'Gaming is moving from a niche hobby to a mainstream activity'

At the e4m GameOn 2022 Summit, an expert panel deliberated on the topic 'Winning the hearts of gamers' and explored its various aspects

e4m by Shrabasti Mallik
Published: Mar 14, 2022 4:44 PM  | 5 min read
GameOn Summit

The e4m GameOn summit hosted by the exchange4media group saw industry leaders discussing the growth of the gaming industry at length. In a session titled 'Winning the hearts of gamers', the esteemed panel explored various aspects of gaming, including the evolution and segments within gaming, what gamers care about; how gamers are becoming celebrities in their own rights and more.

The panelists included some noted names from the industry- Tejas Apte, Global Media Director, Unilever; Anushree Ghosh, Head of Digital Marketing, ITC; Ashwin Suresh, Founder, Loco and Abhinandan Balasubramanian, Founder & CEO, GoodGameNation, was chaired by Sonali Malaviya, Managing Director, Essence India.

As per media reports, there are 50 million gamers in India at the moment, which is not much far from OTTs that is already a buzzword in the marketing world; especially given the popularity of cricket. By 2027, nearly 95 percent of all mobile subscriptions will be 4G+. One can imagine the gaming bandwidth in this scenario! Cloud gaming would be 5Gs biggest use case. Given this context, how do we bridge the gap between brands and gamers?

Speaking on the evolution of and in the world of gaming, Suresh explained, "I think today we are at a point where, due to a couple of key macro factors, gaming is moving from a niche hobby to a mainstream activity. Some of the macro factors include affordable Internet plans, mobile hardware that has become incredibly powerful and less expensive over time, and then the pandemic, in some sense, was the final habit changer. We, as a community, are now much more comfortable with the idea of streaming live. And I think the single biggest use case for that before the pandemic was, anyway, gaming. And couple that with a bunch of big launches from this MMO, RPG and FPS games that have shown up, whether its PUBG or BGMI - it's taking the market by storm." He also pointed out, "When I talk about gaming, I'm referring to the focus being on what traditionally used to be called video games and not on real-money gaming or fantasy gaming."

Appreciating Suresh's definition of what we mean by gaming and terming it as 'important', Balasubramanian said, "It is important because it gets sort of muddled up with a bunch of other activities, which in their own right, are gaming but video gaming is what we are talking about. Within this sort of segment, there is hyper-casual, casual and competitive gaming - right from Fruit Slasher and Angry Birds to Call Of Duty. What we are doing at Good Game Nation is trying to expand the pie in terms of the number of people who have access to gaming and opportunities of wealth creation from gaming."

Considering that the mass media ecosystem has largely been the go-to for the FMCG advertisers, what will it take to look at the gaming ecosystem as a viable advertising platform and for marketing needs? Deliberating on the same, Ghosh said, "We know that there is this cohort of highly engaged audiences and I know for a fact that this is not one monolith, there are different kinds of gamers and diverse interest areas that one can really reach out and hence make it relevant to the brands and the objectives that we really work with. We know that it will cater to our region's frequency needs but there are many unknowns, which reminds me of digital used to be about a decade ago. So, I think that the unknowns and the hows of it so present a really compelling opportunity as a lot of CPG brands are looking at gaming, as a genre, as a potent area to grow and build brands with but the unknowns are a few more than what would really build confidence and then becomes one of those line items we use in our media plans."

Building on Ghosh's point, Apte added, "I think the party on gaming is already here. I am going to briefly talk about two cases that I have seen within the Unilever world. Based on the topic of today - 'Winning the hearts of gamers', I am going to talk about how we activate purpose within gaming. Hellmann's, which is our famous mayonnaise brand, believes that no food should go to waste. What they did was a very simple activation on the game Animal Crossing - we created an island on the game called Hellmann's Island and said that for every rotten turnip that you donate to the island in the virtual world, we will make a financial donation to fund the equivalent of two meals distributed in the UK. This, I feel, is a great way of using the virtual world to do actual good and leveraging gaming as a platform. This is how you build brand purpose".

"At Unilever, we believe that it's good enough to drive sales, so I am going to touch on another example from China of a shampoo brand. We tied up with Honour of Kings, one of the largest mobile games in the world, and they have a popular e-sport version called the KPL (King's Premier League), and this is the opportunity we thought of leveraging. What we did differently was that instead of doing regular game integration and getting influencers to talk about us, we actually changed our packaging and launched a limited-edition shampoo bottle and replaced the cap with a miniature replica of the actual trophy that someone wins in the KPL. The entire stock, about hundreds and thousands of bottles, sold out in two days. At Unilever, we definitely believe that one, gaming is big and two, that it can definitely drive both brand love or purpose and sales. I think, what we need to get towards, is having the right campaign ideas and having the right creators which are fit for the platform", he further added.

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