The game escape: But it’s not a game, it’s a multibillion industry with reputations at stake

A few years ago, when my son told me he was going to Wembley Arena to watch an esports tournament, I was genuinely shocked. The idea of a stadium selling out tickets for people to sit and watch other people play a video game was so foreign to me at the time. The same stadium where worldwide music artists like Ed Sheeran and Fleetwood Mac had performed was the home of an esports game for the night. And it was that moment I realised just how big gaming was about to get.

Fast forward to 2020. Spotify has created an entire genre dedicated to League of Legends, game streaming is overall on the rise, and gaming companies are giving games away for free as millions of users are stuck at home due to lockdown restrictions worldwide. Gaming is absolutely thriving. YouGov has estimated that around 7% of the UK population watch esports regularly. That’s almost 5 million people just in the UK. And overall gaming industry revenue is expected to top $159 billion this year – that’s almost the same as the GDP of Hungary!

We often discuss if esports will be recognised as a sport on the same level as football or tennis, but it’s clear to me that it’s not a case of ‘if’, but ‘when’. A recent report shows that watching gamers play video games online is more popular for 18-25 year olds than watching traditional sports. Almost half (46%) of UK gamers would quit their jobs and become professional gamers if they could support themselves by doing so. And this isn’t even slightly surprising. A teenager in the US became the 2019 Fortnite world champion and earned a prize of £2.4 million from an almost £30 million prize pool shared amongst the winners.

With so many on board with the phenomena that is gaming, it’s no longer a case of getting people to buy in. It’s a case of the big and small brands finding ways to make their mark in the industry – and having a solid reputation is key to this. For a number of companies, it’s not just about having a great product and selling it well; it’s about ensuring that your internal and external communications don’t land you in hot water.

From our work with gaming hardware brand Crucial, we know just how important the gaming market is and that influencers and esports really are the next step for companies to focus on. And the truth is that so many companies are doing brilliant things in the world of esports and gaming! We’ve collated 12 of the best – some big, some small, but all doing extraordinary things within the industry and making a positive reputation for themselves. They are definitely ones to watch!

Twelve players to scope out

The crux of esports is undoubtedly the streaming sites they are hosted on. Twitch is the biggest streaming site worldwide and beyond acting as a tool to keep people connected, it helps get powerful messages across too. We saw this recently with the monumental Among Us stream from member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) that encouraged people to go out and vote in the US! 

A potential contender to Twitch has arrived in the form of Caffeine – a live streaming site hosting not only game streams but rap battles too! 

For gamers, connecting with their friends while playing online is crucial – and this is where Discord comes in. Discord is a communication tool that allows players to video and text chat while playing team games, helping gamers stay connected in the critical moments of those games.

Speaking of multiplayer games, Improbable Technology is a software company aiding developers by offering a hybrid cloud server to help save costs and making development easier. Similarly, Unity, a cross platform game engine, is helping bring games to life, offering high-quality creator tools to help with development of console, mobile and even AR and VR games.

For all things gaming hardware, SteelSeries has got you covered. From great quality noise cancelling headsets to limited edition gear for game releases like the long-awaited Cyberpunk 2077, SteelSeries really is the one stop shop for kitting out your set up. And you can also check out HyperX, Razer and Corsair for some equally as excellent hardware!

If psychology and technology had a love child, it would be Affectiva. As a human perception AI technology company, Affectiva uses deep learning to understand emotions from game players to create really engaging games. 

We couldn’t discuss gaming without looking at Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, one of the world’s largest games with over 350 million accounts worldwide. Epic Games have continued their success with collaboration stunts like Travis Scott’s “astronomical” event. 

Sometimes the biggest surprises aren’t coming from the start-ups. In the case of gaming, it’s the continued success of Microsoft and Sony that wows us. PlayStation and Xbox are the biggest gaming consoles and the competition between the two is really exciting for us to keep an eye on! 

Meanwhile, Amazon has launched Luna and Google has launched Stadia – they are cloud gaming services to help users access their games on the platforms they already own. We’re excited to see how both get on.

