Sergey Karshkov: The Rise of Gaming Marketing

The gaming industry has seen consistent disruption in recent years, even prior to the arrival of COVID-19. The past year has culminated in a period of unparalleled growth, with an explosion of interest in gaming attracting previously untapped demographics.

While traditionally gaming was largely seen as a niche for adolescents and hardcore enthusiasts, today it has well and truly entered the mainstream. According to researchers, more than half of the UK’s adult population participated in some form of gaming in the last 12 months.

As 9 Pandas founder Sergey Karshkov will attest, gaming marketing has evolved considerably in response to disruption in the industry. While digital sales have soared, physical game sales have simultaneously declined. Larger hardware storage capacities, improved internet speeds, and reduced footfall in retail stores have driven even stronger increases in digital sales.

Superfast broadband and smartphones have sparked changes in consumer attitudes in terms of accessing music, films and games, driving a shift in preference from physical to digital products, with brands forced to adopt their products and marketing strategies in response.

Lockdowns and social distancing policies imposed in response to COVID-19 triggered feelings of isolation in many, driving consumers online in increasing numbers. These consumers used virtual spaces within multiplayer games to socialise with other players and experience live events, with virtual live concerts attracting tens of millions of viewers.

Video game watching is also increasing in popularity across a broadening range of demographics, with COVID-19 driving growth in the number of new streamers and content creators. As the gaming industry becomes increasingly digitised, this could provide important opportunities for developers to identify areas of games that are utilised more heavily, enabling them to assess where monetisation elements could help improve profitability.

In April 2020, multi-platinum-selling rap artist Travis Scott staged a virtual concert within the Fortnite video game, attracting an audience in excess of 12 million people. As players roamed around the Fortnite world, a purple streak of light beamed through the sky, materialising on an in-game concert stage as a Godzilla-sized avatar of Scott. The audience was then treated to Scott ‘performing’ some of his most popular songs, before premiering his newest single.

As a marketing exercise, the event proved an astronomical success, triggering 7.45 million first-day streams of the single following its in-game debut, as well as causing all of Scott’s previous albums to re-enter Billboard’s top 10.

Travis Scott’s success is a lesson for marketers everywhere. Caught up in the buzz of this community experience, consumers happily spent money, paying for digital, vinyl and CD singles of Scott’s song, despite it being available for free on Apple Music, YouTube, Spotify, and multiple other online platforms.

As marketers strive to accurately map the consumer journey, the gaming industry presents vast opportunities to engage with new demographics, enabling businesses within and outside of gaming to piggyback on rapid industrywide growth, expand their reach, and ultimately, increase the profitability of their business.