Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Alex Rahaman: Getting the attention of gamers – why choice and variety matters

Alex Rahaman, CEO of NEXD, and NDA’s latest monthly columnist, is an adtech pioneer. He founded the first mobile DSP, StrikeAd, before selling it to Sizmek in 2015, launched and ran the Unanimis mobile ad network before its sale to Orange and led the acquisition   of global media exchange OpenX by Index Ventures.  

Gamers are the kind of audience that is easily misunderstood, for various reasons. They’re often assumed to be a young audience, but while it’s true that many video game consumers are Generation-Z, did you know that the average gaming age, according to ESA, is 34? Or that 70% of gamers are over the age of 18, according to Statista?

The fact that so many assumptions are made about gamers helps to explain why marketers have such a difficult time pitching their products to people who play video games. The other reason for this is because there is such a diverse range of games available, and hence there are many differences between the players. The video gaming industry was thought in 2015 to be worth $91.5 billion, and so well-crafted marketing can capture a loyal and lucrative customer base. 

Your DSP can help you find the demographic you want for your ads. In this column, I’ll look at how you can create marketing that captivates video game players of all kinds, whatever it is you’re selling.

What are the different kinds of gamer?

There are as many different kinds of gamer as there are kind of game. Think about the most popular games on the market. Call of Duty (a first-person shooter) is a dramatically different game to Candy Crush (a mobile puzzle game), and they are both worlds apart from World of Warcraft (a massively multiplayer online role-playing game or MMORPG). 

It might be that players of one kind of game also enjoy the others – but in general, each genre of game will attract very different kinds of fans. Working out which kind of gamer would most appreciate your product is probably the most important thing to ascertain. 

Mobile Gamers

These are people who play games for – usually – short bursts of time, filling gaps in time with casual games on their mobile devices. Often players are very young, but the games, such as Tetris-style puzzler Two Dots, are designed to be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.

Because mobile games are easy to control and to get into, the idea is that players regularly feel rewarded. The dopamine rush of a win is something that keeps people coming back, as do bright colours and fun characters and stories.

Mobile games are usually freemium, with the basic game offered as a free download with additional power-ups costing money, and so the microtransaction model is built into the genre. So too, on some free games, are ads. This all means that if you decide to place an ad in a mobile casual game, the likelihood is that players will not be hostile to it, and will indeed potentially be receptive to a break in play to see a campaign – though you don’t have long to get their attention. Your DSP can help you target ads for mobile games.

Be careful, though, to tailor your campaign to the kind of game it is likely to feature in. Military strategy games like World of Tanks or Game of War have a very different following to Two Dots. You’ll need to think carefully about what sort of game, and therefore what sort of gamer, your game suits.

Casual Console Gamers

Not everyone enjoys playing mobile games. Sometimes people enjoy sitting, or standing, with a controller, and playing on a console. This is a more graphically-rich experience, with games that contain greater depth – usually – than mobile games. Nonetheless, console games are generally designed to be played by people of a wide range of experience, with a story and in-game world that is easy to follow. 

Great games for the casual console gamer include the Portal games, Call of Duty, Halo, and sports games like FIFA, Gran Turismo, the Forza series, and NBA. Each of the titles is usually one of a relatively quick succession of ‘triple-A’ games, with sports sequels, for example, often released the year after each other, and with enormous brand equity attached to the titles.

There may, if your company has deep enough pockets, be the chance to place your product within the console game, but really the best opportunities for advertising to console gamers come in tying your product in with the game, through cross-promotion. Software houses are often highly receptive to companies who wish to come on board, so it’s definitely worth associating your company with a recognised and well-liked game series that people enjoy.

Esports and MMORPG Gamers

In their own ways, esports players and MMORPG gamers are both highly committed to putting time in on their game. They also likely consume content which is about their game of choice. What this means is that if you have an ad you want to display in front of a captive audience who have a built-in commitment to what they’re playing, you have a great chance to get, and keep, their attention with a good ad, especially if it is displayed on the website that, for example, most Dota or Skyrim players consult before taking part in a game.

With these games, if you want to do advertising, you really need to know everything you can about the mechanics, rules, and values of the games, and you need to know about the sorts of people who play those games. You also need ads, in the case of esports, that appeal to a youthful demographic.

Proper market research is essential, but if you advertise to, for example, a Formula One esports audience in a way that they love, you have the added benefits of new, loyal, consumers, and of being associated with the esports version of one of the most glamorous sports in the world. The same goes for putting your ad next to content related to any of the biggest online events in esports.

Gamers may be a diverse crowd, but they’re also people who may be receptive to a great ad campaign, pitched at them in a relatable way. The key is an interactive campaign with meaning and impact, bringing life to your creatives, and winning over the players.