in Spanish speaking Latin America, and this market offers a big opportunity for game developers. However, to take advantage of this opportunity, you need to adapt your games and promotion strategies to the market’s needs. By following our 7 tips, you should be well-placed to increase your chances of success, find more players, and improve revenue.
If you would like to learn more about how to succeed with your games in Latin America, look out for our new course on the Google Play Academy.
* Savanta surveyed 8,130 smartphone gamers across the 4 countries, of which more than half had spent on smartphone gaming in the past 3 months.