To successfully engage with gamers, marketers must first understand how the gaming industry operates today. Outdated beliefs about gaming (read: gaming is isolating and just for teenage boys) prevent advertisers from reaching and engaging with their target audience. As the gaming world continues to evolve, marketing to gamers also changes, leaving advertisers to play catch up.
New technologies are continually opening up the gaming industry to more people by offering new ways to play, pay and engage. With an estimated 2.6 billion gamers across the globe—and US$135 billion in annual revenue in 2019—the global video game industry is now larger than global film and music industries combined. It’s an attractive audience for marketers, if they’re willing to get to know The Gamer.
Who are Gamers?
Gaming like online casino nz is more mainstream than ever before. In recent years, video game companies have expanded their offerings via the use of new technology mediums. What was once an industry confined to consoles and bedrooms is now available for on-the-go consumption, able to be played on smartphones and tablets anywhere, which, in turn, has dramatically altered who The Gamer is.
Gamers are not loners. In fact, the connectivity of phones has afforded gamers a greater opportunity to connect with like-minded players and create diverse and complex communities that can transcend social, geographical and even linguistic borders. Of all mobile gamers today, middle-aged women make up the largest demographic—which paints a very different picture of The Gamer than many tired stereotypes would have advertisers believe.
Social connection is a high priority for many gamers, in particularly women: almost 70% of female YouTube gamers watch gaming videos on the platform when they want to hear from people they can relate to. These communities—whether social networks, blogs or forums—are in constant conversation about games and have great influence over the purchasing decisions that other gamers make. For gaming marketers, tapping into these communities, or creating one that generates buzz, can play a pivotal role in the success of their own game.
Why Should Advertisers be Marketing to Gamers?
It’s not only the gaming demographic that advertisers can tap into; they can now look at the real-time motivations behind gamers’ behaviors.
Google and Kantar TNS surveyed more than 3,500 gamers across six countries and developed three core groups to summarize the motivation of gamers: the casual gamer (plays to relax and unwind); the strategy gamer (plays to complete and work as a team); and the fantasy gamer (plays to escape the world). Within each group, members shared similar spending behaviors (think in-app purchases and subscriptions) and video ad-viewing lengths.
Growing 10% year-on-year, the future of the gaming industry is bright—however, not entirely about games. Gaming platforms today allow for more than just gaming: you can attend live events; create, buy and sell digital items; meet people; and stream videos. But while gamers are a widely influential segment of consumers, they remain largely untapped. Although gaming platforms are the fastest form of growing entertainment, advertisers spend 40 times less money on gaming than they do on TV.
The Gamer Influence
Those on gaming platforms follow specific purchasing patterns and inspire the purchasing decisions of others. Research has revealed that gamers are more likely to consider purchasing electronics, entertainment products and cars than the general online population, with YouTube gamers shown to be more likely to buy premium products.
Food and beverage and entertainment brands can also get in on the action, with research finding YouTube gamers to also influence the spending habits of others in these categories too. By not targeting gamers, advertisers, both in the gaming world and outside of it, are losing out.
While slow on the uptake, some advertisers are beginning to incorporate gaming platforms into their marketing strategy. However, there is still much to learn about engaging and growing these online communities.
Understanding Gaming Communities and Channels
The biggest gaming app marketing mistake is waiting until a game is out before thinking about your strategy. Your marketing strategy is crucial to building your player base: the stronger your player base is prior to launching your game, the better received it will be. Regardless of your budget, there are ways to reach your target audience, have them provide you feedback and ultimately grow your brand.
One thing marketers should know is that gamers are skeptical. As time goes on, gamers are becoming adept at differentiating between authentic endorsements and #ads, and have high expectations for how brands engage them online. Understanding gaming channels and how they are used by your audience is key to achieving successful engagement.
In the past, social media has successfully made seemingly smaller games (think Fortnite and Fall Guys) into viral sensations but it’s not a one-size-fits-all option.
