Gaming ranked highly in the entertainment league tables even before the COVID-19 outbreak. However, since the start of the pandemic it has levelled up at speed, gaining hugely extended audiences of global players and an impressive market valuation to match. According to Newzoo, industry value will rise to $159.3 billion in 2020, mostly due to the increase in revenue that has come with greater engagement from homebound users. But this doesn’t mean accelerated gaming growth will end with the easing of lockdown.
Aside from the strong probability of continued social distancing, ongoing success will be powered by a change in perception. New users have discovered the world of gaming is bigger than its stereotypical image and the sector is set for an increasingly mainstream future.
Businesses across the video game space should be aiming to keep up the momentum and harness opportunities created by the popularity boom, focusing in particular on advertising.
Making the most of expanded audiences
The key asset gaming companies now have to offer is obvious: the ability to link advertisers with sizeable audiences.
Of course, in-game advertising isn’t new; many major brands have already joined forces with leading titles on various integrations and promotions. See, for example, Louis Vuitton’s custom skins for League of Legends, and the crossover between Fortnite and Nike’s Air Jordan range that included branded outfits and a bespoke ‘Downton drop’ limited time mode. But the expanded appeal of gaming means there is even greater scope for brands to use in-game ads as a tool for boosting their exposure, and maintaining crucial audience awareness and relationships - especially at this time of widespread dislocation.
The same is also true outside of play, with increased overall interest driving a rise in consumption of related content. In fact, studies show that traffic flowing to gaming-centric sites and apps has skyrocketed by as much as 94% in recent weeks, indicating a swelling appetite among both new and existing users for reliable content about gaming trends, tips and hardware, as well as games themselves.
These growing opportunities haven’t gone unnoticed by brands or forward-looking game developers, as illustrated by the recent launch of the entire 100 Thieves apparel range in Animal Crossing. Those keen to get ahead of the curve need to start highlighting their considerable user reach sooner rather than later.
Leveraging demand for precise targeting
Alongside enhanced scale, there is also an opening for gaming companies to showcase their potential as a vehicle for more targeted advertising, particularly as strategies and budgets shift away from previously prominent channels. Digital out of home (DOOH), for instance, has gone from an expected 11.4% uptick in ad spend to 14.7% drop amid lockdown and its impact is likely to remain limited throughout the gradual relaxation.
For brands looking to retain their place on the consumer radar, broadening multi-channel horizons will be essential — and the gaming sector could be the perfect new addition, as long as businesses take the right approach.
While efficiency has always been important for brands, optimal precision and effectiveness are more vital than ever in the face of coronavirus-driven challenges and budget squeezes. Not only do they want to know the channels they invest in will allow them to tap engaged and relevant audiences, but they also want a measurable view of results.
To meet these requirements, gaming firms will have to dial up their advertising efforts on multiple fronts. As well as implementing the mechanisms needed to serve and track targeted ads, they must embark on a profile-building exercise. Specifically, they’ll need to prove to ad partners that it is possible to reach targeted audiences and advertisers within games without disrupting the user experience.
Achieving that will mean anchoring activity firmly around users, leveraging the latest data to show the variety of gaming popularity — such as Bidstack’s analysis of increasingly cross-demographic play — and ensuring ad delivery works with the user experience, whether that’s via close integration with game design or unobtrusive placement beside appropriate content.
Coronavirus has placed gaming on the brink of a brighter future but holding onto its newly elevated position will mean stepping up to effectively seize the moment. To maintain momentum, businesses must get to work on demonstrating their long-term value and advertising capabilities. By moving to deliver the best possible solutions and educating brand marketers on the power of game-based ads, companies can drive success for good, not just for now.