Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Growth of gaming unlocks new opportunities for brands

By Josh Partridge, MD UK, Co-Head of EMEA at Verizon Media

During a year in which people across the country, and globe, were faced with a series of lockdown restrictions, we saw various consumer trends and behaviours significantly accelerated. With less access to physical events and entertainment, one of these trends was the mammoth rise in online gaming as consumers looked for ways to connect with others. The industry attracted 12 million new players, up 7% in EMEA compared to 2019, meaning that nearly 161 million people in EMEA are now ‘gamers’. That’s almost 2.5 times the UK population.

This growth in online gaming therefore offers a huge opportunity for brands to reach a dynamic and engaged audience across consoles, PCs, OTT devices, tablets and mobiles – not to mention the growing VR audience.

The new face of gamers

With the gaming industry continuing to gain new users, we are seeing the audience become more and more diverse. Gone is the cliché of who a typical gamer is and brands need to understand the diverse pool of consumers that are now attracted to the industry – and more importantly, how to reach and connect with these different users.

Doing this successfully starts by understanding who’s at the other end of the controls. We’ve identified four main types of gamer, differentiated by the devices they play on and the depth of their involvement.

1. The casual/mobile gamer
This is the most diverse audience segment with 53% of the player-base being female and across a range of different age-groups. For these gamers, the mobile device is the most common medium, which means they do not have the need for dedicated hardware.

2. The console gamer
Within this category, 44% have kids, so for these gamers the console is often also the entertainment hub of the household, being used not only for gaming but for streaming content. These users will own dedicated hardware and play on their TV.

3. The hardcore and PC gamer
These users are invested and willing to spend more time and money on their passion for gaming. Whilst the majority of this audience is male, it’s important for brands to understand that 42% are female, and more than a third are over 35 years old.

4. The streamer and competitive gamer
The final audience segment encompasses those at the heart of the industry, having formed close gaming communities and regularly competing with others online. This audience is mostly made up of young Gen-Z gamers (64%) who are across the latest technological advancements – being four times more likely to own a VR headset.

Brands who take the time to understand the nuances between today’s gamers and the complexity of these gaming universes – rather than taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach – will see the greatest results in this space. Having this insight and understanding to target these different audiences in a more bespoke way will help to build more genuine connections and yield brand loyalty in the long-term.

Technological advances make gaming even more accessible

While it’s already evident that the profile of a gamer has become more diversified, the roll out of cross-platform gaming has made the industry even more accessible – with family, friends and online communities being able to play together regardless of platform or device. On top of this, the growth of cloud gaming offers users the choice to play wherever, with the same console quality experiences on a mobile device. With 57% of EMEA gamers playing on mobile, it means more opportunities for brands to reach consumers in this highly engaging and interactive activity than ever before.

Furthermore, as 5G connectivity grows and becomes more accessible, online gaming will continue to explode as new XR devices are launched, more cross-platform cloud gaming experiences arrive and people are able to play together from any location, with any device, either at home or on the go. Cloud gaming, enhanced connectivity powered by 5G, and new extended reality production capabilities will all transform the gaming experience to a new level. With these technologies at play, we’ll see enhanced immersive experiences that will revolutionise the industry – and brands need to make sure they’re ready to leverage this.

How brands can level up

The boom in online gaming and diversification of these audiences has presented new and unique ways for brands to reach people within gaming environments at scale, using in-gaming advertising solutions, gamification within ad formats, esports and interactive experiences as just some examples. With so many consumers turning to games to connect with others, to be successful brands need to find ways to mirror or add value to the nature of these communities and become more interactive – like the games themselves – in order to set themselves apart and effectively engage with these audiences.

They should avoid thinking about gamers as a single-faceted group of people to target – they need to think like the many types of gamer and really get to grips with how these communities (and sub-communities) interact, engage and behave online. Ask questions about why those audiences play those specific games, are they looking for long-term or short-term wins? How can my brand add value to the gaming experience, whether through game rewards, player competitions, promotions or even relevant brand-building on in-game DOOH experiences?

Here at Verizon Media, we’re uniquely positioned to help brands do just that and develop cutting-edge content and ad experiences that make a genuine impact. We reach over 92 million gamers across our portfolio – equating to almost 60% of gaming audiences across EMEA – and use our catalogue of data and insights, as well as our team’s creative expertise, to understand how best to engage with them, either through the games themselves or bringing gamified experiences to them through other formats across mobile, video, desktop or even connected TV and DOOH.

We reach a variety of mobile, PC and console games through premium inventory deals through our DSP, and our in-house creative technology team at RYOT work with our sales team to create first-class gamified campaigns and console partnerships.

The new era of gaming is right around the corner, and with 5G at our fingertips, it’s going to be a really exciting space for brands to enter. With a growing and diverse audience, and a platform that can lay the groundwork for truly innovative, immersive and interactive experiences, online gaming is set to unlock a host of new opportunities for brands – helping to elevate their audience engagement to the next level.