Gaming – the unsung hero of 2020?
George Pickford, Junior PR and Marketing Executive
- The gaming industry has seen sales hit new records this year
- Marketing departments seized the opportunity
- Many households relied on gaming as a utility, not a luxury
- A new generation of gamers are becoming stakeholders in this ever-expanding industry
Recently, as England was plunged into its second lockdown, many people found themselves spending an increased amount of time at home, even for the winter months. This is a stark contrast to earlier in the year. When the first lockdown hit, many were fortunate enough to have access to outdoor spaces; be it a private garden or a public park. The sun shone and the heat was welcome.
However, this is now not the case. With the night’s drawing in and cold weather a daily occurrence, more and more of us are retreating to the safe haven of living rooms and bedrooms and turning to technology for our sources of entertainment. Why is this significant? Because, behind television and streaming services, one other monolithic industry has become a whole lot bigger. An industry that continues to boom year on year, and an industry that has just jumped head first into the next era.
I am of course talking about gaming.
Before the pandemic, the gaming industry was worth a whopping £113.5bn, with 2.7bn people all over the world estimated to game on a daily basis. Polar opposite to many other industries this year, these figures have surged to new levels, and show absolutely no sign of slowing down. Marketing departments within some of the industry’s giants have seized the opportunity to leverage a repercussion of the pandemic by using video games to help people through tough times confined to their homes, whilst, continuing to drive sales. Another factor gaming companies have heavily considered is the desire for connectivity, in this case, virtually. Many households have relied on gaming as a utility, not a luxury. Analyse these points and you have a winning combination for the industry.
Earlier this year, the ‘Games for Carers’ initiative was launched, seeing huge companies such as Electronic Arts, Konami, Xbox and Sega, as well as smaller independent studios thank NHS staff through gifting free access to video games. Through this, we saw more than 85,000 titles become available, boosting positive brand reputation whilst helping promote our government’s Stay Home, Save Lives message in popular games such as Fortnite.
Many companies within the industry have managed to retain staffing numbers, and in some cases, create new job availability thanks to an increase in demand. Aiding this, development teams across the sector have had the ability to work from home, liaising fluidly with fellow team members, keeping productivity levels high.
This is for good reason. The gaming industry has seen record sales this year.
Activision Blizzard, the company behind heavyweights such as the Call of Duty series and World of Warcraft, said an average of 407 million people had played their games online each month within the first quarter of this year alone. This helped push Activision Blizzard’s net revenues from digital channels to £1.16bn. Rival gaming giant Electronic Arts said its net income had doubled to £313m on revenue that rose to £1.05bn also within the same period.
This will help fuel some healthy marketing budgets, with more money estimated to be allocated to these departments than ever before; and it is needed. Marketers no longer have their crosshairs focused on a younger generation who might have been the target a decade or two ago. Now, we are seeing gaming enjoyed across three or perhaps even four generations.
This creates new, fun and creative opportunities for marketing departments. Last year, we heard about 88 year old Audrey Buchanan sinking over 3,500 hours (146 days) playtime into Nintendo’s Animal Crossing. As a result, the new “Audie” character made its debut within the latest game in the series Animal Crossing: New Horizons, helping to further popularise the spirit of cross generational play amongst the gaming community – while promoting Nintendo’s inclusive ethos on a worldwide scale, seeing the character trending through social media platforms and generating YouTube views in the millions.
With the latest releases of Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, we are going to experience and witness a new generation of gamers become stakeholders in this ever-expanding industry. The capability for online communities to come together has never been stronger. Globally, technological infrastructure is improving. Gaming hardware, bandwidth and mobile internet, have made high-quality games more accessible across devices and platforms and in more and more homes than ever before.
With all of this in mind, it is plain to see the effect gaming has on the daily lives of billions. Where perhaps once there may have been a negative stigma attached to those spending excessive time in their virtual worlds, many now show these as achievements, milestones and badges of honour to be worn proudly on their sleeves. The games consoles of the world are taking pride of place in living rooms rather than hastily hidden at the appearance of dinner party guests. This new prominence within the household is completely justifiable to families all across the globe. The jump into these virtual worlds may have just softened the blow on a tough year.