15 FEB 2021
7 MIN READ
Ready player one, two…billion.
In 2019 we might have overheard this conversation in the family homes across the land.
Mum to kid: “No gaming until you’ve done all your homework.”
In 2020 it’s completely a different convo.
Mum to kid (mum has considerably more grey hairs, possibly holding a gin): “Go and get on your PlayStation I need to do a Zoom call.”
This massive escalation means that if there is ONE trend you can’t ignore in 2021 it’s the rise of gaming. It’s been a crucial way of escaping the same four walls, entertaining (and distracting) the family, and connecting with people IVL as IRL was put on hold.
Now a mainstream entertainment industry, it’s on a par with music and sport. There are 2.7bn gamers globally, a billion more than five years ago, and on average, global players aged 18 to 34-years-old spent MORE time playing than on social media or watching TV. More time than watching TV!
And it’s not just gaming itself on the rise, it’s also watching others game. Twitch, the Amazon owned streaming platform grew by a 1/3 in March alone. Gamers now spend more time watching others game than they do watching traditional sport.
Yet, despite four times more time spent on games than on TV, advertisers spend 40 times less money on gaming. One reason, perhaps, is a misunderstanding of what a ‘typical’ gamer looks like. Contrary to the stereotype of the teenager in the darkened bedroom or middle-aged man stuck in his youth, nowadays your everyday gamer is likely to look a lot like you or me, playing through our phones. Research by Activision Blizzard Media shows that around one in three adults across the US, UK, France and Germany is now a ‘gamer’. 40% are women, while the average age of players is 34/35 years old. And Bidstack research showed an increase in video game use across all generations over Covid; with Gen Z up 47%, Millennials up 41%, Gen X up 27% and Baby Boomers up 25%.
In the 2020s it’s crucial we see the bigger picture of the entire entertainment industry and help brands catch up with our audiences.
Firstly, there is a role for game engines as scale advertising environments. In a time where reach is harder to buy in traditional channels than it’s ever been, games offer staggering numbers. The finale of Fortnite season 4 had 15.3m players, while another 3.5m watched on YouTube and Twitch. For brands, these are the X Factor finals and Superbowl’s of tomorrow.
Deeper game integrations also offer a chance to influence new audiences, the opportunity to borrow credibility and place your brand at the heart of a very visible virtual world. A great example of this is Coke, who signed an ambassador deal not with a real-life football player, but with virtual FIFA star Alex Hunter to put the brand at the heart of the game, reaching a younger gaming audience.
One of the biggest opportunities accelerated by Covid is gaming as a metaverse. Games as a platform for hosting virtual activities will be one of the most impactful trends for the coming years, simulating experiences such as fashion shows, music performances, movie viewings, and more. You will all have heard of Travis Scott’s and other music performances in Fortnite, but did you know marriages, graduation ceremonies, and even funerals are taking place in Animal Crossing. Even beyond the pandemic, we will see brands experimenting in the space as digital events will complement their real-world counterparts (and vice-versa).
And we can’t forget the power of gaming Influencers. With the rise of Twitch, You Tube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming, we have seen a new breed of gaming and esports influencer emerge. There are c.2.5m streamers broadcasting on Twitch, with an elite group of 12k who command huge audiences. This rise will continue, especially as platforms like TikTok also make a bigger play into gaming.
Finally, Games have an important role as commerce platforms. Gamers are well versed in trading physical currency for its digital equivalent. This year we’ve seen the growth of spending on virtual products and services diversify hugely, be it tickets to virtual concerts, buying NFTs like virtual trainers in Aglet, or digital couture for Instagram. People are increasingly comfortable ascribing real monetary value to digital products, services and experiences.
If there is ONE trend you can’t ignore in 2021 it’s the rise of gaming. From kids, to teens, to young adults, to parents, gaming is now for the masses. But advertising investment in gaming lags. It’s crucial that we see the bigger picture of the entire entertainment category, and this now includes gaming. Not if, but how….
Now I am going to go and dig for buried treasure in Animal Crossing….