By Charlotte Cook, VP Gaming at Bidstack
Stereotypes are out and diversity is front and centre in 2020.
For the gaming industry, the recent growth of its audience has helped tip the scales on the image of the traditional gamer. This has evolved to such an extent that the average age of a gamer in Europe is now 31 years old and they typically play for 8.6 hours a week. In addition, almost half (45%) of those players are female.
Thanks to technological innovations – especially to improve the mobile experience – how those gamers interact with games has also changed. Gaming is now a global, multimedia, immersive experience that provides escape and entertainment for many. So, let’s explore why the new gaming audience is not quite who you might think it is.
Understanding the 2020 gaming audience
Most minds may jump straight to a teenager, holed up in their bedroom, gazing at the screen for hours on end, when they think of who the stereotypical gamer is. In reality, the gamer of today no longer fits that image. The gaming community is now a much more varied, mainstream audience with access to games across mobile, PC, consoles and cloud gaming – even retro games are seeing a resurgence among younger audiences.
The games themselves are also part of this evolution; female characters are becoming more realistic and are empowering players, as the industry adopts a more inclusive and diverse attitude. This really mirrors the concept of games as a ‘work in progress’, with gamers influencing developers and distributors’ decisions on patches, updates and downloadable content – which are all key elements of video game distribution in 2020. Gaming is more than an industry; it is a culture and the internet plays a key role in ensuring its evolution is in line with how gamers play – the new PS5 will even provide a model that ditches the disk drive option in favour of downloadable games, in addition to the already popular subscription model which many gamers take up online.
Perhaps the most interesting new demographic that is emerging is the ‘non-gamer’ gamer. These are the people that spend time gaming, often via a mobile device, but don’t actually consider themselves gamers at all. For example, mothers in the UK, who wouldn’t associate themselves with the stereotype of a ‘typical gamer’, are spending an average of eight hours a week gaming, primarily via their mobile phones.
Overall, gamers’ consumer power has built itself to a point where brands are now appreciating gaming as a mainstream and relevant media platform that offers access to a highly-engaged and diverse community.
Avoiding getting ‘canceled’ by the gaming community
While many brands are keen to reap the benefits of the gaming industry, it’s worth considering that the same rules which apply to other digital ad experiences are still as relevant – if not more so. The gaming community can be pretty outspoken when it comes to protecting the games they play. That means any ad which negatively impacts the user experience or takes away from the authenticity of the gameplay won’t be well received. And it’s a community quick to share its feelings across social platforms if a brand gets it wrong – as Burger King discovered to its cost. When the famous fast-food chain changed Twitch’s donation feature into a marketing campaign – where it secured itself exposure that would have cost thousands of pounds for as little as £2.50 – streamers took to Twitter to accuse the brand of being “scummy” and “exploitative”.
However, that cautionary tale isn’t a signal for brands to down tools and step away from the gaming industry. Instead, it’s a lesson on how to explore the opportunities across a variety of new universes, but making sure you do it in the right way. Gaming by nature is a premium environment and the technology exists to place ads in a natural, contextually sensitive setting. That means rendering the effects of the game on any asset that is inserted out of respect for the gaming experience.
So where are the opportunities for brands?
Any brand collaboration must make sense in relation to the gaming experience. Whatever the campaign goals; the creative shouldn’t feel forced. Ensuring the ad is authentic to the environment it is served into should be the first step for any brand considering in-game advertising. Only then can the opportunities for brands to connect with these new, highly engaged audiences be successfully realised.
Gaming offers an immersive environment, where players are naturally focused, meaning viewability is assured. An advertiser will have access to granular data showing if a player interacted with a branded element within the game – such as running past a hoarding in a football stadium or driving past a trackside billboard in a racing game – and how long that ad was fully or partially in view for within the gameplay. In addition, brands can be confident those ads were securely served in brand-safe, contextually sensitive and controlled environments protected against fraudulent activity. With in-game ads, hyper-targeted campaigns – which are served programmatically and in real-time – are the norm rather than the exception.
Brands should be looking for three pillars when advertising within a gaming environment – trustworthiness, suitability, and effectiveness. They can maintain authenticity by ensuring they or their agency is working with a technology partner that can deliver on the fundamentals of good and safe advertising, and build creatives that resonate with both game developers and gamers. There is a real opportunity for brands to develop a whole new strand to their marketing and advertising strategies if they learn to love and respect the gaming space in the same way that their audience does. So, in short – think like a gamer.