We have seen a huge increase in the number of consumers playing video games over the last few years, with gaming moving from purely entertainment to a new form of socialising.
It should come as no surprise, then, that gaming is fast becoming one of the most important channels for marketing and advertising globally – especially in the retailer sector. In fact, a huge 84% of online shoppers now play video games. That’s a massive number and one that spans multiple age groups, not just young people.
What’s more, half (54%) of gamers believed gaming was a key way of interacting with their friends and two-fifths (41%) went as far as to say that their avatar was now a key part of their identity.
With so many consumers flocking to virtual play worlds post-pandemic, now is the time for brands to think about how they might best interact with their audience on a platform they love. After all, it’s not just about advertising on those platforms; there are opportunities aplenty to host events and concerts, create digital goods to buy and sell, improve your customer service, and collaborate with other brand partners.
Whatever your business’ objective this year, prioritising gaming should be high on the agenda.
Entertainment and storytelling
Gaming is all about entertainment and storytelling, so what better way is there of telling your brand story in a way that is engaging and builds brand loyalty than in the gaming universe? I would argue that there are very few mediums that allow a consumer to really get into a story and take part in the experience like gaming does. What’s more, it lends itself to pioneering technologies – the likes of virtual reality headsets, for instance – that are poised to take the world by storm in the next few years.
This is the reason, then, we are seeing brands like Nike and McLaren creating experiences inside Roblox. And we can expect to see a lot more brands getting involved in other virtual worlds in the second half of this year.
One area that is going to grow in a slightly different way will be advertising. Instead of those banner ads, pop-ups or full screen take-overs that can really get in the way of what you are doing in-game, expect to see more advertising that resembles outdoor advertising.
Of course, we’re already familiar with that kind of marketing, but with more people spending time in games (and the game being the most important part of the experience) these kinds of virtual billboards are a fun way to advertise without interfering with the gaming experience itself. You don’t have to look far with games like FIFA 22 utilising this virtualised ad space and Sports Interactive’s Football Manager even selling “in-stadium” advertising already.
Digital and physical
One of my favourite aspects of the future of gaming is how it is starting to blur the lines between not just the digital consumer experience and the physical one, but the digital product from a physical one. This will mean that a customer can interact with your brand from either a digital, metaverse/gaming experience or physical experience at any point in the customer journey.
Effectively consumers could start on your website then go to your metaverse store to talk to staff, then head into your physical store to try the product before heading back to the site to make the final purchase. The consumer will be able to be anywhere they are most comfortable. We are beginning to see this start to unfold to an extent with brands like Selfridges taking part in the Metaverse Fashion Week where they had a presence in Decentraland.
Out of this digital and physical mashup expect almost every brand to have a digital offering of some sort. If you are spending more time in a digital world it would stand to reason that you would want authentic digital products to own in that world. It’s why we’re starting to see brands like Gucci create products that can be bought from within these games. With the current scarcity of these products, they’re not exactly cheap, either…! This means that not only will we be advertising for physical products in the future, but we will be advertising and selling completely digital items as well.
All the above comes even before the slow and steady rise of the metaverse, but that is for another time. In the end it’s pretty simple, we need to go where consumers are… and a lot of consumers are gaming. In the future they’ll be doing more than just gaming; they will be purchasing in these digital worlds.
So, if you were to take one thing from today, it’s that gaming should start to become part of your overall commerce strategy sooner rather than later. Follow the eyeballs!