Paul Bullock is a Digital Marketing Manager at digital marketing agency Fast Web Media.
The eSports revolution is in full flow, but a critical element has so far been left behind.
Mobile gaming has long been the black sheep of the gaming family, and it’s still seen by many as a populist and unworthy offshoot that’s the exclusive domain of bored commuters.
However, there’s a great opportunity for those in the eSports sector - and brands looking to get involved - in mobile eSports.
In April this year, Newzoo reported that mobile represents the “most lucrative sector” in the gaming market and has grown to $46.1 billion this year, a 42% share of the overall market. By 2020, the company forecasts, that will increase to over 50%.
Platforms such as Skillz have aided this growth by allowing mobile players to compete against each other with greater ease.
Another significant leap forward has been made recently with the introduction of eSports perennial Street Fighter to the service. The move is something of a departure for Skillz, which has typically courted more casual gamers, but one that could prove hugely significant.
“With this partnership, Street Fighter will define the future of competitive mobile gameplay,” Skillz founder and CEO Andrew Paradise said.
The more eSports can court mobile gamers, the more the fan base will grow, making it even more lucrative for advertisers and brands.
This isn’t simple PR hype. With Street Fighter making the transition, other major eSports titles are sure to follow suit, and that’s unquestionably good for the sector. The more eSports can court mobile gamers, the more the fan base will grow, making it even more lucrative for advertisers and brands.
However, there’s difficulty there too. Chartboost recently found that 62% of mobile gamers are women, which stands in stark contrast to popular eSports genres such as MOBAs and FPSs (which Quantic Foundry recently claimed have female audiences of just 10% and 7% respectively).
So the expansion of mobile gaming into eSports doesn’t just introduce a new platform, it introduces a new demographic. How can advertisers and brands looking to get involved in eSports make sense of such a vast and diverse audience?
The first thing is to acknowledge how redundant the term ‘gamer’ has become. In 2015, Pew Research Center found that of the 49% of Americans who play games, only 10% happily bear the ‘gamer’ label.
Players are put off by a title that’s come to be associated with too many negatives (such as GamerGate) and doesn’t really capture the nature of the hobby anyway.
“I think the term gamer is kind of useless,” British GQ games critic Sam White told Fast Web Media in our eBook, Field of View: Understanding Your eSports Audience.
“Are you a film-er? Or a book-er?... Games nowadays come in so many different types, and on so many different platforms, that it’s not identifiable by a two syllable word.”
So how can a brand go about deconstructing this huge audience and targeting the most relevant people within it? Granularity and fluidity are key. Not everyone who plays games is looking for the same thing.
Those who play casually may not want what those who play on a more regular and intense level want. Those who are eSports spectators may not want what those who are already, or have designs on becoming, professional players may want.
And those who are playing on a mobile may look for different things than those who play on a console, who are looking for different things from those who are playing on a PC. The success, or otherwise, of brand engagement rests in understanding these differences.
Granularity and fluidity are key. Not everyone who plays games is looking for the same thing.
As eSports is such an aspirational sector, where fans can become pros if they have the necessary passion and dedication, fluidity is key as well.
If a fan gets into eSports because they play a MOBA game on their phone on their way into work every morning, that doesn’t mean they’ll always stay like that. They could become much more engaged, trying different titles, experimenting with unfamiliar platforms, and exploring new genres.
They could, of course, also become professional players if they have the necessary skill. ESports has already shifted significantly in the years it’s been mainstream, and it’ll only continue to do so. Brands involved need to make sure they’re alive to those changes.
With mobile web usage now surpassing desktop, the increased focus on mobile gaming in eSports represents a fantastic opportunity for brands to create a frictionless consumer experience.
By sponsoring teams, players or tournaments, or advertising with platforms such as Skillz, brands are connecting with a vast audience who can engage with them quickly and easily without needing to change to a different device.
Such simplicity is critical for mobile-savvy consumers who are now accustomed to having what they want, when they want it, without delay.
To truly make the most of it, though, brands need to be careful. The eSports sector is unlike any other, and as it expands into mobile, it’s only going to become more unique and therefore more difficult to engage with in the right way.
Thorough, granular and fluid audience segmentation will help brands identify who the right audience is and how to talk to them, and this will in turn foster a positive relationship based on understanding and mutual enjoyment of gaming.
In doing so, brands can expect a fruitful and long-lasting relationship with one of the most exciting growing sectors in the world.