Twitter is more commonly used by gamers for news, whereas Instagram for gamers is more focused on community updates and user-generated content such as fan art. Facebook remains a popular platform for studio promotions thanks to ad placements and post longevity. However, each gaming audience uses social media differently, and learning these behaviours is crucial to knowing how to market to your audience and build up a sense of community.
Finding Your Approach to the Gaming Community
With the market more saturated than it’s ever been, marketers must find their game’s unique selling point if they want to have a chance of breaking through the noise. In an interview with Games Industry, Steve Escalante from Versus Evil says finding your game’s hook is something to consider at the beginning of your project. “You have to think about how your game is unique. Because the press is going to pick up on that, the community is going to pick up on that,” he says.
When it comes to pushing out your game’s messaging, it needs to reach the right audience. But rather than create a game for a target market, experts such as former Nintendo of America’s head of digital content and development Dan Adelman suggest creating a game with a distinct personality, and then finding an audience for it. “Then make sure that you go back and really polish that game and iterate on that game so it really owns that niche,” he says.
Influencer marketing has reached almost every industry and gaming is no exception. Twitch (the world’s largest live streaming platform), YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming provide the biggest stages for gaming influencers, with members streaming themselves and being paid big money to do so. With 48% of gamers admitting they prefer watching gaming videos to playing them, there’s a strong case for gaming studios to include influencers in their marketing strategy.
Before engaging with an influencer, make sure you have a thorough understanding of the influencer’s audience and why you see it resonating with your own. Influencers can help boost brand awareness and generate leads at the pre-launch phase. An example of this was Supercell’s Brawl Stars, that, thanks to the brand’s leveraging of 10 influencers, acquired five million registrations on the announcement of its release date.
Native content has proven successful with Twitch streamers in the past (Old Spice’s ‘Old Spice Nature Adventure’ in 2015 was a standout), but for companies with smaller budgets, an Instagram micro influencer, who engages with your target audience, could drive greater awareness and growth.
As the number of video game releases on PC platform Steam continues to grow each year, it becomes increasingly harder for new games to stand out. Steam is predominantly driven by multiple day-long sale periods, with titles experiencing the bulk of their purchases during these periods. Smart marketing strategies should also take advantage of this model, and include the optimising of Steam store page traffic to coincide with these sale periods.
Brands should use Facebook and Google to take out ads and conduct A/B testing to see what thumbnail generates the most clicks. Gaming companies should also prioritise their personal relationship with gamers on Steam, and respond to past reviews and negative comments with the purpose of humanising the game and deterring others from leaving similar negative comments. To grow followers, gaming companies should connect with other curators that have similar but larger audiences.
Gaming apps such as Discord provide another opportunity for marketers. The gaming chat app has amassed a huge following (more than 250 million user accounts) thanks to its simple interface and special features such as custom bots. By allowing users to join multiple servers, Discord presents an enticing option for marketers to consider. Brands can create their own channels and connect with fans directly, where they can offer exclusive server-only deals and promotions.
Advertisers shouldn’t disregard more traditional-style marketing strategies such as contacting gaming publications. Gaming media such as IGN, Kotaku and PC Gamer have big but niche audiences who will engage and potentially share the news with other gamers in wider communities. Don’t use a simple press release: it’s a competitive industry out there so try and track down editorial email lists and make your pitch personal. A successful game is all about creating a unique offering that will get players talking and sharing—make sure your pitch is reflective of this.
As the gaming world continues to grow, marketing to gamers presents a great opportunity for advertisers. The gaming industry will only continue to swell, which will place advertisers who prioritise the varied consumer group at an advantage. For advertisers to excel, they first must understand the changing nature of gamers and then market that—then, after utilising it, it’s all about making it fun and educational.
About the Author
Polina Haryacha is a Founder at Cloutboost, a gaming influencer marketing agency that helps clients such as Samsung, Sony, and Glu Mobile engage with the gaming audience via Twitch and YouTube influencers. With over a decade of experience in product marketing, user acquisition, and marketing analytics, Polina is a noted marketing expert featured on TechCrunch, AdExchanger, Adweek, and other industry media.