The proof is already in the pudding; the world of gaming is taking over social media marketing and the brands that get it right are already collecting the accolades and awards to prove it – a quick glance at what’s winning Cannes is more than enough to confirm this theory.
Feeling late to the party? Well, you haven’t missed the boat just yet. The line between social media and social gaming has never been thinner. In fact, many brands are treating gaming as a fundamental platform in their channel mix, giving it the careful time and attention it truly needs and deserves in order to stand out in this space. That being said, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what this incredible virtual world has to offer, with early adopters reaping the rewards before anyone else.
What is Social Gaming?
Social Gaming is a marriage between social media marketing and the vast world of gaming. Gamers are no longer the basement-dwelling nerds we once believed them to be. They have become a catalyst for culture across fashion, music, television and you guessed it, marketing. As far as engaged audiences go, these guys are locked in and ready to spend, with the gaming market across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt expected to be worth $3.14bn by 2025.
Why should brands care?
Simply put, there’s an extremely high likelihood that the audience you’re desperately trying to reach is, in fact, gamers. That ever elusive Gen-Z audience you’ve been choreographing dances for on TikTok? Yep, likely gamers. That mother who’s up all night with her newborn baby? Probably crushing Candy Crush while feeding. The CEOs that have little downtime but more money to spend than most? Probably taking their corporate rage out on noobs in Call of Duty.
To succeed in social gaming we need to dissolve any preconceptions we may have about what a gamer is (or rather, was) and start embracing reality as we’re able to observe it today; gamers are everywhere, they are everyone and they are holding the keys to unlocking brand relevancy.
Does the data justify the effort?
Whether people are actively playing games on PC, consoles or mobile, or if they’re solely primarily engaging in esports on YouTube, Twitch, Discord, Reddit and Facebook, one thing’s for certain, the gaming industry is rapidly increasing in the Middle East
KSA is considered the gaming powerhouse of the MENA region; it is home to 23.5 million avid gamers (67% of the population) with high spending power yielding the highest revenue among Arabic-speaking nations. As a result, the Saudi government announced it will invest more than $6.4 billion in its gaming industry over the upcoming years as part of its Vision 2030 economic diversification plans. In the UAE – where nine in ten adults play video games – the government is also very supportive of the gaming sector as it has introduced policies to encourage game localization, local game development, new studios and offices for international game companies, and hosting major esports tournaments. While Egypt is the region’s fastest-growing market with more than 40 million gamers who download games and play games online and on mobile.
Mobile gaming is considered one of the key factors driving the market growth as a result of rising smartphone adoption and internet penetration rates in the region. 58% of gamers in Egypt, 57% in UAE and 52% in KSA play on their smartphones or tablet.
Where do I begin?
As a brand, your first consideration should always be: ‘How can I add authentic value to the gaming experience and gamers as a whole? At first, entering the world of gaming may seem like a daunting endeavour; it comes with a wealth of new platforms to consider, such as Twitch, Reddit and Discord, as well as an ever-expanding landscape of games and communities that shift at the speed of culture.
For that reason, your first plan of action should always be gaining their trust; start small, release content that is gaming-inspired, that prove that you understand the space. One big activation will never be enough to truly win over their hearts – you need to earn your stripes before you charge into their sacred world, which is heavily gate-keeped by passionate gamers. If you appear overly opportunistic in your need to sell, sell, sell, gamers will likely see straight through you.
How do I enter the game?
You need to be where your audience is. Yes, integrating your brand into the games they love is certainly one way to get involved, but it’s definitely not the only option available to you. Gamers are avid social media users, with tools in place that allow you to target them accurately and specifically. Moreover, it’s essential to understand that we’re not just targeting individual gamers, we’re targeting gaming communities. Platforms like Twitch have made an entry for brands more accessible than ever, both in the form of ads but also in the way of creator collaborations. Streamers and YouTube content creators have a humongous influence in this space and are keen to partner up with brands that are able to take them to the next level.
How do I set my brand up for success?
Trust in the experts. The world of gaming is a minefield of nuance – it requires an intricate understanding of gaming, its communities and where cultures effectively crossover. Brands that haven’t done their homework are usually the first to get trolled and if those horror stories of campaigns-gone wrong have taught us anything, it’s that gamers aren’t quick to forget. Agencies like We are Social and Socialize (Gamez) have created sub-units in their infrastructure to specifically meet the needs of this space, with creative solutions that not only work but get noticed, resonating with gaming audiences in ways that only an expert could.
Like any video game, you need to actually play the game to win the rewards. There’s no shame in entering the game as a Lvl.1 Noob, so long as you climb your way through the ranks like a gamer should; respecting the grind and putting in the time. Commit to playing for the long haul and always keep the gaming community at the heart of everything you do. No effort goes unnoticed and when you do it right, the positive press will shortly follow.
What brands are doing it right?
As it stands, the gaming space is still largely uncharted territory, which is remarkable when we consider just how many brands have already made their claim on this space; a true testament to just how vast the gaming industry really is, as well as how limitless the creative possibilities truly are.
A no-brainer front-runner in the gaming space right now is Pringles. Considered as one of the early adopters in gaming marketing, Pringles have gone above and beyond to secure themselves as a ‘brand that gets gaming’, Some stand-out campaigns from this brand include their introduction of ‘Frank the Zombie’, wherein they partnered up with a Twitch streamer and lured Frank the starving Zombie out of a video game by opening a can of pringles on stream, much to the enjoyment of the streamers many viewers. Another excellent example of Pringles owning the gaming space, was when they started a job recruitment campaign for an in-game vending machine restocker, wherein they turned players into NPCs (non-playable characters), truly blurring the lines between reality and video game fantasy.
Yes, although these stunts are sure to garner mass attention from gamers, there’s still hope for brands who want to go that step further; moving culture through gaming-related campaign initiatives. One prime example of this would be Pride Crossing. During the wake of Covid, when we were all house-bound in isolation, We are Social Singapore was determined to give the LGBTQIA+ community a way to celebrate their pride when hitting the streets was out of the question, bring the pride parade to Animal Crossing. To call this campaign a success would be a gross understatement, attracting mass attention both from the media and the gaming community as a whole.
Whatever your budget is, or the target you’re trying to reach, the world of gaming offers a plethora of scalable creative opportunities for brands who are willing to commit the time and attention required to truly win the game. For those looking for a quick-win, a cheat code to bypass the effort, well, your best bet is to do what real gamers do; focus less on cheating the game and more on enjoying the journey. Have fun and you’ll be amazed at how willing the community will be to join in and play.