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Video games are an increasingly important part of American culture and entertainment. According to our client, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the video game industry is valued at more than $43.4 billion and includes more than 166 million adults who play games. While marketers should aim to reach the video gaming audience, it’s a community that demands authenticity, which requires brands to spend time in the space to understand the culture and gain credibility.
Last week, I attended E3 in Los Angeles, where 66,100 people came together to discuss what is new in the video game industry. As a first-time attendee, I found the pure passion and breadth of the gaming audience electric and the evolution of opportunities for brands was on full display.
Hosted by ESA, the event packs the Los Angeles Convention Center with video game developers and designers, hardware creators, influencers and fans anxiously awaiting announcements about the latest games and products showcased in colorful booths and at highly-anticipated press conferences.
From the 25th annual E3, here are a few trends brands should keep an eye on:
Esports will be video gaming’s greatest opportunity
Esports operates similar to traditional sports with tournaments played by teams comprised of players with top skill. Tournaments are livestreamed from arenas with commentary from respected gaming personalities. Similar to traditional sports, esports gives audiences the ability to learn how to maximize their play, meet people with similar interests and cheer for those who play the same games as them at a professional level.
Estimates from Newzoo project the global esports market will exceed $1.4 billion by 2020. Though esports is more advanced in countries outside of the United States, E3 featured its own Esports Zone in partnerships with Subnation to spotlight esports through game play, expert talks and gaming cultural experiences.
With the growth of esports, the opportunity for companies to reach the video game audience will grow through tournament and team sponsorships, in-stream advertising and event partnerships. For example, as of this year, Miller Lite is the exclusive alcohol brand for Complexity Gaming, the esports sibling of the Dallas Cowboys.
Streamers are still the trusted source
Streamers play video games through a live, dual video recording – one video shows the gamer’s reactions and one video shows gameplay. These players have a high number of followers on social media and streaming platforms, such as Mixer and Twitch. Unlike other forms of entertainment, the audience is a key part of the experience because viewers can communicate with streamers through chat functions. Streamers respond via spoken word while simultaneously gaming. As a result of this relationship, streamers are viewed a trusted resource for product recommendations to those in the gaming community.
At the “Borderlands” booth at E3, many streamers were seen on gaming PCs in glass rooms playing the game, discussing their experiences at the show and interviewing special guests for thousands of their followers. Many of these streaming personalities have sponsors, and their content changes continuously. The ESA Foundation and Red Bull partnered to drive the conversation about how to create compelling content with a panel featuring creators, including Mari Takahashi of Smosh Games, Sonja “OMGitsfirefoxx” Mel, Leah Ashe and Dana Pirkle of 3Blackdot.
Video game companies pay and provide products to influential streamers to play new releases, while technology hardware companies do the same in exchange for a mention in the gear section of an influencers’ streaming homepage. Additionally, other non-endemic brands, especially food and beverage brands, have partnered with streamers for product promotion, such as UberEats and Hershey's.
Mobile video gaming continues steady growth
With today’s demand for entertainment at our finger tips, consumers use smart phones for gameplay. According to eMarketer, mobile gamers make up nearly 89% of digital gamers and span all ages. Phone makers, including Asus and Razer, another A+P client, identified this trend and developed phones with high-resolution screens and fast response times for superior mobile gameplay.
Though E3 is known for console and PC game announcements, there were a few mobile game announcements, such as “Commander Keen” and “Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad.” Simultaneously, the conversation around 5G elevating mobile gaming continued with Verizon exhibiting at E3.
The development of mobile games creates a new opportunity for in-game advertisements. These advertisements should be short in length, in the same picture format as the game and convey the message without audio.
The current evolution of esports, technology and gaming on the go provide a great opportunity for marketers. Overall, the large gaming audience seeks authenticity from brands, so consider partnering with esports athletes, streamers and other brands that are trusted resources and good storytellers. By continuously investing in and understanding the culture of this target audience, your brand can also be a trusted resource.
Cat Forgione is an account manager in Allison+Partners’ DC office.