Games and Audience

What does a game say about the people who play it and consume content around it?

Certain games cater to different types of people. For marketing purposes, this is important to understand. You wouldn’t market to a golf fan and an MMA fan the same, would you? Or NASCAR and the NBA? Heck no. Same in gaming. Before you embark on any campaign, make sure you have a firm grip on who it is that actually plays and pays attention to a particular game. The information below should at least get your mindset in the right spot to further explore that concept.

Skill Cap

The more difficult a game is the less “approachable it is”. This can impact a player base in several ways. If the game requires many hours to achieve a perceived level of competency before it’s fun, it’s likely the game will have a relatively smaller player base. However, games like this are much more sticky because once a player reaches a certain competency level, they’ve now heavily invested in the game and are much more likely to stick around. In addition to that, the depth through which they engage with the game and the content around it (your activations) is more intense.

Let’s apply this philosophy to two First Person Shooters: Call of Duty and Rainbow Six Siege.

Call of Duty is as American as Apple Pie. The game has been around for 15 years or so and is truly a staple of the esports/gaming space. Activision/Blizzard releases a brand new game every single year. This factor alone means that no one game can be THAT deep, the production cycle doesn’t allow it. Someone who has never played Call of Duty can pick up the controller and after maybe 10-20 hours of gameplay, genuinely have fun and enjoy most of the nuances of the game. 

Compare this to Rainbow Six Siege and I’d say that you don’t truly begin to enjoy the game until around hour 70. It’s much more difficult. 

What does this mean? It means that Call of Duty has a much larger player base (but R6 is nothing to scoff at, 60 million players) and that its regular players, on the aggregate, are going to be a bit more casual. This is not a “better or worse” scenario, it’s just different. If you are extrapolating this difference and wondering how it may affect a sponsorship or marketing campaign…it depends on your objective.

If getting in front of a lot of eyeballs is your top priority, then Call of Duty may be the better option. However if you are looking to make a deep impact and strike a much more personal nerve, Rainbow Six Siege would be the superior choice.

Game Style

The way a game looks can tell you quite a bit about the audience. Fortnite is cartoony and incredibly brand safe. It’s also one of the youngest demographics you can reach with a huge portion of its player base being under the age of 18. 

Escape from Tarkov on the other hand is incredibly realistic and hardcore. Player base skews to a bit older.

A game like Rocket League falls in the sweet spot. It’s cartoony, but the nature of the game itself lends itself to that. It’s not a “shooting” game that’s cartoony, it’s cars playing soccer. The audience still tends to skew younger.

Genre

There are several key genres in gaming. A few of them share similar characteristics.

MOBAs – Multiplayer Online Battle Arena – Generally these games are 5v5 tower defense games. League of Legends and DOTA 2 are your top two in this genre with every other game trailing. 

These games rely heavily on teamwork and to truly level up, is quite difficult. The skill level required in MOBAs is insane. Keep this in mind when marketing to this group…feel free to go a bit deeper in terms of the complexity of a campaign. If executed well, a more complex marketing initiative could drive great results.

FPS – First Person Shooter – This is a broad category and as I referenced in the skill cap section, certain considerations need to be made based on the game. Generally speaking though CS:GO is the king of the mountain. It’s got a massive player base and a 20 year history to boot. Add to this that the game itself can run on just about any PC and you’ve got a great combo. Unlike Call of Duty, CS:GO is a high skill cap game with an almost infinite pool of depth. Also similar to LoL and DOTA, the player base is rather hardcore.

Overwatch is an interesting case study. It’s been a media darling because of its high profile franchise system. Activision/Blizzard does not release much public information on player base so its difficult to determine how well-liked the game is. Here is my take: Overwatch attempted to create a brand-safe first-person shooter. They took a “make everyone feel good” approach to the gameplay and made sure there was no overt violence involved. I believe this backfired. The Overwatch experience is oddly unsatisfying and feels a bit like everyone gets a trophy regardless of input. The professional scene is filled with an international player base, so if you are a brand using the OverWatch League as a marketing vehicle, I’m not even sure which country you’d be appealing to. It’s unclear who OW speaks too and if there is a meaningful player base, so as a brand considering this title, I’d stay away.

The FPS genre is quite large. The titles drawing the most attention are CS:GO, Call of Duty, Rainbow Six Siege, OverWatch, and Valorant. FPS games are less “brainy” than MOBAs and RTS (real-time strategy) games. Based on this, in terms of any type of campaign, you can probably get away with a bit more cheekiness in your campaigns if it’s geared towards a MOBA or RTS (Starcraft).

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Does your campaign want to go wide and shallow? Or deep and narrow? If it’s the former then relatively low skill cap games that appeal to casual players is your best bet. If you desire a more sincere and deep relationship, getting involved in more complex games is your best bet.

Thanks for reading,

Mark

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