According to PwC, Budgets in video games marketing have grown exponentially since 2011 to over $1.5B spent in 2018 on in-game adverts.
However, while resources are growing, advertisers have not yet fully ‘cracked’ the gamer audience. In recent years, the most effective campaigns by quite a margin were community and influencer driven, while scale-able performance channels didn’t perform as well.
The gaming ecosystem is seeing more attention from major brands by the day, but many are slow to shift actual resources there. By the end of 2017, the vast majority of sponsorships were endemic, from computer hardware or tech brands (see graph below).
This relative neglect is not due to a lack of perceived value for marketers, but because most non-endemic brands still have little idea of how gamers engage, what offers they’d be interested in and which channels are fit for messaging them.
Brands trying to reach gamers in the same ways they approach random website visitors quickly learn their mistake, and lose marketing dollars. The core of the challenge is simple — brands aren’t an endemic part of the ecosystem, and for them to feel truly authentic to the audience, they need an inside partner.
In this article, we’ll review what we’ve learned in the last couple of years about the right ways to engage with gamers effectively.
The Right Place
One of the most important aspects of digital advertising and marketing is location, which also decides the context of your message. Let’s say you want to sell a video game, would it be better to engage with gamers in appstores and ecommerce hubs? Gaming-oriented social media? Perhaps through an influencer they follow?
These solutions are all viable, and can get results- just last month we’ve seen the Apex Legends launch do amazingly well on the back of a strong influencer campaign.
However even these channels ignore the core property of the gamer audience — namely, the more active a gamer is, the less they are available for you to engage with outside of their chosen game!
While playing, gamers don’t use social media or watch their favorite influencer, nor do they shop or seek new games to purchase in an appstore. When gamers game, nothing that happens outside of the game matters one bit.
Unlike other networks and web channels, the Overwolf platform engages gamers in the game itself, where their attention is invested.
The Right Time
Since we know gamers focus exclusively on their game while playing, the second major challenge to overcome becomes clear — What is the right time to approach them?
In the past, in-game advertising models usually relied on using in-game assets: putting up brand advertisements in the simulated football stadium, spraying ads on the side of in-game cars or even creating in-game items and assets aligned with an external brand.
However in-game advertising has a very long production cycle, requiring code manipulation on a level brands cannot usually access, and not all game publishers are comfortable with. This is where we come in, with both an overlay-based solution and years invested into studying the preferences and habits of PC gamers.
In Overwolf, we only advertise when gamers are on hold, and never while they play. For example, an ad might show during a long loading screen, a point in time where the gamer is waiting, attentive and quite bored while his game is loading. This non-intrusive advertising doctrine has proven itself across games and communities, and as always — respecting gamer preferences increases ROI.
These opportunities are ideal and net us close to 100% view rate on ads without creating a negative response — making sure gamers are engaged in a way that doesn’t harm their game experience. Filtering the ads that we allow on our platform makes them even more relevant for gamers and improves responses.
It turns out performance was never just about copy, creative and spending, it was also about the experience — if you engage gamers the right way at the right time and place, your impact will be higher.
Custom Brand Activations
Beyond smart display and video advertising, 2018 has seen the rise of a new and effective marketing channel — community challenges and skill based brand activations.
Back in October, we partnered with Alienware to create a new type of campaign, making better use of our tech and insights. We noticed that gamers love to share their experiences and especially their achievements, and based the new format around this passion to empower community channels.
The first challenge was a skill contest where players fought to achieve goals such as number of eliminations and match victories. Alienware wanted to reach active players and invite them to learn more about the Alienware gaming hardware brand, and we wanted to empower community leaders to have more fun and involve their followers in rewarding ways.
The challenge had over 1,500 active streamers and their communities participating during a single month, with thousands of social media shares and half a million unique gamers competing. In terms of performance statistics, the campaign blew other channels right out of the water with incomparable performance KPIs and established the format as a staple of our ecosystem.
The mass media sometimes portray gamers as reclusive and averse to marketing activities. In our experience that’s not always the case — we’re seeing strong engagement from gamers, and getting positive feedback from participants in our campaigns.
Since our first activation, we’ve been working with multiple brands on putting together ideal campaigns in the right games. During 2019 we aim to streamline and make our challenges easier to set up and maintain — enabling us to scale up and work with more partners. If your brand is looking for new ways to engage with gamers — Let’s talk via firstname.lastname@example.org!