More Marketers Need to Pay Attention to Gamers

By Amanda Rubin

From scoring a touchdown in a virtual sports league to constructing an imaginary metropolis to guessing a series of five-letter words, most adults are playing at least one type of video game. Whether it's for the love of competition or to fill downtime with a dopamine surge, recent data shows that the number of people playing games via PC, consoles, tablets, or smartphones in 2022 will surpass three billion, according to Newzoo's Global Games Report 2021).

That's a lot of gamers and clear evidence that gaming culture touches almost everyone.

Yet, some brands still imagine gamers as headset-wearing twenty-something males, feverishly pressing buttons while eating potato chips straight from the bag while sitting on a couch in their parents' basement. That stereotype persists, even though it's been many years since it represented a majority — or even a substantial portion — of the gaming audience.

Smashing the outdated stereotype, gaming culture shifted, and it is no longer considered a "vertical" – a niche segment for advertisers to target, such as "automotive." As a vertical, the segment offered a variety of games that could be played on a half-dozen popular consoles, but gaming is now horizontal.

Gaming is now a part of the baseline and is an accessible web-based medium with something to offer every age group and interest. Gaming is also no longer restricted to simply just playing the game. It's embedded in everyday life, retail, and leisure activities, using emerging technologies such as AR and VR that "gamify" everyday life.

Now, every product and service can find its audience playing and watching video games. And this transformation and reach are what make gaming an ideal space for advertisers.

Gamification at Every Level

In a world constantly competing for peoples' attention, the cultural gaming phenomenon has led to a transformative shift in consumer attention. Based on data collected from gamers and advertising campaigns, gaming outperforms traditional marketing channels in securing the undivided attention of its audience, particularly among the younger generations. In Q1 2022, it was reported by Stream Hatchet that users spent over 9 billion hours streaming live video game content.

As attention spans wane, capturing an attentive audience is most of the battle advertisers face daily, so any format that offers an engaged audience immediately boosts the performance of an advertising campaign. Gaming does that perfectly.

The availability of these attention-grabbing opportunities within the gaming experience is precisely why brands activating advertising campaigns within this space are experiencing great results. In fact, brands are already outspending their 2021 mobile gaming ad spends, which is predicted to reach $6.26 billion in 2022, an increase of 14 percent year-over-year, according to eMarketer. As advertising comes to feel more like an extension of the game experience than an interruption, gamers are less bothered by the messages and more inclined to engage.

Tapping into this growing landscape of primed consumer attention leads to higher brand awareness, engagement, and loyalty.

The Gaming Audience Challenges

With these new opportunities, there are, of course, new challenges. Marketers require in-depth knowledge of the space to understand it and know how to use it most effectively. Due to the variety of advertising and partnership options, marketers are tasked with finding a way to embrace innovative strategies that leverage the right game and target the right audience for brand engagement. It's essential to understand how to activate the strategies that will be the most effective.

From a high-level perspective, advertising opportunities can include:

  • Influencer activations (ex- Live streaming, Custom content, Metaverse builds)
  • In-game advertising (ex- Skins, Billboards)
  • Reward-based and incentivized ads
  • Sponsored and custom content
  • Esports sponsorships
  • Tournament and event sponsorships

And there are other ways to get creative with brands and gaming. For example, sponsoring an esports team can open the doors to reaching new audiences. It can invite brands to collaborate with creators and reach an otherwise unreachable audience.

Even brands that may be hesitant about going all in on gaming culture can find opportunities to become part of cross-cultural moments that materialize when gaming merges with other sectors such as fashion, music, and sports. A great example is one of Enthusiast Gaming's newest programs, Tuesday Night Gaming, which was launched in tandem with the NFL.

The Next Steps in Gaming

The gaming zeitgeist in a post-pandemic world is seated at the center of gen Z culture, where sports, music, fashion, lifestyle, and digital interactions intersect. As the general population grapples with understanding new technology and virtual worlds such as Web3, the metaverse, and NFTs, gaming is paving the way to educate the masses.

The gaming industry is making moves to incorporate these new technologies within the space as it leans into sports, music, and fashion through collaborations, partnerships, and fully immersive experiences. Some brands are already at the forefront of establishing expertise and a presence within these spaces, which is helping people understand how digital interactions will continue to be an increasingly impactful part of their lives.

Gaming – as it creates a space for consumers to build virtual communities and pave the way for the metaverse – will continue to act as a medium for the next-gen of the internet. What was once the future is now reality, and it is reaching far beyond what most predicted.

The question for marketers is no longer "Do you game?" – it's "Which game are you playing?"

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Amanda Rubin is SVP of global head of sales and marketing at Enthusiast Gaming.