There are thousands of companies working toward making gaming an even bigger industry than it is right now. And in such a strongly saturated market, gaming companies could really benefit from external help to ensure they stand out of the crowd, improve overall reputation and prosper. Many people love what gaming offers, be that an escape from reality, a way to connect with friends or just a way to unwind. Especially during the pandemic, gaming is huge – it’s here to stay and it’s about to really dominate the technology industry! 

Is practicing Witchcraft and Wizardry your thing? Niantic, the makers of Pokémon Go, plans to release a free-to-play, location-based, augmented reality Harry Potter game.

Though not yet available, there are a few details out there of what the game entails. Players will be part of the ‘Statute of Secrecy Task Force’ and asked to roam around in search of ‘foundables’. These are artefacts, creatures, people and memories.

Similar to Pokémon Go, to ‘catch’ these foundables, you’ll need to cast spells to beat the ‘confoundable’ magic and return the foundables to the wizard world. Gameplay footage shows that to cast a spell you’ll need to trace patterns on your smartphone screen, so this may be a bit more complex than throwing small balls towards a variety of creatures.

And like gyms in Pokémon Go, you can team up with other players to battle villains like Death Eaters and Dementors.

The makers of the game plan to keep us hooked and it is reported that there will be more to ‘do’ than in Pokémon Go.

Wand-erful, right?!

We haven’t seen the release date yet but Android users can pre-register on the Google Play store.

So, Matt Smith will vacate the role of the Doctor at Christmas, following four years of service in the long running sci-fi adventure series. Rather strangely, instead of this being announced at a reasonable hour, the BBC decided to put the news out at 10pm on Saturday night knowing full well that everybody would cover it anyway.

We could speculate all day as to why the BBC chose to do this, however I suspect it would have been down to wanting to announce the news as quickly as possible, instead of letting rumours circulate for weeks without dealing with it. Many companies choose to go down this route, and personally, I think the BBC did right by announcing it as quickly as possible.

Not many brands command the kind of feverish news coverage that followed the Matt Smith announcement, nor do they inspire the incessant rumours that have since followed regarding his successor, with many publications running articles about the front runners for the role, which is due to be filled as the Doctor regenerates during the Christmas special. Despite all the speculation, I think we can safely assume that the next Doctor is unlikely to be Jason Statham, 100/1 to win the role with some bookies.

Not many brands hold this kind of power, especially when you discard football stories like Sir Alex Ferguson leaving Manchester United and Jose Mourinho making his return to Chelsea.

During my time working in the games industry, only one company has held such power and repeatedly demonstrated their mastery of setting the news agenda. That company is Rockstar, publishers of the multimillion pound award winning series Grand Theft Auto (GTA). Rockstar is always able to guarantee a media buzz whenever it decides to utter the words ‘Grand Theft Auto’ on social media or casually drop them into interviews with the gaming press. When GTA 5 was announced, the world went bonkers, in a way that is very rarely seen amongst consumers.

The beauty of the Grant Theft Auto brand lies in its success at appealing to the mass market consumer audience, something most other games struggle to with, unless you’re a blockbuster title like Fifa or Call of Duty. Despite having had many iterations of the game, not releasing a yearly title has paid dividends to the GTA brand, with Call of Duty and Fifa churning out a game every year, resulting in many people suffering from brand fatigue.

When a game like Fifa 14 or ‘Call of Duty: Ghosts’ is announced, there never tends to be the kind of attention that is dedicated to Grand Theft Auto. GTA is a major launch and in a world where we expect to see churn. As a result, the PR strategy needs to be slightly different around the game’s release. The difference between Grand Theft Auto 5 and Grand Theft Auto 4 (released in 2008) will be huge, whereas Fifa 13 and Fifa 14 to the average consumer will look basically the same; no matter how much PR is behind them.

The strategy for Fifa and Call of Duty will have to focus on anything that is new; whereas the message from Rockstar for Grand Theft Auto will be able to take a macro approach, showing how far gaming capabilities have come in five years.

Brand power is an incredibly elusive beast to ensnare, with very few brands able to claim they hold such power. Doctor Who and Rockstar are just two examples of this, and require a radically different PR approach as a result.

This post was written by Tom.

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