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Why the rise of user-generated content in video games should matter to advertisers
November 5, 2021
User-generated content (UGC) is nothing new and was around long before the term was coined. However, many people point to 2005 as a pivotal year in UGC’s history. This was the year that a small online video start-up called YouTube launched, an emerging social media site known as Facebook began to gain some serious momentum, a digital encyclopedia dubbed Wikipedia was becoming the go-to place for information, and a small team was getting ready to launch a platform called Roblox, which would allow anyone to create their own games for others to play.
UGC is everywhere
Fast forward 16 years, and it’s almost impossible to avoid UGC - checking out a colleague’s LinkedIn update, watching the latest TikTok craze, scrolling through baby photos on Instagram, reading a friends blog, and listening to your favorite podcast. Thanks to the popularity of social media and people’s longing to create and share content, most of the media we now engage with is user generated.
Companies have cottoned on to this and are working with social media influencers, paying them to review and shout about their products, hiring talented podcasters to run their own shows, and working with bloggers to capitalize on their readers. And if the cost of working directly with these individuals is too high, advertisers can simply pay to have their ads appear alongside their content.
Although UGC has become an easy and accessible way for advertisers to reach new audiences, there are a few things you should be aware of. What happens if an influencer supporting your product suddenly comes out with a racist remark on social media? Or what happens if your ad appears alongside a video promoting an extremist movement?
How UGC is penetrating the games industry
For brands and agencies, it’s a matter of weighing up the risk with the reward and making sure you choose the people to work with and the platforms you advertise on carefully. Gaming is generally considered to be UGC free. However, this is a misconception. One of the biggest areas of growth for UGC at the moment is within the gaming industry, and as game engines become more intuitive and easier to use, and platforms that champion UGC like Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft continue to grow, it’s inevitable that these types of games are going to play a huge part in the future of the industry. Understanding how to make this content work from an advertising perspective is going to be extremely important, especially as these types of games continue to gain momentum.
The good thing about UGC within gaming is that we can take learnings from the early days of UGC on platforms such as social media and put procedures in place to ensure we don’t make the same mistakes. Many of these platforms, including kid-favorite Roblox have teams working on ensuring that the content its users create is vetted for suitability before it goes live, as well as making sure they comply with regional regulations like COPPA, CCPA and GDPR.
Netflix’s hit show ‘Squid Game’-inspired experiences have taken over Roblox (quite literally)
Despite this, we have still seen several issues arise around UGC within gaming. Fortnite was criticized earlier this year for an in-game event that they promoted which was created to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. And, more recently, Minecraft and Roblox have been under fire from parents complaining that their kids are asking to watch Squid Game - a hit Netflix show that carries a mature rating - after having played games created by players based on content from the show.
Looking to the future
During a recent webinar hosted by Anzu, Dylan Collins, CEO of kidtech platform SuperAwesome, spoke on this topic, saying: “Platforms that contain a lot of UGC and are working towards becoming metaverses need to prioritize moderation and safety. One of the most important metrics for anyone running metaverse platforms or operating there is what your level of toxicity and your level of counter toxicity is. We need to look back and think about what we can learn from the past ten years of the internet and social media and apply it to this area.
“We have interesting challenges ahead of us regarding how we deal with multi-rated experiences housed within a single platform. Currently, the platforms are moderating the content, but as they get bigger, more focus will need to be put on how these experiences get rated and gated.”
Vans World experience on Roblox
The rise of UGC will also have huge implications for the way advertising campaigns are run. Just as they’ve become creators of their own worlds and online stories, consumers will no longer want to consume advertising passively and will expect to be actively involved in ad campaigns. We’ve already begun to see brands like Vans, Gucci and Hyundai do this by creating interactive activations and experiences for their fans on Roblox.
As advertisers continue to wake up to the massive opportunities that gaming offers and UGC becomes commonplace within the games industry, it will be vital for advertisers and games companies to keep an open dialogue around how UGC is monitored and categorized. It’s also crucial for the wider industry to educate advertisers around the issues that can arise and build out solutions to help solve them.
To hear more on the opportunities that Roblox offers to advertisers, join Itamar Benedy, co-founder and CEO at Anzu, alongside Jamie Gutfreund, CMO at Whalar, and David Sable, ex-global chairman and CEO of Y&R, author, and global marketing and comms executive during Anzu’s upcoming webinar, ‘Building Roblox's Ad Ecosystem, One Block at a Time’.
By Natalia Vasilyeva, VP marketing at Anzu.