Image by Publicis Play
HBO’s The Last of Us show, an adaptation of the blockbusting zombie saga, has begun to critical acclaim and huge viewership. The debut episode saw HBO’s second-highest viewership for a premiere since 2010, and the second episode saw a record 22% viewership. And its success proves one thing: video games are leading culture. It’s not the first good-quality video game adaptation – animations like Arcane, Castlevania and Street Fighter 2: The Animated Move have gained a cult following for years, while recent kids’ movies like Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu have thrilled younger viewers. But The Last of Us, starring Pedro Pascal, may be the first adult mainstream video game adaptation. And brands need to take it seriously.
In any case, the surprise is that it took this long. Gaming is mainstream and a medium that can forge deep emotional connections with players. The stereotypical profile of the male teen gamer is dated. Everyone plays. Dentsu Solutions’ recent For The Game report indicates that this insight opens up new opportunities for brands to broaden their audience, particularly in the Asia-Pacific markets.
Brands looking to gaming to reach more consumers should keep in mind that this spans generations. Globally, among Gen Z gamers, 37% play daily and 47% play weekly, while among Millennials, the levels are 34% and 49%, respectively. Among Gen X gamers, 33% play daily and 45% play weekly, while for baby boomers the numbers are 35% and 39% respectively.
According to dentsu’s report, 34% of gamers worldwide play daily and 46% play weekly. The report examined markets in Australia, Canada, France, UK, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the US.
In Australia, 70% of gamers play games weekly or more often, with a population of 17 million playing games.
“Fifty-five percent of the global gamer population is believed to be in Asia Pacific, contributing 1.746 billion to the size of the gaming population, which is growing at nearly 4.5% year over year,” said Dheeraj Raina, CEO of Media Brands at dentsu Malaysia.
While this increases the potential for gaming to be used as a marketing platform for brands in general, there needs to be a very clear strategy in the marketing objective. “If we think across the gaming spectrum, there are multiple opportunities for virtually any brand to take advantage of gaming. In-game advertising provides the ability to programmatically connect with targeted customer segments.
“Brands that currently sponsor sports teams or events should consider extending that strategy to esports tournaments and teams. Consumer brands that have or want to set up loyalty programs should consider how gaming can make these programs more attractive and sticky.
“Finally, brands that engage and entertain people (think sports, hospitality, gambling, media and entertainment) should look to custom games that enhance and enhance the customer experience,” said Chris Bower, CEO of Dentsu Solutions ANZ.
From left to right: Dheeraj Raina, CEO of Media Brands, dentsu Malaysia; Chris Bower, CEO of Dentsu Solutions ANZ
Build the brand journey for the right results
Gaming, metaverse and Web 3.0 are the blue-eyed guys of the attention economy, generating a lot of hype. While the metaverse is struggling with teething problems, such as the barrier to entry, and we’re still on our way with Web 3.0, gaming is already a natural part of many people’s lives. We are even seeing more young people prefer gaming to social media and streaming TV. “We have a strong indication that this trend is continuing – the share of Gen Z in Southeast Asia not using traditional social media platforms has increased 59% since 2020,” said Jamie Lewin, chief strategy officer, Mana Partners and Publicis Play.
Capitalizing on this growth potential for its customers, Publicis Groupe Southeast Asia launched Publicis Play in November last year. This strategic partnership with Web3 marketing consultancy Mana Partners capitalizes on gaming, esports and metaverse strategies.
Publicis Play has identified organizations with “sustainable ambitions and high consumer orientation, especially those looking to capture Gen Z native to Play,” said Ian Loon, chief transformation officer, Publicis Groupe SEA; CEO, Publicis Groupe Media & Digital – Singapore.
Jean-Francois Thery, head of growth at Publicis Communications Singapore, believes that while this is the perfect time for brands to experiment in a very nascent market, they need to have a long-term strategy in play. “More importantly, they must have a broader brand or engagement objective supported by cross-channel strategy and execution, including activations in gaming and Web3.”
