The gaming industry is massive no matter how you measure it. For starters, there are 2.9 billion active gamers worldwide. (Friendly reminder that the Earth’s population is 8.1 billion.)
Financially, it’s now worth more than $300 billion, and gaming plays a critical role in popular culture, while also generating near-infinite subcultures. (And sometimes even sub-sub-cultures—looking at you, Witcher and Gwent.)
But gamers are a special breed, and connecting with them can be a unique challenge. Here’s how to connect without the cringe.
Pro Tip 1: Don't fake it
You know that moment when you can tell someone is doing their best to be an expert on a topic, but it’s painfully obvious that they have no clue what they are talking about? That’s how gamers feel when brands try to engage with them without doing their homework. Don’t be that brand. Invest the time and do the research before jumping in as Player 2.
Pro Tip 2: Partner with people who know gaming
Perfect world? Adding gamers and gaming experts to your staff is the easiest way to buff your brand’s gaming stats. Real world? Do the next best thing and work with an agency that has proven experience in the gaming and gaming-adjacent spaces.
These agencies get gaming because they are gamers. They’re passionate about the space, so they know the language, subcultures, memes, characters, the watch outs, and more. All of which they can and will lean into to come up with ideas that cuts through to gamers fast, with less risk of negative brand association.
Pro Tip 3: Anywhere. Everywhere. All at once.
Gaming provides countless opportunities for reaching people at every budget, from big brand partnerships to hyper-specific promotions on TikTok and Reddit.
There is no shortage of places gamers go to talk about gaming, be it in one of Discord’s 19 million active servers, or watching one of Twitch’s 7 million active streamers, or sharing news in one of Reddit’s 140,000 active gaming subreddits, or … you get the picture.
So which platform do you go with? And which streamer is a good fit? And which community do you want to engage? What kinds of content are gamers engaging with?
Partnering with a gaming agency provides answers to these questions, along with supporting data, strategy and direction, which give you confidence that your brand and campaign is landing with gamers at the right time, on the right platforms, and with the right segment (or subsegment) of gaming.
Pro Tip 4: Stop spamming stereotypes
It’s 2024. If you’re assuming gamers are lazy, male teens with no social skills and questionable hygiene, you’re gonna have a hard time.
Gaming is prolific. People from all walks of life and across virtually every demographic game in some form or fashion. Unfortunately, the sloppy, unkempt, anti-social stigma is still associated with gaming.
Gamers are more connected, more diverse, and more inclusive than ever. And with many gamers over the age of 30, they have more spending power than ever. Also, 48% of gamers are female. Make sure your content and brand aren’t falling into tired tropes or outdated assumptions.
Pro Tip 5: Esports is its own game
If you want gamers to take your brand seriously, it must show up authentically in and around the gaming worlds and ecosystems your brand is participating in. This is especially true for esports.
While there are some elements that carry over from traditional sports marketing (league, team and/or player sponsorships, for example), take care not to assume your brand’s sports marketing plan is a copy and paste into esports.
It’s one thing to put your brand’s logo on a team kit or onscreen at an event. Creating compelling branded content is just like esports itself: a whole new ball game.
Esports fans are every bit as knowledgeable and passionate as diehard traditional sports fans. Adding to the fact that most esports fans are also gamers, who can’t wait to jump online and make fun of the latest brand doing its best to get in with gaming, only to whiff a game winner on a wide-open net in overtime. (Or fumbling the ball before crossing the goal line for a Super Bowl-winning touchdown, if you prefer a traditional sports metaphor.)
Pro Tip 6: Act the part
The only thing gamers love more than gaming (besides having more free time to game) is calling bullshit on tone deaf companies pandering to gamers.
Picture this. You’ve just spent a year (and significant budget) creating a campaign targeting gamers. After months of research, strategy, creative concepting and production, the campaign is live.
It's not only at the top of r/gaming but also the top post on Reddit. You jump into the comments expecting to see an endless scroll of compliments of how your brand completely nailed it. Instead, they’re making memes of it. And not the good kind.
Why? Turns out, the controllers used in the video weren’t powered on. Or they were button mashing in a driving game. Or they were playing Valorant on the living room big screen. Or the dialogue says “dive comp” when they are clearly playing brawl characters. These may seem like small details, but details matter. Especially when you’re trying to connect with an audience that has spent years playing games that reward paying attention to details.
Make sure you do your homework (or partner with a gaming agency that does) to avoid the backlash.
Pro Tip 7: Go game
Chances are you have already played games on your phone (yes, Wordle and Candy Crush count). But thanks to 5G and fast WIFI, you can level up your proficiency XP even more. Fortnite, for example, can be played on Android devices along with friends playing on other platforms like PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch. Ready to take the next step but don’t want to invest in a console or PC? Sign up for Xbox Game Pass and you can play many of the titles via Cloud Gaming, no console purchase or install required. (Some don’t even require a controller and provide touchscreen controls.)
Gaming is more accessible, available, and popular than ever. And while marketing to gamers isn’t as simple as with traditional audiences, it’s a massive opportunity for your brand so long as you’re willing to invest the time and resources.
Because if you don’t, it’s only a matter of time before your competition does.