Audience data from a survey by research firm NewZoo, commissioned by social gaming platform GameHouse, suggests there are now more than 33 million people in the UK who play video games of some kind. Recent trends that showed growth in gaming among middle aged women have now receded, and gamers are split remarkably evenly between all age groups and both genders.
What’s more, 64 per cent of those gamers pay to play games, contributing to an industry that Gartner says will surpass $100 billion sales (£69bn) in 2015. So why are gamers still not taken seriously? Games reviewers are still thought of as the immature, frivolous cousins of high-minded film and TV critics, while most brands seem to give little consideration to finding new and creative ways to partner with games.
There are also several more insights from the GameHouse data that, while not necessarily surprising, suggest brands need to put more thought into how they reach out to gamers. For example, half of casual gamers find games more stimulating than TV while 14 per cent say the opposite (the rest are neutral), but only 19 per cent say they pay more attention to ads around games than on TV while half disagree.
Both could be explained by the obvious fact that games are an interactive medium, therefore people devote more attention to playing them than to watching TV and conversely give less attention to things extraneous to the game, such as static advertising. But this just means brands need to work out more interactive ways of getting exposure in and around games.
Manchester City Football Club’s ongoing partnership with EA Sports’ Fifa football games, taking in live events and branded content produced by the game’s developers, is one example that has enabled the club to extend the reach of its brand among gamers.
Of course, there is also the option of making a game of your own. Media and entertainment brands have always been good at repurposing TV and film assets for games, but Barclaycard’s Waterslide game in 2009 became the most downloaded iPhone app in Apple’s App Store. Heinz has followed suit with a new Facebook game app in the past week.
Even simple in-game advertising has the potential to be much more engaging by injecting a gaming element of its own. Branded mini-games could make loading screens more bearable, and ads could gain greater clicks by linking to the kinds of content people go out seeking – film trailers being a good example.
Whatever the creative treatment an advertiser chooses, brands need to start thinking about how to reach gamers. The data shows this is too important an audience to be ignored.