Today everyone and their mother think of themselves as a gamer. I should know. I’m the mother of an 8-year-old girl obsessed with Minecraft. Although sometimes she asks me to play, I’m pretty terrible at it since I grew up with an Atari joystick shooting asteroids. However, as a member of Generation Alpha, my daughter is not exactly the target consumer for brands. Yet.
One of the focuses of this year’s annual Webby Awards trend report, “Way Too New,” co-sponsored by WP Engine, concerned the current state, and future of, the online gaming industry. Among the most impressive findings was the sheer increase in user adoption of online gaming across a wide range of demographics. For one, the longstanding stereotype of a gamer as young and male is on its way out.
The new faces of gaming are older and decidedly more female. Out of the roughly 181 million U.S. adults who now play video games, close to half (45%) of those who game at least once a week for more than 30 minutes identify as female—and they play games on a more regular basis than men. In addition, older generations are gaming more than ever before; 31% of gamers surveyed were between 35 and 54 years old. (Yes, 35 is now ancient.)
Not surprisingly Covid-19 had a significant impact on the skyrocketing number of gamers and the time spent on games. A global gaming study conducted last year by marketing consulting firm Simon-Kucher & Partners found a 30% growth in gamers playing more than five hours a week; a 39% increase in monthly spend on video games; 60% of gamers playing new games; and 42% growth in gamers viewing video game streams.
Similar to so many other behavioral changes we saw in consumers during the pandemic, from e-commerce to social media, gamers will most likely maintain their Covid-era patterns as well.
That said, if your business doesn’t have a solid gaming strategy in place for your digital marketing efforts, it may not be game over—but it is time to up your game. Online gaming represents a $165 billion industry. With 70% of U.S. adults now identifying as gamers, that’s an increasingly large audience you need to engage and can’t afford to ignore.
Time is Money
Gamers are investing more time on games: The largest shift in spending time on games was the growth in “casual gamers” (playing less than five hours per week); “gamers” (those playing five to 20 hours a week); and “serious gamers” (those playing more than 20 hours per week). The amount of both gamers and serious gamers jumped from 63% to 82% during Covid.
Gamers are investing more money on games: Prior to Covid, the average monthly spend for video games was $16 per month for in-app purchases and add-ons. This figure increased to $18 per month during Covid and is expected to stay at $18 per month going forward. For example, Roblox has Robux, an in-game currency that’s tied to real money. Robux spending, from virtual events to avatars, increased 161% in the second quarter of 2021 for a grand total of $652 million.
Go to Market
The good news about marketing to gamers is that you don’t have to create an entirely new digital playbook. There are plenty of existing marketing tools and strategies that can be applied to gaming as well.
- Mobile rules. Mobile games contribute over half (51%) of global revenue from the gaming industry. Apps such as Words With Friends are used daily by 78% of smartphone users. In addition, middle-aged women, one of the rising demographics, are the most avid mobile gamers.
- Identify your target audience. Yes, they’re gamers but what other specifics do you know about them? While somewhat challenging to define this audience, you can find out additional gamer demographics through social media and discussion-based platforms such as Reddit and Twitch, or in Facebook games.
- Target the community. The online gamer community exploded during Covid as a way to escape isolation and boredom, and interact with like-minded individuals. Community-based marketing has a huge impact on reaching gamers where they are.
- Use video and interactive content. Think about it. As gamers, they’re inherently drawn to streaming video and dynamic content. Gen Z favors video over every other type of content. Additionally interactive content is always more engaging.
- Enlist popular influencers. Online gaming lends itself perfectly to social media influencers and celebrities. So don’t forget to include them in your overall strategy. Gen Z, for example, follows gaming influencers over any other type of influencer.
- Create virtual events and experiences. For example, The Uncensored Library, created by Reporters Without Borders, provides users with global access to media blocked by internet censorship through their Minecraft server. The Library uses over 12.5 million Minecraft blocks.
- Explore cause marketing: We already know how important cause marketing and brand transparency matter to Gen Z consumers. And close to 90% of consumers say they will switch brands based on a charitable cause. This is true in gaming as well.
Masters of the Metaverse
As with all other growing adoption of different platforms, there is a definite need to reach consumers on gaming platforms across devices, and on YouTube and Twitch (gaming’s biggest stages). Also, keep in mind that the most popular gaming platform is actually a smartphone.
The Webby report outlined one distinct area of the gaming world that is warp speed ahead: the metaverse. That’s not surprising given that gamers are among the most tech-savvy consumers in the world.
So what is the metaverse? Virtual reality? The new internet? Facebook’s book of sonnets?
Despite the many differing philosophies behind the metaverse, Venture Capitalist Matthew Balls has one of the most accepted. In his Metaverse Primer, Balls defines the metaverse as “an expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that support continuity of identity, objects, history, payments, and entitlements, and can be experienced synchronously by an effectively unlimited number of users, each with an individual sense of presence.”
Certain defining features of the metaverse include virtual worlds and Augmented Reality (AR); the blending of the physical with the digital; a digital economy; and an intuitive experience. If a consumer is investing that much time into gaming, it’s more of a total experience than just a game.
For example, according to technology company TELUS International, Fortnite can easily be seen as a “proto-metaverse,” due to its millions of players interested in attending live in-person events and innovative brand interactions.
Once you understand the new demographics of gamers (from older to increasingly female) and figure out what works from a marketing standpoint (from influencers to events), it’s that much easier to update your strategy for marketing to gamers. After all, the metaverse is waiting.