Take your pick of a lofty number, the gaming industry has plenty. How about 5B hours watched on Twitch in Q2 of 2020, the Nintendo Switch selling over 60 million units or 27.7 million unique players watching a Travis Scott Fortnite concert (that also doubled as a Nike ad)?
Whilst varying analysts size the video game industry anywhere between $100B and $200B, they are all in agreement that it is continuing to grow steadily. Player bases for games are skyrocketing as young players continue to play as they grow up and more mature are returning to gaming in quarantine. Quite a few games have monthly player counts well over 100 million and if those counts ever decrease, it only means other games are increasing.
Insane video game viewership has created huge influencers being targeted by the biggest brands in the world. Gaming streamers are outpacing athletes when it comes to followers on social media and the direct conversations they have with their audiences provide myriad opportunities for branded activations.
Then there’s esports, a minuscule section of gaming’s overall revenue but a hub of dedicated fans, influencers and brands. With Nielsen creating accurate comparisons to TV viewership, League of Legends World Championships 2019 saw over 21 million people tune in, that’s more than the average amount of an NBA Finals or World Series game.
GEEIQ goes in-depth into the three key avenues to reach and engage gamers that brands need to be aware of. Here’s an overview of the three avenues with links to much more in-depth explanations of each.
1. The Games
Publishers hold the keys here but branded activations are only becoming more common. Product placement has been a natural part of video games dating back to branded arcade cabinets in the 90s. Now, most major games are being updated every few weeks, giving brands a chance to enter the biggest games - even after their popularity has been proven.
Roblox, Fortnite, and League of Legends, just to name a few, are figuring out unique ways to deliver brands to their massive player bases. Furthermore, with the rise of mobile gaming, different demographics are gaming more, with new regions exploding in growth. Now, an estimated 2.5 billion people, or over 30% of the entire population of the world, identify as gamers. That’s one billion more than just five years ago, soon gamers will go from being the minority to the majority across the planet.
Even more importantly, the people playing games are the hardest to reach. Younger audiences who don’t watch cable TV anymore, the computer-literate who run ad blockers across the internet and the growing population who are numb to digital advertising but are still reachable through games and gaming platforms.
To learn more about game partnerships or in-game activations, the reasons why a brand should pursue them and some great case studies from major brands, read here.
2. The Influencers and Their Platforms
In the West, the two big gaming content platforms to keep an eye out for are Twitch and Youtube. Despite seeing competition from the biggest tech companies in the world, Amazon’s Twitch is still on top for viewers of live gameplay, while YouTube still makes up the vast majority of followers and views for video-on-demand and is fast catching up in live-streaming. Twitch provides some unique chances at activations, like brands streaming themselves, while most YouTube gaming videos are sponsored in some way or another.
Contrary to popular opinion, high-skilled gameplay is not always the key motivating factor for a viewer watching Twitch streams. Unless an esports competition is going on, Twitch streams centre around entertainment — more akin to a good football player playing pickup games than watching a Premier League match. Success on Twitch is built on interactivity — a good thing for brands. Even on Youtube, entertainers who upload funny clips win over highlight reels from esports professionals.
It’s hard to authentically and organically promote a brand in the middle of a competition, it’s easier in a casual setting over the course of an eight-hour stream. The rise of games like Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone (part of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare), and PUBG, have created more conversations and opportunities for branded content. Paired with Twitch’s built-in monetisation factors, streams have become a home for branded activations, charity events and widespread promotion.
Both Twitch and Youtube have plenty of cross-promotion and a modern brand needs to understand each — as well as the influencers that run them.
Here’s a rundown of the gaming influencer, some of the most notable partnerships and what the right influencer partnership can do for your brand.
Possibly the most misunderstood term as many confuse general gaming with esports. Simply put, esports is competitive video games held in organised structures. But unlike the massive money machines that run leagues in the traditional sports world, esports are primarily marketing for the games themselves.
In Q2 of 2020, Activision Blizzard announced that Warzone was played by 75 million unique players. In comparison, the competitive Call of Duty League saw a peak viewership in the regular season of 115,000 viewers. That’s 0.15% of the total Call of Duty player base, but these are the fans who can be considered as highly engaged or enthusiasts.
Esports tournaments are often the most viewed individual events on streaming platforms in a given year, but while tournaments operate in multiples of thousands, the games themselves operate in multiples of millions. Brands like Barclay’s, BT, Red Bull and MasterCard have sponsored esports tournaments or hosted their own tournaments themselves.
On the other hand, there are esports organisations, hubs of competitive teams and influencers who take part in tournaments. These are the ones bringing in athletic apparel giants like Nike and Adidas or luxury car brands like BMW and McLaren. As gaming has solidified its spot as a pillar of popular culture, esports organisations are emerging as brands' entry points into the wider gaming world. Brands are even going hands-off to let esports organisations make content — in the modern age of gaming advertising, organisations are as much the creative agency as they are the partner.
Here’s a rundown of esports, why it’s a small subsection of gaming but also why most major brands are entering the space in waves.
How GEEIQ Will Put You on the Right Path
If this article hits you as information overload, you aren’t alone. Many marketers are only dipping their toes into the gaming world but as major brands see success, they are doubling down on activations. For now, video games, influencer channels and esports aren’t oversaturated with brands, making this a great time to get involved in the space. Similar to activations in traditional sports, it is about standing out to audiences, and not just being another logo on a wall.
GEEIQ is set up to accelerate the efforts of your brand and make sure it’s properly positioned in the gaming world. Whether that’s using GEEIQ’s industry-leading filter system to find the right influencer, opening up doors to publishers looking for brand partners or finding the esports organisation with matching corporate ideals, GEEIQ’s platform is built to help.
For some brands, a pure focus on influencers can be the most beneficial. Other brands may find game player bases the ideal audiences while others see esports as the best way to reach competitive gamers in formats familiar to traditional sports activations. While we’ve laid out three distinct pathways, the overlap between each is undeniable. Games usually host their own esports tournaments and influencer campaigns, whilst professional players become entertainers when they retire.
Whether it’s one pathway or a combination of all three, GEEIQ is here to help.
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