He adds that the design thinking for Publicis Play can be adapted to customers at all stages of entry into the gaming and Web 3.0 spaces. “For example, we help a tourism client make their first meaningful forays into Web 3.0 by conducting extensive analysis of audience behavior and the state of various metaverse environments, establishing procurement criteria for production partners, and establishing appropriate measures of success. set.”
From left to right: Jamie Lewin, chief strategy officer, Mana Partners and Publicis Play.; Jean-Francois Thery, Head of Growth, Publicis Communications Singapore; Ian Loon, chief transformation officer, Publicis Groupe SEA; CEO, Publicis Groupe Media & Digital – Singapore
Publicis Play is also targeting a range of clients who have invested in gaming early on, and in these cases the agency focuses on helping them “measure their performance and impact from their existing endeavors and capture the value for their future endeavors.” maximize,” says Jean-Francois.
However, there are pitfalls to navigate in the world of gaming. Jamie shares that gaming environments like Roblox and Fortnite are popular with brands for their “impressive scale of engaged audiences and accessibility across devices.” But the “highly centralized and tight controls” are restrictions for brands.
“The economies and levels of commerce within these centralized environments are incredibly developed, but they are also the main reason why it can be challenging for brands to get involved. In particular, AAA game publishers earn more than enough through microtransactions and are therefore reluctant to accept branded dollars at the prospect of potentially disrupting their community’s experience,” added Jamie.
Despite the limitations, Jamie believes successful brands will master the economy of play by “behaving authentically and earning attention and love from their communities.”
Setting up the game plan for success
The gaming journey requires brands to commit to a long-term strategy before they can reach their “gaming destinations,” said Justin Peyton, Wunderman Thomson APAC chief strategy and transformation officer APAC.
“But rather than just destinations where people can browse a product catalog, these are destinations where brands can bring their products and values to life – to make them almost visceral. But just because technology works differently doesn’t mean the fundamentals of marketing will change. Succeeding in these spaces is still about making people feel something in relation to your brand, but you now have more immersive tools for trying to illicit those feelings,” says Justin.
However, he reminds that more potential also means setting a higher bar for brands to reach in order for people to see it as successful. He elaborates on the factors that will influence early success in gaming:
• Avatar/player customization: People define themselves as individuals, and brands that can support their individuality through avatar/player customization see new opportunities to succeed. Evidence of this is already visible in gaming by looking at the sale of character skins, and in more interaction-based worlds like Zepeto and Roblox where people also buy clothes and other personal items for their avatar.
• Compensation structures: This is another area where we expect growth. For example, if you play a game or perform a task in the virtual world of a brand, you will receive a token or a voucher for a reward or discount on a product in the real world. In this way, digital engagement with brands is rewarded with real value.
• Interplay between the real world and the digital world: Engagement that starts in the real world works just as well. For example, brands that drive real-world purchase value or frequency by gifting people a free digital asset based on real-world spend. In this way, brands use digital assets with low marginal costs of production as an additional incentive to buy and as a way to minimize the need for discounts.
While acknowledging the increasing importance of gaming in people’s lives, Justin recalls that Wunderman Thompson’s proposal and capabilities are not “designed around a single service like gaming, but around helping brands realize the value they can out of those single services through those connections”.
Rather, the focus is on helping brands “understand and activate gaming solutions that naturally enhance their value proposition and relevance in this evolving ecosystem, and capitalize on the unique experiences that gaming can create,” he says.
Indeed, as audiences around the world have been gripped by the emotional story of Joel and Ellie battling mycellial zombies, and delighted by the glimpses of games-accurate depictions of key locations, it’s clear that rich connections can be made by connecting to the gaming mainstream sincerely. It is not only the gaming ecosystem itself that is evolving, but also the position and role of gaming within the wider cultural and social landscape.