Opinion: Helping mainstream brands penetrate the gaming industry

Traditional marketing techniques must be put to one side if big brands want to capitalise on the growth of the gaming and esports market says HyperX EMEA community manager Ben Malka

In recent years, the gaming industry has become increasingly successful, with increased revenues, larger audiences and a wider cultural acceptance. According to Ukie, the global industry has an audience of between 2.2 and 2.6 billion people, and the market is expected to grow from $101.1bn in 2016 to $128.5 billion by the end of 2020. 

While the gaming industry has been evolving and benefiting from this attention, so have the gamers, with the typical perceptions and stereotypes shifting for the better. No longer is the ‘gamer’ perceived as a socially awkward teen playing for endless hours in his parents’ basement – gaming is gaining acceptance from mainstream society, with professional gamers now recognised as athletes by big brands, such as Coca-Cola and Nissan.

However, this exponential growth hasn’t gone unnoticed. Mainstream brands are seeing the industry as a lucrative opportunity. Yet, the brands which are looking to transition are often not taking an optimal approach. There have been numerous past examples of large mainstream brands that have tried to simply throw large sums of money at the industry in the hope that gamers respond positively. However, what’s become apparent is that traditional methods of marketing and advertising aren’t nearly as effective as they may be in other industries. Throwing money isn’t the answer. Instead, organisations should look to adopt gamers’ values and integrate with the community. When big brands enter the esports scene they need to put emphasis on providing for the community, rather than trying to bulldoze and take over. 

“No longer is the ‘gamer’ perceived as a socially awkward teen playing for hours in his parents’ basement”

Non-gaming brands do not always understand that the gaming industry has been built on a foundation of relentless dedication. In the early days of esports specifically, external investment was practically non-existent. Gaming companies had to – and still do to an extent – rely on relationships with influencers, partners, forums, as well as games development companies, in order to grow.

A good example of a company that has been successful in penetrating the gaming industry is Monster, producer of energy drinks. Monster market more than just their products; they market an experience. They’re known for hosting numerous events aimed at bringing gaming enthusiasts together. Organisations need to place more emphasis on branding as opposed to just selling products if they want to be successful in the esports and wider gaming arena. Brand first, product second. 

While the gaming community isn’t the easiest to understand, the attention it’s receiving from mainstream brands is certainly positive. Any attention the industry receives from larger non-gaming organisations should be encouraged; not shunned. Collectively as gamers we can help to educate and guide these organisations to integrate and understand the industry from the perspective of a gamer, helping to further grow it and ensure its future success for many, many years to come. 

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