Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Sophie Strong: Gaming is more mainstream than you think

Sophie Strong is Managing Partner of Media Experience at PHD UK and NDA’s monthly columnist.  She has worked in digital media for over a decade, spanning areas such as social, programmatic, and broader digital planning. 

Gaming has become more mainstream than ever before. There are a host of statistics about the scale of the audience base, but also the wide-ranging traits and demographics this gaming community holds. There has never been a greater moment for brands to start thinking about how to authentically inject themselves into this highly engaged, wide reaching community of gamers.

September has just passed, and with that, has a multitude of gaming conventions across the UK. From EGX in London, to FORMAT in Manchester. Alongside this the popular Anime and Gaming Convention continues its tour across key cities within the UK. These conventions attract large crowds, with EGX drawing in over 75,000 visitors over the course of its four-day duration.

However, whilst these events which specialise in appeal to the more hard-core gaming community, the gaming audience itself has shifted, becoming much more mainstream. With a range of different games including word-based puzzles, design games, to more traditional games like Call of Duty, Fifa, World of Warcraft, the gaming possibilities are endless and span a range of different devices 

Quantifying this, we now boast a staggering 46.7M gamers in the UK. Following a 63% increase in gaming audience’s post-pandemic, the gaming market in the UK is now worth a record £7.1bn in the UK.

Ofcom recently reported several surprising statistics around the gaming community including:

  • A 25% increase in 55-64 year olds gaming
  • 1.2M people using Candy Crush Saga a day in the UK in Feb 2022, of which 68% of these are female
  • Website based puzzle games like Wordle are seeing 1.8M UK adults returning daily, and over 8.4M over returning monthly– that is 17% of the UK adult online population

Time spent with games is also impressive. Ofcom have reported that 13-64 year old gamers are spending on average 7 hours 33 minutes per week on gaming. In an interesting turn of event, the piece most striking, is in fact mobile devices have become the device for gamers, making up 37% of share vs consoles (at 30%).

We know that attention is becoming more and more important to advertisers, and by attention we are literally talking time spent with the brand, and real eyeballs on a brands advertising. A recent Lumen study looked to test the value, in the form of attention, that in-game advertising generated. Lumen and Digital Turbine created a mobile gaming environment, exposing respondents to a word game for 5 minutes, where they could scroll, click, type, with eye movements being recorded throughout. From this study the findings concluded that 98% of those surveyed viewed the ads, for an average of 22 seconds (vs 19.5 seconds across normal mobile and desktop gaming environments.) That’s 27% more attention compared to Lumen’s gaming norm. This attention also translated into strong brand effect results including 82% of those surveyed recalling the brand, and 44% saying they were very likely to consider the brand in the future. These are results the industry crave and need to deliver more effective outcomes. The good news for brands? According to recent Anzu research, 66% of UK gamers say they would welcome more advertising into their games.

Gamers are everywhere and present an exciting environment for advertisers to play in. But why does this matter to advertisers? The way we treat the gaming community is distinctive to how we treat wider advertising space. Simply, we respect the user more, creating a value exchange for participating with our advertising. This includes everything from rewarded video to information exchanges, through to unique in-game experiences like the recent Selena Gomez performance in Animal Crossing (which drove nearly a million live views!) So, what can brands do to tap into this unique moment across a fairly mainstream audience?

  1. Talk to your agency, they have experts who know how to get the most out of these placements – as an example, PHD has set up a dedicated gaming unit designed to create custom solutions for brands. PHD isn’t alone in this space as agencies create bespoke gaming teams to meet increasing advertiser demand in this space.
  2. Identify the audience – the types of games and how you communicate in the game will vary dependent on who the audience is. For example,
  3. Think of the purpose – what is it your brand is trying to achieve? This purpose, or essentially business objective will help form the outcome, and in turn carve out the experience you build in the gaming space.
  4. Don’t be afraid to test – getting it right can have incredible returns for brands, so explore what works best for your brand in this space.
  5. Be creative – think about how to inject yourself authentically into the gaming environment that best reflects your brand and its advertising message. Don’t just repurpose digital assets, be bold, innovative, and creative.

Gaming isn’t something brands should be afraid to play in. It is a mainstream medium that can offer significant returns if approached in the right way.