Gaming: How an industry upped its game

Thought Leadership

In a time of uncertainty, video games have proven themselves a key player. Video games have quickly become the outlet to console ourselves in the current climate, with millions turning to them to escape the onslaught of news and tracking data surrounding COVID-19.

While a great form of escapism from the ongoing crisis, video games also allow players to remain connected to friends and family through online multiplayer and group chats. What better excuse to reconnect with your fellow isolated friends than over a few bloody battles of Mortal Kombat, or a few laps of Monte Carlo in F1 2019?

In the UK, over 1M boxed games have been sold during lockdown, showing the phenomenal spike since people have been told to stay at home. The World Health Organisation has even acknowledged video games as an effective means of maintaining social distancing and video game companies are banding together to launch a #playaparttogether initiative, which will include COVID-19 messaging in many prominent video games, including FIFA and Call of Duty.

In Australia, we’ve seen an increase in livestream viewing across Facebook and Instagram, and we see the same trend on Twitch as well, as the platform saw a 16% increase in daily unique viewers in Australia and New Zealand.

Australians, in particular, are hungry for content on the platform as daily hours watched on Twitch surpassed 500,000. This is a whopping 21% increase in daily hours spent viewing content since the beginning of the year.

“It’s never been more critical to ensure people stay safely connected to one another,” Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said in a press release. “Games are the perfect platform because they connect people through the lens of joy, purpose and meaning. We are proud to participate in such a worthwhile and necessary initiative.”

Sony is also donating $100 million towards the COVID-19 relief effort, whilst five percent of Red Dead Redemption 2 Online and GTA V – both developed by Rockstar Games –  revenue will go towards helping businesses and communities. Razer, the gaming hardware company, is donating one million surgical masks to people working on the frontline of the pandemic. The list goes on, but it’s clear the industry is stepping up.

The gaming landscape is changing, too, Google has made a renewed push to get its game-streaming service – Stadia – up-and-running with an aggressive advertising campaign across social and in-app, also offering 2 months free to Australian users.

Facebook is also looking to take a slice out of Twitch’s pie with the launch of a new gaming-focused app. According to the New York Times, the app was initially set to launch in June, but following the gaming boom during the Coronavirus outbreak, Facebook accelerated plans to launch during lockdown. 

It’s clear, that for any brand looking to get into the gaming space, now is the time to strike. Here’s how:

1. Influencer partnerships

Influencers have always been a strong method of selling-in product to a target audience, but during lockdown their viewership has only increased. Working with relevant streamers to promote your brand can yield big results – for example, Uber Eats recently tapped up Twitch stars Manny and Miniminter in order to reach out and help champion some of the platform’s smallest streamers. 

2. In-app advertising

More people are spending more time playing games, so getting your product featured within them is a simple way to raise brand awareness. We’ve seen some great advertising being done by local businesses. One of our favourite examples is from Wayward Brewing, a small craft brewery in Sydney, which had their bar and drinks featured in the game Stone. Untitled Goosegame, the game that took the world by storm last year, was made by a small team in Melbourne. Australia’s game development scene is burgeoning, so why not having a presence in their game?

3. Create your own content

There’s always the option of taking your brand directly into gamers’ worlds. Old Spice ran a Twitch campaign featuring a real-life person wandering through the woods, controllable through the stream’s chat. Wendy’s also capitalised on the Fortnite craze during a “Burgers vs Pizza” in-game activation, launching its own stream that led to a 119% increase in brand mentions across all platforms and over 1.5 million minutes watched.

4. Gaming partnerships

You can also partner directly with game developers and publishers to feature your content in their products. We’ve recently seen Travis Scott launch an entire music tour in Fortnite, while EA Sports is collaborating with the Premier League to launch an “ePremier League”, hosted live across Sky Sports and YouTube, while the F1 season is continuing virtually through F1 2020.

If gaming was a big industry before the pandemic, it’s even bigger now. In this time of uncertainty, for the industry, it’s game on, and brands need to think about the many opportunities that it could offer.

This piece was written by our Senior Editor, Brett Phipps, with additional reporting from our Account Manager, John Pegios.