Why Video Games Could Be The Next Social And Digital Marketing Network

by Caroline Barrow Figaro Digital

What’s the most popular digital service with those aged between ten and 12 today? Facebook? Nowhere near. Netflix? Nope. YouTube? Close, but also negative. The answer isn’t even video games generally, it’s Fortnite.

The immensely popular game is now the most used digital platform amongst tweens, and is a favourite for Gen Z, too. 60% of ten to 17-year-olds believe the game is on the way up, meaning its hold on the youth of today looks set to rise.

But it’s just a game, right? True, but that hasn’t stopped top brands like Nike’s Jumpman from creating popular digital marketing campaigns on the platform.

So, could video games really be the next social and digital marketing network? Gamification is changing the industry – find out all of the possibilities below.

How Does In-Game Marketing Work?

For those who know nothing about games, advertising and digital marketing campaigns based within them can seem a bit odd. The closest comparison is probably sports – shirt sponsorships, sport personality deals, and team-based campaigns are all common, so it makes sense the same can happen with gaming.

In the case of games, there’s less of a focus on teams and personalities and more of a focus on the game and the platform it creates.

Gamification – the process of applying typical elements of game-playing to other things like online campaigns – is seeping into all areas of digital marketing. It’s easy to see why this is happening due to how gamification facilitates brand engagement.

Returning to the Jumpman example, the in-game advertisement took the form of a new game mode and character skins to sell the famous pair of Jordans. Fortnite has 250 million registered players so, in a broad sense, Jumpman sees up to 250 million engagements with its brand which, in terms of awareness, is huge.

In the case of Fortnite, they often combine these in-game brand relationships with the game’s biggest influencers. By making a deal with these influencers to create content related to their brand deals, the platform overlaps influencer marketing with in-game marketing.

While Fortnite is the stand-out example, there are, of course, other games that utilise this new form of digital marketing in different ways.

The Different Kinds Of In-Game Marketing

While having brand deals interwoven into the fabric of the game is a popular method, there are several other avenues brands can use. Another common move is to make branded games, the most successful recent example being Kim Kardashian’s mobile game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.

The relatively inexpensive game generated $160 million in revenue with roughly 45 million downloads. It’s not as though the Kardashian family needs more exposure, but for a cheap mobile game, the brand awareness in downloads and revenue is worth every penny.

Burger King ran a similar campaign in the late 2000s with a series of themed Xbox 360 games. While the quality was severely lacking in these titles, their novelty led to 3.2 million units sold with a 40% growth for that quarter. Growth on that level is obviously good, but the fact it was done through one ahead-the-curve medium alone is impressive.

Both the Kardashian and Burger King campaigns were examples of advergames, which are reducing in popularity thanks to the improved nuance of in-game campaigns and dynamic and static in-game advertising.

Dynamic in-game advertising, abbreviated to DIGA, allows marketers and brands to purchase real-time and geo-targeted ads inside games. These are similar to banner ads within the game, appearing on billboards and posters. Static in-game advertising is more obvious and less interweaved into the game, looking more akin to product placements.

The Fortnite example above would be DIGA, for example, as static advertising remains in the game forever. By utilising DIGA, free-to-play platforms can add an additional stream of revenue while transforming themselves from games to digital social platforms.

The Role Of Esports

Digital marketing in video games gets slightly more complicated when it comes to esports. Esports is essentially professional game playing where players, who are considered athletes, compete at the highest level in front of millions.

With the advent of live-streaming platforms such as Twitch, esports has exploded in popularity, with advertising revenue in the sector expected to top $200 million in the US by 2020. US viewership is expected to hit 46.2 million by 2023, pitting certain games against the highest-grossing professional sports franchises.

Successful teams and individuals achieve near-famous standings with brand tie-ins now happening with the best teams. While brand deals with game-related tech items have been common for years, esports personalities are now breaking into major, mainstream brands.

US food retailer Jack In The Box ran a successful campaign with professional Overwatch team Dallas Fuel, for example; the way these players are assimilating into brands as a marketing opportunity is nothing short of David Beckham-esque.

The real marketing push comes from sponsoring events, which Red Bull has cornered. The company has successfully marketed itself as the ‘esports drink’ by sponsoring so many events, boasting over 231K Twitter followers and an ever-growing Twitch community.

By sponsoring a healthy slice of the $200 million esports pie, Red Bull is achieving returns similar to what Jumpman received: constant exposure.

So, What Are The Benefits Of Video Game Marketing?

The major benefit, as reiterated, is the scale and scope for direct brand engagement. How many opportunities do brands have for people to not just consume their brand on a visual basis, but experience it? The way the platform can incorporate several different aspects of the digital marketing industry, including influencer marketing, makes it highly effective for certain age groups.

This form of marketing, on paper, has it all: brand awareness, product promotion, direct sales, social shares, web traffic, backlinks, PR boosts, etc. Of course, these benefits can only be actuated under creative campaigns; don’t expect a bad ad within a game to move mountains, you still need to stick to your digital marketing nous.

The major downside for in-game marketing, though, is that it is highly targeted to a younger audience. While gamers are getting older at an average age of 35, if your business or brand is focused on those who are older, then in-game marketing will not work.

Should You Get Into Video Game Marketing?

In-game marketing may seem like the new kid on the block, but with esports opportunities flowing, the market increasing, and the audience diversifying, video games may be shaping up to be the go-to digital marketing platform.

If this is all brand-new news to you, then you need to keep on top of the most recent digital marketing campaign knowledge via Figaro Digital’s range of case studies.