The gaming community is close-knit and follows its own rules. Advertisers are having a hard time getting a foot in the door – nothing must disrupt the flow of the game or interfere with gamers’ concentration. Jay Krihak, Executive Director Crossmedia New York, explains how brands can still reach the target group of gamers and streamers and points out pitfalls in the gaming environment.
Microsoft and Sony have recently spent billions of dollars to acquire video game makers, while making comments publicly about advertising being an opportunity to support both the player and the studios. Given the success of free-to-play franchises, and the creation of IAB Playfronts, video game advertising is having a bit of a moment. The problem, however, is that gamers hate your ads. The last thing gamers want is to be interrupted, distracted, and have “commercial time outs” for advertising breaks.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way.
A Second Chance for In-Game Ads
We’ve been “here” before (circa 2009) with in-game ads by Massive and IGA, touting a revolution for finally having a way to reach the hard-to-reach gamer at scale. Back then, the only non-sports-game real estate available was inside of dystopian & alien planets, gory shooter content or underwater worlds. Not exactly brand safe or a contextual fit.
Fast-forward to 2022 where ads in mobile games are scalable, free-to-play games offer a low-barrier of entry and gamers have warmed up to a need for advertising subsidies, especially in uncertain economic times. A program like Prime Gaming on Twitch is a perfect example of the right way to sponsor and add value to gamers without getting in their way. Yet many of the same contextual challenges remain, and a few have been added like gamer toxicity in social media.
Therefore, as we usher in this new era of ads & gaming, it’s more important than ever for brands to have purpose behind their ads and actions within the gaming community. In other words, know the rules of the gaming community before you enter their domain.
Community Rules Also Apply
Brands have the opportunity to create deeper, more organic and authentic connections among gamers than most other passions. Platforms outside of the game like Discord, Reddit, Twitch and YouTube offer direct connections to the most passionate gamers and to the creators that foster healthy, connected communities. Furthermore, subscribers and patrons keep content like podcasts ad-free, making ads and brands unwelcome. These are the kinds of unwritten rules about where, when and how marketers participate that we need to abide by.
The way in, therefore, is through a clear, meaningful and additive value exchange. The way to surprise & delight is to take non-traditional routes, support underserved segments and have an authentic voice among gamers.
To be unique, brands need to elicit a positive emotional response from gamers by doing – and being – something different when in their world. If you’re willing to put in the effort, brands win when they act based on listening to and supporting gamer communities. It’s only out of this humility and attention that highly bespoke solutions are born, generating wins for everyone.
Fueling Growth With Purpose
Platforms like YouTube & Twitch have been struggling with how to best address under-represented creators, many of which are among the gaming community. As more brands champion DE&I, strategies should, but have yet to center on/around the creator & gaming communities. Female Esports teams, creators of color and other under-supported communities would significantly benefit from more brands taking an active role in their communities as part of DE&I efforts.
In the end, it is critically important to collaborate with the gaming community with full respect, which will broaden brand acceptance among the community.
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