A Crucial Lesson From Biden: Gaming, Investors And The New 'Most Powerful Medium'
By Adrian Montgomery, CEO of Enthusiast Gaming
While stories surrounding GameStop have garnered all sorts of attention in recent months, a much deeper shift involving the world of gaming has gotten less notice: The pandemic cemented a new digital mass migration.
Video games have become the “new social media.” Just as much of the world’s focus shifted from traditional media to social platforms a decade ago, an equally profound change is taking place now. People are leaving traditional media, social platforms and even many televised sports behind, and spending their time immersed in video game communities.
It’s a change the Biden campaign successfully tapped into during the 2020 presidential campaign, when they invited my team to help efforts to reach young voters. The campaign credits this strategy with helping President Biden win. And it’s a change that will impact businesses and their shareholders for decades to come.
Gaming attracts people of all ages. But for Gen Z especially, video games are now the primary social playground, form of entertainment, and method of self-expression. When I was in my teens and 20s, as a solid Gen Xer, my friends and I self-identified through our choice of music -- hard rock, heavy metal, hip hop, pop, etc. Now, for a huge swath of the population across the United States and around the world, gaming is where similar self-expression happens. It’s not like watching a TV show; it’s like joining a category, or multiple categories.
While this change has been developing for years, surveys show how profoundly it was advanced by Covid-19. In March 2020 when quarantines began, video gamers reported a whopping 45% spike in time spent gaming in a single week. The majority of Americans (52%) are now gamers. Even as vaccines bring about some return to normalcy, these numbers are expected to keep growing. Members of Gen Z (those born after 1996) spend more time watching eSports than traditional sports.
The gamers my company works with to orchestrate campaigns have combined fan communities of 300 million people. Half of those 300 million are not on Facebook. Instead, they interact socially through websites like ours and YouTube channels, both by watching eSports together and playing games themselves.
What does all this mean for investors? Sure, keeping an eye on gaming stocks is important. But that’s not the half of it. To be successful in growing market share and returns, any company needs to embrace this new reality and prioritize the gaming community as consumers.
This means understanding, and building relationships with, leading gamers who are quickly becoming the leading “influencers.” While people at the helm of major brands and their marketing campaigns are often far more familiar with movie stars and high-profile athletes, and therefore look to build campaigns around them, lesser known stars of the gaming world are often more powerful in helping develop relationships between brands and consumers.
This is in part because of their reach, but also because of the sense of a more intimate, direct connection that fans have with them. Watching someone on TV is a purely one-directional experience. The gaming world is inherently social. By watching live streams and messaging their favorite gamers, people develop relationships with these influencers and with each other.
There’s also a greater sense of authenticity. I’ve found consistently that successful influencers of the gaming world will only talk about the products and services they genuinely care about -- and their fans know. They respond accordingly.
That sense of authenticity played an important role in our efforts for the Biden campaign. (As a non-partisan organization, we’re happy to work with all parties; the Biden campaign hired us.) Some of the gamers my company works with were wary of simply making broad political statements. So instead, we helped them craft their own messages about issues they care about, such as justice, the environment, the economy and jobs. In these contexts, they encouraged their fan bases to turn out and vote.
As VentureBeat reported in October, “Games are the most powerful medium now in terms of their reach and the impact they have on people.” Forward-thinking companies must understand this. So during the next quarterly call, investors should ask corporate leaders what their strategies are for putting this medium to work. What are their plans to engage gaming communities? What strategies have they begun, and how well are those strategies going?
After all, when people migrate digitally, the companies that cater to them must as well.
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