Today, every brand should take the gaming industry seriously. By 2022, the global gaming market is estimated to be worth nearly $200 billion. To put the gaming vertical into perspective, the total projected North American ad spend in 2020 is $275 billion per eMarketer. Because the gaming vertical is so large, fast-growing, and relatively new, mainstream marketers are now embracing the gaming industry and analyzing how to best position themselves in the space.
One challenge facing the gaming vertical is marketers’ perception of the core gamer audience. In contrast to the stereotypical Gamer Persona of nerdy young men, gaming enthusiasts are split equally between men and women and nearly half are over the age of 35. Users who engage with games on a regular basis are a diverse group of people who participate across all types of gaming, from immersive VR and AR to MMORPGs, all the way to the casual mobile gamer. Technology and mobile phones have evolved and created platforms for the proliferation of gaming across multiple devices and formats. Audiences have expanded and now include parents, professionals, and many other groups, with an estimated 66% of the general US population self-identifying as a gamer.
This broad audience has allowed game developers to build an array of different experiences based on the new personas and lifestyles. From casual Candy Crush players to all in Call of Duty enthusiasts there is a game for just about everyone and everything. Some of the most popular activities on Facebook are digital versions of timeless games such as Texas Hold’Em and 8 Ball Pool. While Snapchat has started to build proprietary in-app games leveraging their Augmented Reality capabilities, Youtube and Twitch have emerged as go-to streaming platforms for gamers to share their live gaming activity. And just this month Facebook’s Gaming app was released ahead of schedule to capitalize on homebound gamers, allowing users to watch, play, and connect with like-minded gamers.
The Evolution of Entertainment
The next major league sport could be a video game and the next big pop culture moment may happen in-game. Gaming in general and eSports, in particular, continue to gain momentum across a wide range of game genres as star power increases and noteworthy partnerships explode across the ecosystem.
Entire leagues and tournaments have emerged to make up the spectator sport that we know today as eSports. The NBA has taken notice, leading them to create the first eSports League sponsored by a U.S. professional sports league. The league consists of 17 teams that compete regularly in a structure similar to that of the National Basketball Association. Separately, NASCAR and Fox Sports have begun airing eSports races featuring pro-drivers to replace races that have been canceled due to COVID-19.
For example, Travis Scott and Fortnite collaborated to bring Fortnite users an in-game concert tour by Scott titled Astronomical. The experience was something like a brand takeover and product release. If users were online during the concert the only thing they could do is engage with the concert as an animated Scott performed songs from his Grammy-nominated album Astroworld and teased his new song The Scotts during his performance. The performance was welcomed with much fanfare as over 12 million people joined the in-game experience on the first day and many more people tuned in via their favorite gamers live streams on Youtube and Twitch. Following the concert, Scott released Astronomical merchandise including T-Shirts and Gaming accessories all of which had sold out online within days of being made available.
The gaming explosion will continue to grow as more brands begin testing new strategies within eSports advertising; the brands that sit on the sidelines will soon find themselves at a disadvantage. As augmented and virtual reality begin to pick up steam, the brands that are already comfortable within the space will be able to seamlessly adapt and find success much quicker. Social platforms will also continue to build gaming into their native offering. This creates opportunities for brands to engage and start to treat gaming as a larger technological and entertainment play as opposed to thinking about it from an isolated gaming perspective.
Keys to Unlocking a Winning Gaming Strategy
Know Your Audience
To successfully integrate gaming into your media buying activity it is imperative to understand the segment of the industry that best aligns with your target audience and what their gaming behavior looks like. Are they casual gamers? Are they more into spectating or are they streaming and sharing their own in-game experiences?
Understand User Expectations By Platform
Due to the highly social nature of gaming, even if users are not playing games native to the social platforms they use most, they are likely still going to these platforms to share content, boast about achievements, solicit help from their online communities or simply complain about gripes they may have with particular aspects of the game. Understand which platforms they are using for different types of communication and message accordingly.
Test, Learn and Adapt your Strategy
Allow user sentiment and engagement across social channels to validate or improve messaging and partnership alignment prior to making any major sponsorship commitments or building any custom brand assets.
The Unified Advantage
As a social media service and solutions provider, Unified has worked closely with endemic brands to promote the release of new titles. Leading the strategic planning process for social the Unified teams have helped in developing the full scope of social activations from platform selection and audience identification to campaign optimizations and reporting. Separately, the team has worked with non-endemic brands to strategize their game alignment by identifying key gaming personalities to align with based on brand affinity and creative opportunities.