bridge and partners
It’s a gamer’s world, so where do brands fit in?
Gaming is the biggest entertainment industry in the world. Global revenues for the industry will exceed $365bn this year.
That’s bigger than the music and movie businesses combined. Over three billion people play video games on a daily basis.
More than this, the video games industry has become one of the world’s most meaningfully open and inclusive forms of entertainment, while simultaneously impacting almost all other forms of entertainment.
The recent Super Mario Bros move enjoyed the benefits of just how powerful a gaming fan base can be.
The film’s opening weekend took over $377m, smashing the record for an animated film and demonstrating that the gaming ecosystem stretches far beyond just game play.
Irrespective of gender, race, disability, background, or skill. Everyone can enjoy and engage with the gaming world. Even brands.
The ‘interactiveness’ of gaming offers a level of engagement and attention that other channels don’t.
This means that even if you already reach these audiences through more traditional channels – gaming will still be an extremely helpful, fruitful and important channel to build your brand.
Gaming is a world of creativity, collaboration and community. So how do brands fit in?
A world of opportunity for everyone
Gaming is not new news anymore and neither are non-endemic brands getting involved in this category.
Brands have attempted to immerse themselves within games since the very start, like Budweiser creating Tapper, an early 80s arcade game where the player is a bartender serving beer to patrons.
But the industry has changed a lot in the 40 years since. It takes more than an arcade machine and some product placement to engage the modern gaming audiences.
Because gamers don’t just play anymore. They watch, they read and they share and they come together.
Video games are the connective tissue bonding huge communities around the globe and across the internet. Games speak to our innate human drivers to laugh, socialise, compete and connect.
It is a massive social hub. It has evolved from a place you would go with friends (like say, an arcade to play Tapper), to a place to go to make friends.
For example, on Fallout 76 there are communities like The Wasteland Theatre Company which are open to people who want to join and practice theatre in-game.
The caricature of teenage-nerd-in-basement is long dead. The strong sense of community and activity which sits around the actual video games means that the spectrum of audience is far broader than what it once was.
Beyond the hugely engaged younger audience there are other pockets of high audience growth.
Examples of this are new mothers and senior gamers who are increasingly, turning to gaming to find connection and engagement.
But young or old, if there is one quality which still encapsulates gamers as a whole, it is the ability to smell a rat and reject brands which don’t add meaningful value to their experience.
Brands need to identify the spaces they can enter naturally, where they are credible and relatable. Being in the right gaming universe at the right time can enhance experiences for users. And deliver serious ROI for brands.
But you need to enter this world in the right place with the right tone to get a meaningful ROI.
It is a myth that brands entering this space need to do something completely different as they enter this world. Gaming should be approached in the same way as any other channel, led by a strong brand strategy.
There are three guiding principles that we have found help brands show up in a meaningful way in gaming:
How the brand shows up in this world should be true to who they are out of this world - online or offline, in game or out of the game brands need to be building equity into the same idea.
The brand always needs to add meaningful experience to the audience to really unlock the full value of gamer audience engagement.
Don’t follow the crowd or go down well trodden paths - brands and activations in this world need to add something new and be ownable to stand out from the crowd.
And one additional guiding principle is embrace the ecosystem around video games as much as the games themselves.There is a misconception that brands engaging with video games have to do some kind of blockbuster takeover of Fortnite.
For some brands, of course, this is the right move. But not all. There is a world of opportunity beyond the game, such as esports and influencers which is the perfect place for many brands to begin.
Brands need to understand where in the ecosystem their target audiences are sitting and then find the best way to activate against it.
A good example of a brand really embracing the ecosystem around games is DHL. They are very present in the esports world, using it as a base to attract the best tech talent.
They operate in the communities which form around celebrating and watching games and esports rather than only partnering with games directly. A different approach but equally fruitful.
One thing that is clear now is that gaming is a world of limitless opportunity. For players and all brands alike.
But to make it work, brands need to identify the right audiences and develop activations.
“Gamers” isn’t a singular audience (there are hundreds of tribes) as diverse as walking along a street in central London. You need to understand the unique drivers which motivate your specific audience.
If you have a clear brief, identify the right target audiences and, most of all, stay true to your brand, then anything really is possible. You may even have some fun in the process.
First published in Campaign.