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The rise of gaming industry as a major new entertainment media channel

The panel of experts discussed the opportunities for marketers in the gaming space

Gaming giants are no longer each other’s biggest competition. Instead, the industry needs to widen its focus to properly consider the social media and ecommerce behemoths who are making gaming a strategic priority. Roughly 2.5 billion people play games, even if many of these don’t count themselves as ‘gamers’, and so it’s little surprise that Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple are making big bets on gaming.

In fact, the likes of Amazon, Google and Facebook are in prime position to take a slice of the gaming market, especially as it moves towards cloud-based play, according to Bidstack CEO, James Draper. Speaking on The ‘Bedroom Hobby to Boardroom Priority’ panel at The Drum’s Can Do festival, in partnership with Bidstack, the panel also discussed why esports’ next frontier could be mobile-based and chatted about which games had kept them entertained during lockdown.

Cloud gaming and why it matters

“Phil Spencer [head of Xbox] doesn’t see Sony as his main competitor,” Draper told The Drum reporter John McCarthy, who was hosting the panel. “He sees Amazon and Google being his main competitors, and he’s right.”

Referring to Facebook’s 2019 acquisition of Spanish cloud-gaming business PlayGiga, he added: “Look at what a certain social media platform has acquired in Spain. That would point to them knowing that their audience is on those games and wanting to follow them there.”

Draper said that he believed the interactive element that cloud-based gaming allows would benefit non-gaming platforms with huge existing audiences, adding that the technology would lead to casual gaming - often played on mobile - becoming much more sophisticated and less about the ‘pick-up and drop’ mechanics that mobile gaming has become synonymous with.

Esports migrates to mobile

Meanwhile, Glen Calvert, chief operating officer of sports team Fnatic and founder of media business Affectv, said that he believed mobile gaming would be transformed by esports, especially in Asia.

“esports was born out of PC gaming and that's been the lion's share of it for the last 15 years,” he said. “But in the last two to three years, the growth of mobile esports is compounding and scaling, especially in India and Southeast Asia.”

He attributed this to many consumers in those regions being keen to play esports competitively but being unable to afford gaming PC hardware and gave the example of Riot Games’ League of Legends as one major esports game being heavily promoted on mobile to combat this.

“Mobile is their entry point,” he continued. “You have millions and millions of addressable audiences, so I'd imagine that in the next two to three years, mobile esports teams will be on par with those using PCs or consoles.”

Another aspect of gaming currently undergoing rapid change is VR, Derek Wise, chief product officer at Oracle Data Cloud, asserted. Responding to McCarthy’s question on whether VR could ever enter the at-home gaming market, he said that Covid-19 had prompted an increase in at-home VR due to gamers’ concerns around hygiene.

“Covid-19 has really boosted VR, for the studios I work with, at least,” he added. “They cannot build the kits fast enough at the moment. The pandemic has led to people wanting to have their VR kits in their homes. Environmental variables are forcing changes when it comes to VR.”

Lockdown Gaming

The panel also talked about the games they had been indulging in during lockdown.

Bidstack’s Draper said that he had been “losing many an evening to Football Manager” while his colleague, Bidstack’s VP of gaming Charlotte Cook, added that she had been playing the first part of The Last of Us (the highly anticipated sequel to which was released in June to become the fastest-selling first party PlayStation 4 exclusive ever).

“I’ve been playing The Last of Us and am desperately trying to finish it before someone spoils the sequel for me. It’s one of the most emotionally charged games I've ever played.”

Fellow panellist, Fnatic’s Calvert said that he had mostly been playing Mario Kart with his two sons. “I long for the day that it becomes an esports game because when that comes I down tools, stop everything I’m doing and just focus on that,” he joked. “No one can beat me on Rainbow Road!”

Will Kassoy, president of online funding platform Omaze and a former SVP of Activision Blizzard, was more in the mood for reflection. He concluded: “ Gaming has really evolved from being something aimed at boys in their bedrooms. When I first got into the industry in the early 90s, Nintendo and Sega were for teenagers”.

“But now a whole generation has grown up with consoles, and it's really become a viable entertainment medium next to music, television and movies. It’s now seen as art, and brands would be silly not to get involved with such a booming industry.”

This is first in the two-part series. You can watch the first part of the digital panel here.

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