SXSW 2015: Researchers Talk the New Face of Gamers

The term "gamer" has expanded from the stereotype of someone in their basement playing on a computer to a "gamer" being somebody who plays Candy Crush on their tablet. What use to be a small demographic is now extremely common; grandmas, grandpas and parents now can be considered "gamers." This shift in the industry has opened many opportunities for more growth and it's apparent that the gaming industry is going to become more mainstream as we see eSports tournaments selling out arenas and video game developers spending millions on super bowl ads for their mobile games. Because "gamers" are now much more common, and nearly every person has at least a few mobile games installed on their tablet or phones that they play regularly this has presented a big opportunity for advertisers. Games present the perfect place to advertise products and some thought leaders in the industry gave a compelling talk at SXSW 2015 over game advertising. Though you may not be looking to advertise a product on a mobile game, as a game developer there is a lot be learned from this panel and you'll have a stronger understanding of the game industry as it is today. Mike Flamberg of Nielsen Games was the first to discuss his findings with the game industry today, "To set the stage for advertisers you really need to understand who's playing games. It seems like everyone is playing games, and it's almost true. 90% of teens and kids are playing games on any platform." "Many adults too are gaming. Over 60% of adults 18+ are gaming on any device. I usually ask people do you game? Many times, I hear people say; no, I'm not a gamer. Then I ask if they play Candy Crush. They respond, oh yeah! I spend hours on end playing Candy Crush."

Photo by włodi, CC BY-SA 2.0

Many people don’t consider themselves gamers, even though they spend hours a week playing mobile games. The definition of a gamer has changed from an 18-34 year old in their basement playing PC or console games to someone playing a game on any device.

“Consumers are gaming on all platforms and all devices, but within each type of device the demographics are a bit different. Consumers on mobile and tablet tend to be a little older, and there is a good mix of male and females gaming on these devices as well. The new generation of consoles, the PlayStation’s and Xbox’s tend to be a little more male focused.” Mike explained.

During the talk Mike displayed a few slides showing the change in the industry, “You can see that in the last generation, what most people thought was a hardcore gaming console has really transitioned with the Wii being introduced and the Kinect on the Xbox 360. This really brought in a broader audience of consumers.”

Gaming as a function of everyday life among consumers is really up there with other forms of entertainment whether it’s going to the movies, watching TV, etc.

“Over the last five years the increase of consumer’s leisure time spent gaming has grown by 33%, that’s tremendous. A lot of this is driven by mobile and tablet gaming, it’s made the audience broader and it’s allowed the consumers to engage with the content a lot more. Now we’re seeing that among consumers who game on any device, over half the consumers are gaming on more than one device.”

It use to be that if you were a gamer you were just gaming on your console, but that continues to change and the trend is gaming across multiple platforms. It’s apparent that the gaming industry is growing tremendously each day, nearly everyone can be considered a “gamer” now.

146 million people in the United States are “casual gamers” and the population of the US is about 300 million, meaning 50% of the US is gamers. That’s massive, and it’s safe to say gaming is mainstream.

Ari Brandt of MediaBrix gave some very interesting stats on the free-to-play genre, “In Apple’s App Store there’s about 1.2 million games available and around 85% of those are free-to-play. That’s the big trend currently, and some of the biggest game developers are leaving the paid model and going free-to-play.”

Obviously, a large amount of the income they get off these free-to-play games are the in-app purchases, but another big chunk comes from in-game advertising. As the speakers alluded to, games are mainstream and advertisers are eager to get their products in the front of players. Gaming is a great avenue to advertise in because half of the US plays games, and it shows the potential revenue that game developers have from these in-game ads.

Kym Nelson of Twitch.tv spoke about the research study they recently did that they coined, The New Face of Gamers, “Gamers today are actually more social than your average non-gamer. They are more optimistic, and they consider having family relationships as one of the most important things in their life.”

Kym continued, “They are typically very happy about where they are in life, whether it’s in school or their career. Some of that can actually be attributed to the fact that they kind of see life as a game, there are certain things about a game that they have layered over to how they look at life.”

The talk at SXSW 2015 really shed light on the gaming industry today, and how it has significantly changed over the years. Not too long ago gamers use to be in the minority, now it’s almost strange not to play games at some point in your day to day life. While you may not be an advertiser looking to expand into games, as a game developer there is a lot to be learned from the talk on just how mainstream gaming has become, and the potential you have to earn revenue not only from in-app purchases but the in-game ads as well.