Could gaming level up your next campaign?

If you’re reading this article, there’s a 68 per cent chance that you play some kind of video game, or someone in your household does. 

According to the Digital Australia 2022 report, 17 million Australians play video games and 8.6 million households, making gaming the second most popular entertainment medium. On average, Australians play games for 83 minutes per day – in some age groups making it more popular that using social media, listening to music, watching television or reading books.

And it’s not just young people either. The average age of players has grown from 24 in 2005 to an average age of 35 in 2022. The gender balance has also shifted – females made up 38 per cent of all players in 2002, rising to 46 per cent in 2022.

But despite gaming’s increasing popularity as a media and entertainment channel, it’s often absent from marketing, communication and public relations plans – especially in areas of social marketing

What do we mean by games?

The field of digital gaming is a rich tapestry of genres that can be played on consoles, PCs, laptops, mobiles and tablets, either solo or as part of a group. Sports games, role playing games, puzzles (Candy Crush, Wordle), sand-box style games (Minecraft) and first-person shooters to name a few. There are also physically active games such as Wii Sports and Dance Dance, and augmented reality games like Pokémon Go.

About 75 per cent of Australian gamers play online, often with friends and family but mostly with people they meet in the game. These can be co-operative role-playing games where people team up to complete missions, online sports matches, multi-player online battle arenas (MOBA) and massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).

This means that when people game, they’re not just glued to a screen playing by themselves, they’re immersing themselves in both a virtual and social world.

The growth of gaming channels and associated activity

The cultural landscape of games goes beyond game play itself and people often take part in several other online and offline activities associated with it.

Gamers watch livestreams of videogames on Twitch and YouTube Live where gamers broadcast their game play to their followers. Twitch, the most popular game live-streaming platform has eight million streamers broadcasting content per month and an average of 31 million daily viewers.

They participate in social media communities around games, join teams and squads. They create content and attend in-game events. For example Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox have all held in-game concerts by artists such as Ariana Grande and Travis Scott in recent years.

Many gamers also participate in or watch esports – professional competitive gaming with local, regional and global tournaments with prize money that can rival professional sports. In Australia, 45 per cent of Australian gamers have watched esports online while a third have attended esports events in person.

What does this mean for a communications campaign?

There are a range of advertising, engagement and public relations opportunities throughout the gaming sphere and unsurprisingly the organisations currently capitalising on this are technology companies and the food and beverage industry. Many of them have realised that gaming channels are reaching audiences who have switched off from more conventional channels.

Opportunities range from in-game advertising, channel media placement throughout streams and online sites, to engagement through influencers and the sponsorship of players, teams and tournaments in esports leagues.

These activities can be localised and scaled depending on your audience, budget and message. For example, Fenton recently worked with a client to sponsor the Australian Esports League (AEL) Highschool Cup as part of a financial literacy education campaign targeting high school students. We worked with the AEL and our client to develop videos from content creators and vox pops from participants engaging with the messages of the campaign.

Gaming is now a key channel that Australians are engaging with every day. As a communicator, the important thing is tailoring your message to suit the people you want to reach and being genuine about wanting to engage with this community.

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By David Micallef

David is a senior consultant at Fenton Communications and is currently completing a PhD on the intersection between social marketing and online games at RMIT University.