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Ideas Gaming

Gaming in the 2020s: Reach, rewards and the new meditation

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Clare Chapman

Download the full Essence report on Gaming in the 2020s

2020 was a breakthrough year for gaming. In recent years, the sector had been steadily growing in note amongst the marketing community but was yet to become a mainstream consideration. It had neither been seriously appraised for its reach potential nor wholeheartedly embraced as a lever for driving brand connection.

Enter a global pandemic, an enforced focus on home entertainment and folks spending more time with their children. One of the many effects was a huge increase in exposure to and exploration of gaming, resulting in a greater understanding of its appeal amid widespread news coverage of family-friendly, stand-out titles such as Animal Crossing. All of a sudden, gaming exploded into the general consciousness of consumers and marketers alike.

From tribes to moments

The key to navigating the space for brands is understanding this considerable variation in behaviours and motivations behind them. This is not only true because the category is so broad but because individual players drop in and out at different points, roaming the ecosystem depending on their momentary need states.

As happens in many other categories, it’s tempting to think of gaming audiences in terms of ‘tribes’ - the hardcore versus the casual, and so on. And this can be useful, as it’s true that many gamers have firm preferences, gravitating towards certain devices, genres and ways of engaging. But as their needs are seldom fixed it’s most helpful to think of gaming in terms of moments in time.

From this perspective the full potential of gaming starts to reveal itself; some gaming moments present a social occasion while others are akin to deep meditation. For many players gaming is their passion, so each moment is about indulging in their hobby. Conversely, many other gaming moments represent nothing more than a desire to pass the time.

It’s important also to understand that gaming interest behaviour extends way beyond just the act of playing. As leveraging fans’ interest in film, sport or music is possible outside the cinema, live broadcast, or streaming of a playlist, so gaming has a whole ecosystem of content wrapped around it. From video streaming to publisher content, from subreddits to live esports events gaming fans are thoroughly spoiled with ways to engage.

To understand the opportunities to connect with audiences in this space, and select the most relevant ones for specific brand or campaign objectives, we must unpick the different types of gaming moments and the reasons behind each particular engagement at that point in time, on that platform and in that context.

To understand the full scale of the opportunity and what brands can expect to gain from their efforts, download and read the full Essence report