thought leadership

COVID-19 and Gaming

Gaming is now the biggest entertainment medium on the planet with the estimated 2020 revenue at $159.3bn; music and film are estimated as $21.bn and $47bn respectively. The medium also attracts the largest audience with 2.7bn Pay & F2P gamers globally compared to 1.03m Pay TV/SVOD subscribers and 0.45bn Pay music streamers.

Whilst gaming was already growing from a strong position, COVID-19 has taken this to new heights, giving more reason than ever before to consider how gaming impacts consumers and how to reach them. Read on for gaming trends (now and next) and opportunities for brands.

Gaming Trends (What’s changed, what’s next, and what does this mean for brands?)

GAMING AS A SPECTATOR SPORT

Now: Gamers spend more time watching gaming than sport. Gaming has both interactive and linear consumption models and it has flourished as a spectator sport during COVID, benefitting from more time in home and the inherent social connectivity of gaming infrastructure. Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming platform for gaming, grew by up to 1/3 in March alone and set a record of 22.7 million daily active users globally.

Next: Live streaming gaming platforms will be about more than gaming. COVID has just accelerated a growth trajectory that was occurring anyway, but what’s interesting about the growth of streaming sites like Twitch is that it has been driven in part due to non-gamers. Streaming of events like E3, Bernie Saunders taking to Twitch for a fireside chat, 12m people attending the Travis Scott Fortnite concert, and Soundcloud and Twitch partnering to help musicians earn an income through streaming, has suddenly made gaming an internet campfire around which entertainment brands and communities alike are gathering.

Questions to ask:

  1. Consider the new gaming streaming audience, who are not the hardcore gamers of old
  2. Should we consider gaming video as a platform for a hard to reach audience?
  3. Can we use gaming platforms to create events, especially when these events are unable to occur in the real world?

GAMING UGC

Now: A new breed of influencers has emerged. With the rise of Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and now Facebook Gaming, we have seen a new breed of influencer emerge. These influencers command huge audiences, passion and time spent and are skilled entertainers and even comedians. The top 50 Twitch channels have average concurrent viewership of 30-100k. And as an example, gaming influencer Ninja (before he moved off Twitch) commanded 15m followers and 482m channel views whilst Riot Games commands 4m followers and 1 BILLION channel views.

Next: Authentic integrations with gaming influencers. The rise of gaming influencers is going to continue, especially as platforms like TikTok also make a bigger play into gaming. TikTok stars are the next big digital creators and there are huge opportunities for them in the gaming world. Existing gaming influencers have also moved onto TikTok, Ninja, for example, has 2.5m followers, and the likes of Pokimane has 2m.  There are also more brands getting involved with gaming influencers, with Twitch influencers generating 89% more sponsored content during the pandemic.

Questions to ask:

  1. Is it time to consider gaming influencers as part of your broader influencer strategy?
  2. Ask what value you can add to the streaming experience as a brand?
  3. Is there an opportunity for UGC within the gaming influencer space for your brand?

CROSSING THE STREAMS BETWEEN ENTS & GAMING

Now: Gaming as a passive pleasure. Gaming was already growing at a staggering rate, but COVID-19 has taken that to new heights with an increased usage of 4.6bn minutes between Jan and April (that’s an increase of 16% compared to Ent’s 10%). But it’s not just that people are playing more games than ever before – they’re watching more as well. We’ve traditionally thought of gaming as being interactive and therefore not in the same entertainment category as streaming, but that is changing. Whilst this doesn’t mean that people are completely shunning their TVs for gaming streams, it does point to a growing context that brands can tap into.

Next: Continuing convergence. Gaming streams are offering gamers and non-gamers a more passive means of consumption, but that doesn’t mean passive consumption is going to be the only area overlap between gaming and traditional content streaming as TV programming has the potential to become less passive and more interactive. Netflix started dipping its toe into this space in 2017 with the most famous example of this to date would be Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch. The growth of interactive storytelling should continue with Netflix hiring game designers and narrative designers to produce more of this original content. For advertisers, this likely means even more fragmentation in an already highly fragmented entertainment space.

