The video game industry is huge. Audiences span the globe, meeting across multiple platforms within millions of games. Excitement surges through the community as release season approaches once again. Kids and adults alike are frantically searching for any speck of information on game titles that have released no more than a mere 30 second teaser. The excitement is electrifying, but it doesn’t just stop in-game. Live-streaming, Let’s Plays, eSports. These are just a few of the ever-growing hubs in which gaming audiences can be found. alone is responsible for 15 million active users, each of whom consume around 106 minutes of live gaming on a daily basis. These users are highly engaged, participating in the live chat found on each streamer’s channel. Community is real on Twitch, each with their own languages and dialects constructed of emotes and made up words, all of which mean something to everybody involved.
To put it another way this is a virtual goldmine for brands, but just as mines are susceptible to collapse, so too are consumers’ trust and patience for brands and any platform that houses them. Advertising on a streamer’s biography page is simple; just throw in some relevant products that the streamers can vouch for and boom, you’ve made a sale. After all, they’re the professionals. But moving forward, advertising within video games themselves is by no means a simple integration process. If brands are to appear in gamers’ favourite titles they have to approach with extreme caution as to how they do so; gamers are not a bunch you want to wind up (trust me). It needs to flow naturally and not distract away from the player experience. A look at Fortnite’s recent promotional crossover with Marvel is a prime example of not only how to successfully integrate advertising in video games, but how to actively add to and improve the player experience. By adding Thanos, the Mad Titan himself, to the game as a powerful playable character for a limited time, Marvel have reached over 2 million free-to-play players and driven excitement for both Fortnite and the latest Marvel Avengers release. All round success right?
Now, suffice to say, Heinz couldn’t simply add a playable tin of beans to the newest iteration of Call of Duty and call it a day. You certainly don’t want pop-up ads in the middle of your 15 kill-streak, a beautifully ironic way to kill your brand. Unfortunately, most brands don’t have Marvel’s advantage of an entire universe, built over decades, of powerful and infamous characters at their disposal. So what can brands do to get in front of gaming audiences, without breaking immersion and obliterating their brand reputation?
Firstly, they must fit naturally. Brands have to understand that video games are about creating a world for the players to immerse themselves in. If that world happens to be on another planet inhabited by alien species, players do not want to see a tub of Hellman’s Mayonnaise on the side in their intergalactic kitchen. If brands want to be a part of the ever-expanding world of gaming, they need to adhere to the game developer’s every demand. This is their realm, not for tinkering by brands trying to stand out.
Is there a terrifying zombie-horror game due for release? Well, our midnight release is sponsored by Andrex, for the inevitable jump-scare-and-poo-yourself combo. How about a well designed, desirable brand sponsored card back for a popular digital card game that users actually want to unlock? So long as it keeps in tone with the game’s design, then why not? Or is there a big eSports FIFA tournament around the corner? Create and sponsor the team kit and make it available to the public. After all, eSports are due to bring in audience sizes of 250 million+ frequent viewers by 2021. If a game features cosmetic items and emotes available for unlock, create a brand dance or outfit in the weeks prior and make it available in game for when you get an insane kill and need to rub it in. Don’t you want to see a PG Tips sponsored teabag emote? I know I do.
The relationships between brands and the gaming world has the potential to be extremely beneficial for everybody involved, if approached with self-directed irreverence and respect for the audience and titles they wish to become a part of. There’s a lot of fun to be had, and plenty of room for collaboration and creativity.