Gaming is captivating U.S. consumers and marketers are sitting up and paying attention. Worldwide, most people still prefer to watch TV for home entertainment but gaming is catching up quickly in terms of numbers of hours spent in front of the screen – particularly among Generation Zers, the most desired and lucrative market.
Almost 90% of Gen Xers are playing video games and online casino games on consoles, computers and/or mobile devices at least once a week, if not daily. The current trajectory shows that gaming is drawing audiences away from TV – even if someone doesn’t want to play him/herself, it’s likely that s/he is viewing the games on live streaming services.
The global video gaming industry is estimated at $162 billion and is showing an 10% annual growth rate. Traditional entertainment and media outlets are scrambling to prepare for a future shaped by those who see gaming as the most desired form of entertainment.
What’s the allure of video games? Psychologists, sociologists and industry analysts explain that video games offer an alternative to traditional screen entertainment. Games offer rewarding challenges, they are interactive and increasingly, they’re social. The pandemic taught players that they can connect to other people and find a relaxing entertainment experience through video gaming.
Games empower people to solve puzzles, collaborate with allies, destroy enemies and face foes. Gaming allows players to experience the same kind of immersive stories that they find in movies but in a more participatory manner. Players actually adopt the roles of the heroes and experience special effects that they would otherwise just watch – sharing those experiences with others as well.
Most under-30s say that gaming is reducing the amount of time that they are spending with other types of media. The new streaming video content and the social networks that surround them, in which players can live-stream their games and engage with fans and viewers during the streams, also presents serious competition to traditional media entertainment.
Young consumers are demanding to stay in the conversation and entertainment platforms are struggling to keep up.
Some factors for entertainment companies to keep in mind as they explore how to take advantage of the new wave of interest:
- Social Aspect – One of the reasons for the exploding interest in gaming is the way that it’s becoming a social interaction. Some multi-player games are bypassing traditional social media platforms and cultivating their own networks. They host global media events, run their own live-streams, facilitate their own chats and do other things to facilitate the kind of ecosystem that players want to experience. The more social interaction a platform or game has to offer, the more you’ll see people interacting with that game.
- Gaming Subscriptions – Developers who prioritize gaming subscriptions are seeing more consistent engagement. It’s estimated that half of all video players subscribe to a paid gaming service. As younger people turn to gaming over TV and movies, they will likely be more amenable to use their entertainment budget for a gaming subscription.
- Personalize – Entertainment and media companies should explore how they can best tailor various business models to players’ preferences and segments. Some players prefer adventure and action, others look for digital board games, role playing games, sports, simulations or other types of games. There are console players and mobile gamers, each of which offers its own individual type of encounter. It’s important to make sure that the right games are marketed to the right population.
- Identify the Audience -- Gaming companies have much more information about their audiences than do traditional entertainment and media companies. Using information about users, including data about the type of games that each player prefers and the level of play will go a long way to allowing the company to stay engaged with the players on an individualized level Through launch events, social media, streaming chats and beta programs, it’s possible to build user-loyalty and consistency.
- Embrace Advertising – With information gleaned through gaming companies’ user-data, brands can maximize their marketing strategies with the right mix of content, channels and ad tolerance. Gaming platforms must work with brands in order to optimize ads without provoking the ire of the players and their viewers. Much research needs to be done to determine where and how to place ads in the gaming ecosystem in order to achieve maximum effectiveness.
- Thanks to social streaming, video games have turned into the sport’s world’s newest spectator sport. Top streamers draw large audiences to their gaming content and media and entertainment companies need to explore that new model of engagement. Through the right type of social streaming, companies can effectively connect with audiences who may be closer to independent streamers than video franchises and/or celebrities.
The emerging sector of video gaming, esports competitions, live streaming and social media gaming is a work in progress but there are many lessons for media and entertainment companies. By understanding demographics, genres and channels, platforms can create the right mix of content, social influence and advertising.
By studying the habits of Gen Z, it’s possible to design new personalized experiences that will engage more players. Companies and brands must intersect across a wide range of trending topics, social aggregators and media platforms to address the interest and needs of veteran gamers and new players alike.