The online casino and video gaming market continue their expansion. Along with the core gaming market, creator and influencer markets are growing as well as the creators make changes that are designed to fit new expectations and new realities.
Everything about the digital market - who even imagined the bitcoin revolution a few short years ago - is expanding and one of the biggest sectors involves building and monetizing online communities. The VC firm SignalFire reports that as many as 50 million people consider themselves to be “creators” and enjoy serious income as they do what they love to do and document themselves doing it.
Many industries have influencers including the fashion industry, the food industry and the entertainment industry. The gaming industry has one of the fastest-growing creator and influencer communities which is fueled by social media and streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch.
Arguably, no industry has a creator community that has evolved – and continues to evolve – like that seen in the gaming sector.
For one thing, creators don’t necessarily mirror what many people believe is the stereotypical gamer. Far from being zombie-like stoners, the majority of content creators are highly professional, highly intelligent and highly motivated.
They have perfected the art of creating gaming content and bringing people along on their adventures. They have also developed the art of monetizing that intellectual property through the promotion of relevant services and products.
Gaming content creation has been around since approximately 2010 but in 2020, gaming influencers started to come into their own as people started to learn that they could keep connections alive through digital means.
YouTube Gaming records peaked for watch time and more people were watching more content than ever. As the lockdowns began to life however, viewers found that they wanted to continue watching gaming entertainment and creators discovered that they had more license to be more creative than ever.
Some gamers have turned to the world of micro-creating. They tend to have fewer than 10,000 followers and create content for games to which they are fairly new.
Most marketers consider it good marketing strategy to hook up with influencers who have large followings but there’s a growing sub-set of marketers who believe that by targeting a smaller and less saturated audience, they will experience better results for their ad dollars.
With a smaller audience, they say, it’s easier to build a deeper connection and relationship. The viewers have a higher rate of engagement with the content and are more likely to trust the influencers’ opinions. In addition, as the content creator expands his/her reach, his/her influence will grow.
And the final trend worth noting is the rise of the ‘microinfluencer.’ Robin Åström is the CEO and cofounder of Wehype, an influencer marketing platform and agency that connects brands with gamers, working with companies like EA, Microsoft and Ubisoft. The team at Wehype find that collaborations leveraging groups of smaller influencers can actually be as, if not more, impactful than just securing major profiles for a campaign.
The changing geography of the gaming community plays a big role in how creators can build their online followings. Up until recently, Europe and the United States dominated the gaming sector with influencers from those areas building the biggest online followings.
Now this locational dominance is shifting. Older, seasoned influencers must try to adjust their strategies to meet this globalization while the market is opening for new influencers to enter the influencer community from other areas of the world.
Mobile games publisher Carry1st, in cooperation with market researcher Newzoo, reports that Africa is becoming the fastest-growing region for gamers.
Estimates are that over the next decade, the number of gamers in Sub-Saharan Africa will increase by 275% for a CAGR of 12% by 2027, making Africa the world’s fastest-growing gaming market.
Cordel Robbin-Coker, CEO and cofounder of Carry1st said, “We’re seeing dramatic growth on the continent, especially on mobile as the smartphone and free-to-play model have democratized access to gaming. A number of the big global publishers are waking up to the opportunity in the region.”
That means that investors have their eye on Africa. Carry1st has already raised capital from a number of high profile backers, including Google, a16z, the rapper Nas and Konvoy Ventures. All this is building the gaming infrastructure in Africa which, in turn, is increasing the demand for local streamers and influencers.
Observers have noted that until recently, brands haven’t really gotten involved in advertising on the content. That is almost certain to change as advertisers read the numbers.
Michael King, Head of Reprise Digital told ScreenAfrica, “There is a great opportunity for digital marketers in South Africa to reach one of the biggest growth industries in the world tied to one of the hardest to reach audiences – Generation Ys and Zs. We know that this market does not respond to traditional ‘push’ methods of advertising. Rather, they respond to friend reviews, suggestions and online ‘word of mouse’ to shape their decision making processes. This is why influencer marketing is so successful in this space.”
Some influencers focus on niche audiences rather than on the games. Some influencers have begun to turn their focus to communities that they want to reach in order to empower them, support them or simply connect to. Among these include African-American influencers who promote inclusion and black pride, women gamers who have formed communities of players and viewers to fight discrimination and online harassment and LBGTQ+ influencers who work to make other LBGTQ+ individuals feel welcomed in the gaming world.
Elle Dwight is the cofounder of and CEO of ROLE, a platform for playing table-top role-playing games (TTRPGs) such as Dungeons and Dragons via online, video-centric software. Dwight commented to Forbes, "Role playing games are unique in the ways they empower players and storytellers to create the worlds and characters that they want to see. For us, that has always meant putting underrepresented voices at the forefront of every game, campaign, and partnership we work on,” Dwight says.
“Role playing is all about live content creation with people you trust, and that provides both an implicit safety and a possibility space that many other gaming mediums often lack. Especially for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities, this is a medium where every group can live in an adventure that speaks to their lived experience. We think that's really special, and perhaps the most valuable aspect of this form of play."
Robin Åström of WeHype, the gaming influencer marketing platforms says, “The key to a successful campaign for your game is not all about having the biggest names promoting your product. It’s about understanding your audience and tailoring content to be relevant. That’s where micro and mid-tier influencers come in. They often have more dedicated audiences, which brands can tap into. This means there are many opportunities out there for Twitch and YouTube creators with smaller, but still significant and committed, followings. We’re seeing this segment grow by around 25% year-on-year and it’s these people that are making up the creator economy middle class in gaming.”