Who qualifies as a gamer? Two decades ago that was predictable – generally a teenage boy downing in junk food in a basement. And while that kind of gamer still exists, marketers are beginning to recognize that the target consumer is much more sophisticated and complex.
“Everybody thinks of gamers and their stereotypes, you know, Doritos and Cheetos and Mountain Dew in a basement – that's not accurate anymore. Basically if you think of an NBA fan, you're going to think of somebody older or an NFL fan, you're going to think of somebody older, but the athletes on the elite end, you know, especially in gaming and with esports yes, they're younger, they have to be to play at that level. So I think it's important for people and marketers in general to separate the people playing from the people consuming content or actually playing on a more casual level,” explained Jason Chung, Executive Director of Esports at the University of New Haven.
According to Joshua Schall, products should not simply be marketed to gamers, but to strategic sub-demographics within the gaming community.
“If you think about gamers as a whole, I mean, I think that most people would probably be surprised that I think the average gamer is in their mid-30s, they own a home, and they have a few kids at this point. So there's a huge kind of breath between the whole gaming community and it's hard to kind of paint them with just a broad brush. I think that each individual game has its own ecosystem and there's a lot of nuance that goes in there. So it has to be targeted, just like any other CPG offering at this point. You really have to figure out where within the niches you want to play at and where you're going to have the strongest ability to gain some market share and make sure that you're standing for something and not trying to just go after everybody and up reaching nobody,” said Schall, CPG industry strategist at J. Schall Consulting.
Coming to a school near you
Once considered a hobby for the laziest, gaming is making its way into academics, with the buy-in at the middle and high school level into scholastics growing.
“We’re seeing more and more states develop esports programs and supporting them in both middle and high schools. So I think it's a really exciting opportunity to consider down the road what that might mean not only in terms of the individual, but also how it connects to STEM education. These are very analytical kids, they are highly creative, they form strong communities, to a certain extent are perfectionists and many of them will be entering at least at the collegiate level, careers related to computer science, engineering mathematics and so on,” said Holden MacRae, PhD, Co- Founder, Chief Science Officer, Technology, Research & Data at FITGMR.
“Personally as a parent, I would never have considered that playing a video game is a entry point into a long-lasting career with fantastic opportunities, but there are about 140 different careers that you can pursue outside of being a competitive gamer and they are careers related to Media, entertainment, to event management, to what we would consider the more traditional periods encoding or computer science, for example, and then all kinds of offshoots from those different entities as well,” he added.
Reaching young gamers
“Most people would say that morally and ethically maybe you should not necessarily market directly towards kids, but I think with just the exposure to media at this point, kids are getting these messages much earlier and I think that they're driving a lot of that interest towards their parents. I don't necessarily think that it should be always towards the parent, I definitely think that kids are going to get messages one way or another and I think if you have an offering that is important or applicable to them, I think strategies need to be put in place to get in front of their eyeballs,” Schall said.
Community is key
Schall said with so much interest to get involved in the space, brand owners must understand how important community and authenticity is to gamers, adding that getting into the game means being a part of the conversation.
“There's a level of two-way communication and the ability for these influencers or gaming personalities to really foster a strong connection between their audiences and it's important to understand that there's that constant communication going back and forth and if you're not a part of the bigger conversation or a part of the culture and actually understand how to communicate properly and be able to speak the way that it needs to be presented within the individual communities –because those could be much different if it's, World of Warcraft or League of Legends or even just something like Fortnight– you have to understand the jargon and lingo and it's a matter of taking a strategic approach before you jump into any of these as a brand,” said Schall.
“I think we're really early on in everything we're talking about here and if you're hasty and making decisions thinking ‘I need to rush in and I'm going to lose my opportunity,’ I think that's a bad move. You have to think about this in the long term and how to properly put yourself in a position to cumulatively provide value to the community,” he added.