Once upon a time, the world of gaming was full of mysteries. And from this black box, many misconceptions emerged. Gaming is a man’s world. Gaming is isolating. Games are mostly played on consoles.
As outdated as these stereotypes might be, they are surprisingly persistent. While the gaming industry has changed beyond recognition, becoming more global and diverse than ever before, the image marketers have of it hasn’t always kept up.
But for those willing to look beyond the stereotypes, the opportunities are immense. After all, the gaming industry’s global revenue is more than that of the movie and music industries combined. On YouTube, viewers watched 50 billion hours of gaming content in 2018, and there are over 200 million daily logged-in gaming viewers on the platform.1
To separate fact from fiction, I spoke with leading YouTube gaming creators from around the world. Here are four things they think all marketers interested in reaching online gamers need to understand.
1. Gaming is no longer a ‘boys’ club’
If you were asked to describe a “typical” gamer, chances are you’d say they were a teenage boy. It’s true this demographic loves its consoles. In fact, Pew found that 97% of American teen boys play video games on some kind of device. But that only tells part of the story. In the UK, for example, women account for 58% and 50% of tablet and smartphone gamers, respectively. Gaming is no longer a “boys’ club” and that’s exactly what the YouTube creators I spoke to have seen playing out.
“There is no one face of gaming anymore. Around 70% of my audience is female and I create content with everyone in mind, regardless of gender,” said Giovanna Baldino, the Brazilian creator behind YouTube channel MultiGirlBR. “It’s very important for advertisers to understand this. If their content isn’t universally relatable, they won’t reach all their potential customers.”
The Italian duo behind Two Players One Console, one of the largest Battle Royale channels on YouTube, agreed. “Many women follow our channel and our audience is continuing to grow.”
2. Gamers aren’t loners
Another tired stereotype that comes to mind when marketers think of gaming is that of the kid sitting at the dinner table with a hand-held console, ignoring all the conversation going on around them, or the teenage boy playing games by himself in his parents’ basement. As a result, gaming ends up being seen as an isolating affair. In fact, gaming – especially mobile gaming – is a far more social experience than it gets credit for.2
“Phones by nature offer connectivity and that translates into gaming,” said Ash, the American creator behind YouTube channel ClashWithAsh. “Most mobile games are built around guild, alliance and clan systems, where you interact with thousands – even millions – of like-minded players around the world. That’s why this category of gaming has grown astronomically and will continue to increase in popularity.”
This social side to gaming is something we’ve seen when we’ve carried out surveys. Over half of YouTube gamers say YouTube is where they connect with their gaming community. And almost 70% of female YouTube gamers watch gaming videos on the platform when they want to hear from people they can relate to.
3. Gaming transcends national borders
More than any other genre on YouTube, gaming content crosses national borders, and none of the usual language, time zone and cultural barriers seem to exist. “We don’t have borders anymore, “ said Baldino. “Gaming content is relevant anywhere in the world because everyone is participating in the same games at the same time.”
I can go anywhere in the world and run into viewers of my channel.
Ash – who, despite being based in the US, says Americans make up only 33% of his viewership – agreed. “I can go anywhere in the world and run into viewers of my channel. Many of them can’t even speak English, but they watch for the gameplay, not necessarily the commentary. That means the content translates to a really broad global audience.” To have the most impact, then, brands have to keep in mind that their marketing should be as universal as the games are.
4. Gamers are naturally sceptical
“Gamers are critical and sceptical by nature,” Ash pointed out. That can make it difficult for marketers looking to connect with an audience who can sniff out imposters and inauthenticity a mile away.
One way to overcome this hurdle? Partner with someone who has already built a relationship with the people you want to reach. “If you’re marketing to gamers, it’s important to have someone who has already established trust with the viewers,” Ash said.
But with this trust comes responsibility, and everyone we spoke with emphasised the level of transparency, authenticity and support required for a successful, symbiotic relationship between brand and creator. “Advertisers need to spend time understanding the gaming culture on YouTube before proposing sponsored content,” said the duo behind TwoPlayersOneConsole. “The content won’t be successful if it doesn’t mirror the way YouTube operates.”