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The gaming audience is more diverse than you think

Studies into gaming audiences are often over-simplified, focusing purely on platform or demographic metrics

For gaming, the time is now. In an increasingly virtual world, never before has there been as much attention on gaming and its role as a powerful social connector. Yet meaningful conversations around the opportunities for brands and marketers within gaming have, for lack of a better way to put it, been stuck at the proverbial level one.

So why the disconnect? While there are a number of potential reasons, the most prevalent ones that seem to repeat across all conversations are the astonishingly durable misconceptions around those who play games. More specifically, the assumption that gaming is the domain of young men.

Studies into gaming audiences are often over-simplified, focusing purely on platform or demographic metrics, and ignoring key psychographic indicators such as motivational drivers, perceptual attributes, and cultural acceptability. Gamers are portrayed as either mobile or console players, casual or hardcore, first-person shooter, or puzzle gamers. But this approach means gamers are often portrayed as one-dimensional, fitting neatly into pre-conceived notions and stereotypes. If we are to think about gaming like any other form of entertainment, the vehicle through which they consume the entertainment content (eg a PC, console, or phone) is much less important than how it fits into the consumer’s life, what emotional needs it fulfills, and what motivations the consumer has for consuming that content.

To better understand the gaming audience, what’s required is a richer exploration of what typifies individuals that play games across these dimensions, including the motivations to play, how do they engage with the larger gaming ecosystem, and what emotional needs gaming fulfills for them. By having a better view of gaming enthusiasts, marketers can not only identify the best environments to message them in, but also optimize their approach in a way that understands their needs and behaviors in a given environment. Whether it’s someone watching an esports match or crushing candies on their phone, this leads to a better-quality and less-obtrusive marketing experience.

Through a survey of over 20,000 individuals who play or watch games in some form or fashion across a number of different countries, we found six distinct gamer personas that converged around the games they play and how they play them, rather than just their basic demographics. We found that meaningful axes to differentiate and segment gaming enthusiasts were formed around motivations, play styles and (perhaps most importantly) whether or not the respondent even identified as a gamer.

Within these segments only a small minority of all gamers fit the typical gamer stereotype – roughly two out of the six segments resemble the common image of a gamer. Of these two, the most intense gamer segment was very small (only about 4% of the audience). From a broader viewpoint across all groups in the study, less than half of all gamers identify as a gamer – specifically, over 60% of gamers surveyed responded “no” when asked “are you a gamer?”.

In essence, most individuals who play games refuse to identify with the ‘gamer’ title, making the audience of ‘game players’ larger and more diverse than many realize when otherwise focusing solely on the concept of gamers. It’s not so much the fact that marketers haven’t thought about gamers, it’s that gamers might not represent even the majority of opportunities present among consumers who are gaming enthusiasts. While this research is, at face value, a straightforward insight piece highlighting the breadth and depth of this audience, it also confirms a truism we’ve been saying about the growth of gaming. Specifically, in recent years, gaming has increasingly moved from the periphery to the center of culture. Put another way, gaming culture has evolved, but our thinking (and terminology) around it has not – this is, in essence, the root of the disconnect between marketers and gaming audiences.

The opportunity for marketers is to think about gaming enthusiasts more holistically, looking beyond the stereotypes, and recognizing the gaming audience is larger and more diverse than many realize. In doing so, marketers will be in a prime position to better engage with this highly valuable audience and help the industry advance to the next level.

As part of our Predictions event taking place 25 - 29 Jan, Activision Blizzard shared valuable new research on gamers, helping brands move beyond the stereotypes to connect authentically with their gaming customers. You can watch the fascinating talk here.

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