We live in a gamer nation. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average U.S. household owns at least one dedicated gaming console, PC, or smartphone. The stereotypical notion of a gamer has shifted, with the average age of a gamer at 30, and women now account for 47% of all gamers. A recent study from Google found that among tablet users, playing games is second most frequent activity on tablets and accounts for 11% of all time spent on these devices. So if we’re a nation of people who love actually playing games, what accounts for the growth of video games as spectator media?
With the advent of online multiplayer gaming, and more competitive gaming titles like Halo and Call of Duty becoming popular, there has been an explosion of activity in eSports, competitive gaming tournaments among professional and amateur gamers. What seemed like a quaint notion when videos popped up online of crowds of South Koreans watching the world’s best gamers play Starcraft, watching other people play highly competitive games is an emerging hobby and source of entertainment that brands are starting to take seriously.
Major League Gaming is the most popular eSports league in the U.S., and its audience and sponsors are growing. According to Mashable, Major League Gaming had 11.7 million unique viewers of its live streams of competitive games this year, a 334% increase in audience over the year before. Brands like Dr. Pepper, Bic, and Sony are coming on as major sponsors. Dr. Pepper, the official soft drink of Major League Gaming, even sponsors “Dr. Pepper Ultimate Access,” a behind-the-scenes experience that includes live interviews of popular competitive gamers, contests and sweepstakes.
Live Streaming: Gamers Are Now Broadcasters
Live video streaming has been core to the growth of eSports, but now other media properties are tapping into live streams of all video games, not just competitive games. Twitch.TV is a website that hosts live streams of hundreds of games and provides gamers the tools for streaming. Instead of a focus solely on tournament competition, Twitch provides spectators the opportunity to watch live streams of speed runs (extremely fast completions of a whole game), gaming marathons, or video strategy guides.
According to Business Insider, Twitch.TV now has over 20 million monthly unique visitors and partnerships with over 2000 professional gamers who stream their gameplay to live audiences all over the world. And big partners are taking note. In April, CBS Interactive partnered with Twitch to build up its live streaming portfolio. Origin, a digital distribution platform made by Electronic Arts, now supports Twitch streaming from within games. With a couple of clicks, users can live stream their Origin-supported games directly to Twitch.
Let’s not forget about Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which launched in the U.S. in November. The game has support for live streaming to YouTube from directly within the game. Regardless of whether a player is on Xbox 360, PS3, or PC, they can easily stream their games to YouTube. Not only will the tool turn gamers into broadcasters, but it also generates a large amount of earned media for the property overall.
Games Are Canvases
Another driver of spectator gaming is that digital creatives are now using game environments to create short videos and full-length movies. Screen recording technologies have given gamers a way to capture gameplay footage to upload later, a small but important difference from live streaming. By recording footage and then editing it, producers are able to create machinima, animated scripted content created within gaming environments.
Machinima is also the name of a huge YouTube channel partner that has built a media empire on top of machinima. The company has been built on top of original game-based content, reaching an audience that currently stands at 5 million YouTube subscribers and over 3 billion video views. A network built on a range of machinima series from Gamer Poop to Minecraft: The N00b Adventures has now expanded into higher profile scripted content like a new Battlestar Galactica web series, Blood and Chrome, and a Halo 4 original series, Forward Unto Dawn.
Creating machinima has even featured prominently in the advertising of companies like GameStop. The company’s TV and other video creative often utilizes virtual worlds as the stage for creating their advertisements. Companies looking to reach gaming audiences with content they enjoy may want to explore the use of machinima as a creative platform.
Like we mentioned at the beginning, the United States is a gamer nation. Moving forward, the growth of live streaming, competitive gaming, and machinima are all ways that video games are presenting advertisers with new opportunities beyond in-game advertising. The best way to reach gamers isn’t always to reach them inside of the game, but to reach them inside of the content they consume around a game: competitive videos, strategy guides, and gamer news. A wide range of platforms now provide solutions at each turn.
So how do you feel about eSports? Would you rather play games or watch the world’s best take each other on?
Featured Image: Activision