The latest Spotlight series delves into the topic of gaming and e-sports in Southeast Asia (SEA). The Spotlight infographic explores the role of gaming in the marketing mix for this region, as well as the challenges and opportunities for marketers, with supporting data from GWI and knowledge and opinion from industry experts.

This article is part of a Spotlight series on series on e-sports and gaming in Southeast Asia. Read more

According to Niko Partners, the number of mobile and PC gamers in the SEA-6 market (consisting of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) is forecast to grow to 344 million by 2027, up from 288.5 million in 2023. Similarly, games revenue is predicted to rise to US$7.2 billion by 2027, 70% of which will be driven by the mobile sector.

The internet and the ubiquity of smartphones have created the conditions for Southeast Asia’s gaming culture to thrive. And thrive it has, with offshoots like e-sports, livestreaming and video-on-demand (VOD) content changing the way brands connect with audiences both within and outside of games.

Today, the opportunity for mass reach is significant – more than 50% of SEA’s online population have watched some form of game-related video content in the past six months.

The impact of gaming extends to the marketing funnel, too. Across the region, GWI data shows that 16% of consumers say they typically find out about new brands and products through ads seen in video or mobile games. This number is highest in the Philippines (24%), followed by Thailand (20%) and Malaysia (16%). A separate analysis by Deloitte found that over a quarter of video gamers in Indonesia and Singapore have bought a product they first saw either in a gaming stream or while playing a game themselves.

The combination of scaled audiences and full-funnel potential that gaming offers is hard to ignore. For many marketers, however, excitement for the gaming boom in SEA is somewhat tempered by concerns about consumers’ receptiveness to in-game advertising. A recent survey of APAC gamers revealed that one in three say they stop playing games because there are too many pop-up ads.

Delivering ads that are perceived as relevant is another challenge that marketers face. Per GWI data, only 7% of Singaporean internet users say gaming websites have the most relevant ads. This compares to 46% who said the same for search engines, for example.

Other evidence paints a more optimistic picture, demonstrating positive outcomes when the ad is integrated well into the game. A study by Singapore’s Nanyang Business School, for instance, found that brands were 30.8% more likely to be recognised and recalled when they were placed as in-game products instead of being placed on billboards in the background of the game.

Additionally, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) highlights rewarded ads (where users can watch or interact with an ad in exchange for an in-game benefit) as one ad format that players are particularly receptive to. By incorporating rewards like bonus content or special perks, advertisers are providing a value exchange that adds to the gameplay experience rather than detracts from it. Research on e-sports audiences in Vietnam illustrates this appeal of rewarded ads, revealing that ads with in-game prizes (49%) received the most interactions compared to other ad formats.

The full-funnel capabilities of gaming will continue to grow as publishers and adtech providers innovate new ad formats. And in an era where gamers are no longer a niche community, marketers who seek to capitalise on the potential of in-game advertising should first consider how they can add value to the gaming experience of this increasingly diverse audience.

To find out more, read our Spotlight SEA infographic here.