At this year’s Xaxis Deviate EMEA event, the audience (mainly made up of brands and advertisers) participated in a quick poll to find out how regularly they played games. An astounding one third of the audience said that they didn’t play games of any form. This figure might not seem shocking at first glance, but when you consider the gaming audience is estimated to be around 2.4 billion people globally, it does become surprising to say the least.
In 2020, we expect this to change. With the gaming industry enjoying an approximate 10% year-on-year growth over the last few years (and with cloud gaming now here), we anticipate an increase in the number of advertisers participating in gaming and esports. And with this change we expect to see brands and advertisers demonstrating a better understanding of what being a ‘gamer’ really means.
Many of the people in that audience would have played Scrabble or Candy Crush on their morning commutes or have played the occasional round of FIFA with friends, but won’t identify personally as gamers, which of course they are. Once advertisers recognize the importance of gaming and esports and the engaged, diverse and growing audience they can reach, in-game advertising will have a more prominent place in all media strategies. It will become a key channel for advertisers to invest in and will become an ad category in its own right.
The gaming industry is one of the most influential of our time, capturing the attention of millennial and ‘Gen Zennial’ consumers. From an advertiser’s perspective, because players interact with gaming more frequently than traditional entertainment channels, this opens the door for brands looking to reach an audience that will future-proof their media strategies.
Advertisers would be wise not to ignore the sheer scale of the gaming industry. In July 2019 the Hollywood Reporter said gamers were spending more of their free time playing Fortnite than scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, or viewing Netflix and YouTube.
And it’s easy to understand why.
Playing games has always been about social interaction between people – whether it’s the strategic side of winning a game of Monopoly or the team collaboration element in a monthly Iron Banner event in Destiny 2. In the last decade, we’ve seen game developers create more multiplayer and team missions, and maps in their games to increase the time spent in-game by players. This has given gamers the opportunity to extend gameplay in the areas they enjoy the most.
So what opportunities are there in-game for advertisers? There are so many – ranging from the more established banners and reward videos in mobile games, to the newer native in-game ads and product placements in AAA, high fidelity games. If advertisers want to get into a game, then they need to level up their advertising strategy and think of innovative, new, out-of-the-box ways of getting their brand messages across.
However, one thing that advertisers need to remember is that gaming and esports fans are an extremely loyal and protective community. Any activation or activity planned to target gamers, therefore, should always follow three simple rules:
1. Don’t break immersion: Anything that redirects gamers out of gameplay is a big no-no. Gamers do not want to be distracted by objects that are not related to the game they’re playing.
2. Maintain authenticity: Adding originality and authenticity to a game’s environment is king. Using native in-game advertising as an example, the ads served in-game have all the necessary filters, overlays and visual effects applied to the creative to ensure that it looks authentic to the environment. Product placement could work as well but brands need to think very carefully about how their product should be presented in the game. Take Monster Energy Drink in Kojima Production’s latest release, Death Stranding for instance. In a post-apocalyptic America where everything has been wiped out, the one brand that survives and is still operational is Monster Energy… Does this make sense?
3. Add value: Gamers love brands that come up with fun and innovative ways of reaching them in-game, particularly when it enhances the gaming experience and overall enjoyment of their gaming session. Wendy’s in 2019 ran a highly successful Fortnite campaign called ‘Keeping it Fresh’. When Fortnite announced a new Food Fight mode, Wendy’s saw an opportunity to get in the game in a very authentic way. The mode allowed players to be a part of either Team Burger or Team Pizza. Wendy’s found out that Team Burger stored their beef in freezers, and Wendy’s don’t do frozen beef. With this in mind, it created a Wendy character in Fortnite, joined Team Pizza and instead of fighting other players, started destroying freezers in-game. Wendy’s streamed the game play on Twitch and quickly went viral with the gaming community. The campaign was also covered in the mainstream press and amongst gaming, esports and advertising publications too. And the collaboration saw Wendy’s take home a Cannes Lion award in 2019.
The opportunities provided by advertising within gaming moving forward are endless and create benefits not just for advertisers but for gamers and game developers too. This new digital ecosystem will:
• Help developers monetize games through an alternative revenue stream rather than from their gamers.
• Enhance the realistic features of the game’s environment through the placement of real world ads and boost the creative and interactive experience for the gamer.
• Help advertisers unlock the next evolution of advertising by reaching a previously unreachable audience through a growing, new ad category.
It’s only a matter of time before these advantages are recognized and gaming becomes an essential part of every brand’s advertising strategy.
Francesco Petruzzelli, chief technology officer, Bidstack
Tel: 020 8051 5616