Questions to ask:

  1. How does my brand fit into a passive gaming context and is there an opportunity to exploit?
  2. Do I understand my current audience’s consumption habits when it comes to streaming gaming content?
  3. Does my brand under-invest in platforms like Twitch or YouTube Gaming and influencers in this space?

THE SOCIAL SIDE OF GAMING

Now: For female and younger gamers, this social side is central. Through online multiplayer, video games are an opportunity to connect with people in a virtual space. 45% of gamers played with their real-life friends in the past month – this figure jumps to 90% amongst 16 – 24 year olds. It is social gamers that present a considerable opportunity for brands. Social gamers are 1.6x more likely to watch an eSports tournament, 1 in 3 of them claim they want brands to run customer communities / forums, and they are 1.4x more likely to advocate a product that is relevant to their friends’ interests. (Source; Global Web Index, The World of Gaming, 2020)

Next: Games as the new social networks. The importance of gaming’s social side isn’t just evident from consumer behaviour, it’s reinforced by the fact that game developers are increasingly treating these features as mandatory inclusions. Collaboration with other gamers may at some stage become a prerequisite for making progress in games. This is coming at a time when traditional social networks are being placed under more scrutiny by society and by individual users. Cloud-based gaming is still very much in its infancy, and therefore an area of massive growth. As it continues to expand it is likely to bring with it a second wave of social gamers.

Questions to ask:

  1. Does my audience exist as part of a gaming community?
  2. Do these gaming communities represent an additional source of growth for my brand?
  3. What is my brand’s current approach to social media and are these principles transferrable to the social gaming space?

GAMING ON ALL DEVICES

Now: Smartphones are the gateway to gaming. Smartphones are now used by 71% of internet users for gaming, vastly eclipsing the next most used device (the PC) by 26%.  Whilst it’s tempting to believe that it’s game over for all our other devices, we’d be wrong. Mobile gaming has done more to bring gaming to new audiences than it has done to steal share from other devices. It has also brought a steady YOY increase in 55 – 64 year olds and evened the playing field between male and female mobile gamers. Despite its steady decline, PC gaming remains the stronghold for serious gamers. If you look towards the top tier of eSports, it’s all dominated by the PC.

Next: A gaming ecosystem. Gaming platforms need to stop thinking in terms of devices and start thinking in terms of a gaming ecosystem. As we know, Apple are trying to consolidate the home entertainment experience – putting TV, gaming and music all in one Apple device connected to your TV – and through the cloud they allow you to save your progress and pick-up where you left off on your Mac, iPad or iPhone. Whilst this just seems like a convenient feature for Apple users, it effectively ties a single user to a game property across multiple devices. The ability to tap into a gaming ecosystem is powerful for advertisers as it means more opportunities to reach individuals in a variety of gaming contexts.

Questions to ask:

  1. Am I under-utilising mobile gaming as a means to reach older demos or women?
  2. What current devices does my brand usually tap into and does a gaming context add to the power of my message?
  3. Does my brand currently rely on Amazon for advertising or sales and could their new gaming service enrich this?

Opportunities for brands (What specific opportunities do these trends present for brands?)

SPECTRUM OF GAMING OPPORTUNITIES

There are various opportunities for brands in the gaming industry, ranging from entry points to full integration. The main opportunities are:

  • Streaming & in-game advertising
  • Gaming influencer marketing
  • eSports partnerships: teams & leagues
  • Game publisher partnerships

WHICH OPPORTUNITY IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

The answer will depend on the brands’ overall objectives and the specific brief and audience. We run the following gaming opportunity development workshops:

  • What do the trends we have identified mean for you
  • Which opportunity is right for your objectives
  • Tailored gaming action plan

For more information, please contact Andrew Raymond (Andrew.Raymond@Mediacom.com) and Jack Bradford (Jack.Bradford@Mediacom.com).

To read the full report, click here.

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