Unexpected Trends at the Intersection of Gaming & Influencer Marketing
Last year, gaming platforms saw unprecedented growth—Twitch viewership rose 117 percent, Fortnite surpassed 15 million concurrent players, YouTube Gaming had 100 billion hours watched—as young people on lockdown flocked to esports and live-streaming content.
The result was a cross-pollination of the gaming and non-gaming internet. More than ever, non-gaming content is gaining traction on gaming platforms, while gaming content on traditionally gaming-agnostic sites like Facebook has taken off. Elsewhere, ideas born in the back channels of gaming communities are making their mainstream debut.
Brands who recognize these sometimes unexpected shifts in online activity will be better poised to reach new audiences.
Roblox isn’t just for little kids
Roblox may be the most misunderstood $41 billion valued company in existence. After the kid-friendly app’s stock price catapulted over 50 percent the first day it was publicly listed, many responsible parents were left asking: “What gives?”
With 32.6 million daily active users marching around in the form of little block people, the platform has nurtured a thriving virtual world — and virtual economy — by and large comprised of games created, shared, and monetized by the community.
The demographic skews young, really young, with 54 percent of the user base under the age of 13. But it would be a mistake to dismiss Roblox as a platform strictly for kids. Though primarily populated by younger audiences, it’s worth keeping an eye on how Roblox matures into adulthood. In a late February investors meeting, the company made clear that their growth strategy for the coming year lay in attracting older demographics with discretionary incomes.
Already the platform is looking outside Generation Alpha. Beyond the widely publicized Lil Nas X virtual concert last year, the boy band Why Don’t We (54 percent of their Pandora audience is 13-24) recently made an appearance, the number one bestselling novel Ready Player Two held a launch party in December, and Liverpool F.C. gave out virtual football jerseys to fans.
Twitch looks poised for a breakout crossover year
As a six-wheeled robotic vehicle parachuted to the dusky surface of an alien planet, 1.6 million viewers tuned in on Twitch.
This wasn’t a big-name influencer playing the latest new release, but a live-stream of the Perseverance Mars Rover landing in February. The broadcast was NASA’s most successful live-stream on Twitch by orders of magnitudes, and since then the space agency has attracted nearly as many eyeballs with surface updates and International Space Station spacewalking.
A bustling hub for live-streamed gaming content, Twitch has seen big growth in viewership on non-gaming channels of late. Just Chatting—a category for, you guessed it, just chatting—has been the top channel for ten months running, with 239.8 million hours watched last month alone. The Music category is also on the rise, in January doing its largest numbers to date, with over 24 million hours of sonic content consumed (ranking it in 20th place overall) as indie musicians continue to migrate to the platform.
Chess, of all games, continues its ascent in viewership on the back of the Pogchamps 3 tournament, a fascinating crossover event featuring chess grandmasters, a legendary pro poker player, the hip-hop artist Logic, Twitch celebrities, and Rainn Wilson of The Office.
The expanding interests of Twitch’s characteristically more gaming-oriented audiences creates opportunities for non-endemic marketing campaigns on the platform. Already we’ve seen Lexus unveil a Twitch community-customized IS stocked with coffee beverages. In August Lamps Plus sponsored a cooking livestream with Twitch foodie and sometimes chef MrsRuvi, promoting their 360 Lighting line. And in September Burberry became the first luxury brand to livestream on the platform, returning to reveal their Autumn/Winter 2021 collection in February.
Discord did Clubhouse before Clubhouse
Before Clubhouse became the buzziest social media app among CEOs and philanthropists, gamers had long been chattering away on Discord. Although the rules for marketing on social audio apps have yet to be established, Discord provides a rough sketch of the kind of sponsorships that could flourish as audio-only social platforms are opened to the masses.
For those unfamiliar, Discord is a hang out app with 100 million monthly users. As with Clubhouse and the soon-to-be-rolled-out Twitter Spaces, a key feature of the platform are live, moderated, audio conferences that anyone can drop in on.
While many simply use Discord’s audio functions for long distance game nights and esport watch parties, all kinds of vocal activities have gained traction. Discord groups perform K-pop karaoke, practice Chinese and host Debate Club battles, and prototype their stand up routines on open-mic comedy channels.
Discord channels (a.k.a. servers) provide a shared space for people to actively participate in their hobbies and interests, and the brands that do well on the app are the ones that foster passionate, self-expressive communities. Car modders chew over their next customizations on the Official Subaru Discord. Artists and graphic designers share pro-tips and trade career advice on the Adobe Creative Career Server. Newegg’s channel is a popular destination for PC builders.
Extending these lessons to audio-only social media, brands that encourage consumer participation should fit in organically.
Facebook Gaming is actually a thing
Quickly rising from relative obscurity, Facebook Gaming grew 184 percent by total hours watched in 2020, building on 210 percent gains the year prior. Though in a distant third place behind Twitch and YouTube, the live-streaming platform has some advantages when looking for influencers to team up with.
Namely, sponsored content feels completely natural on the site, either endemic or non-endemic. Why? Well, between streaming sessions, video creators keep their followers updated with snippets from their daily lives, posting pictures of new rides, baking mishaps, and their favorite kitten. After all, this is Facebook.
The live-streamer Gina Darling, for example, has done promos for the beauty brand Benefit Cosmetics, the cognac brand Courvoisier, and Pocky, the dainty Japanese sweet snack stick—not exactly the sort of sponsorships one would expect from a diehard Call of Duty: Warzone fanatic.
Recent trends in esports & gaming present some incredible opportunities for marketers. If you’re curious about activating in the space as part of your next campaign, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s strategize!