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The gaming sector has evolved dramatically in the last decade. We’ve seen a surge of new gamers across all demographics, particularly after a challenging 12 months of enforced lockdowns when many people turned to gaming as a method of escapism. in 2020, there were 2.69 billion active video game players worldwide.

The result is that the traditional gamer has been transformed. In 2014, 73% of gamers were young adults aged between 16 to 24. However, the average age of the gamer of today is around 35 years old. We’re also beginning to see the number of female gamers growing at a faster rate than their male counterparts.

We have been able to assess the performance of retailers taking advantage of the gaming market using the BOSCO™ Index, which is a measure of how well they are exploiting their digital opportunities compared to their closest competitors. How are these retailers changing their strategy to meet the requirements of this new gaming demographic?

What does the new style of gamer look like?

Those aged 50+, an age range of gamers that has significantly increased, claim that gaming keeps them mentally sharp, reduces stress and in some cases allows them to stay socially connected.

Another fundamental change to the market is the rise of the female gamer; 45% of European gamers are female and women account for nearly 41% of all gamers in the United States.

In Asia, which accounts for 48% of the world's total gaming revenue, there are entire teams and leagues made up of female gamers who are making an impact on the world stage. This includes the Female Esports League, a regional gaming circuit that provides a platform to empower and engage female gamers.

The main issue being raised by these organisations seeking opportunity and equality within the gaming sector is whether the industry is adequately structured to serve this growing consumer segment.

As technology becomes much more accessible, we’re also seeing a younger audience come to the forefront of gaming demographics. The age range 11-14 now represent 84% of the video game market among the whole population in Europe.

Gaming is now used for educational purposes, as well as becoming a recognised and acceptable career choice. The British Esports Association represent the government funded gaming market and have developed the first BTEC qualification for esports of its kind.

The State of Online Gaming report revealed that more than 38% of gamers would like to become professionals if they could support themselves as professional video gamers, an increase of 3% in the past year.

How are retailers targeting these new gamers?

The market growth has encouraged some brands to move away from traditional forms of advertising such as display and OOH. Gaming and its expansion over time is enabling brands to advertise through virtual billboards on games such as Football Manager and now the Fifa soccer series. Bidstack, which previously sold ad space, has completely rebranded as a native in-game advertising platform to meet with the demand.

As this vertical continues to grow, EA (BOSCO™ Index: 705) last year trialled full screen in-game ads within the UFC 4 ‘replay’ moments during gameplay. However, it was short lived, and these ads were removed after the company’s social channels were inundated with complaints from gamers.

Typically limited to specific main menu tiles or octagon logo placements, an EA spokesperson said that ad integration in the replay and overlay experience will not be reappearing in the future.

One way that retailers are targeting these new gamers is through social media and more forum and discussion-based platforms such as Reddit and Twitch. Since March, the first-time download of Twitch has risen to 14%.

American cosmetics brand E.l.f. (BOSCO™ Index: 632) tapped into the overlooked gamer market and partnered with Kathleen Belsten (Loserfruit), a popular Twitch gaming streamer and social media personality. The brand aimed to strengthen its position among Gen Z gamers after a survey revealed 70% of its followers play video games, while 65% enjoy watching others stream gaming content.

In addition to promoting the brand and its products, E.l.f. and Kathleen are planning to launch E.l.f. U (University), an initiative that empowers and supports female gamers.

Esports in particular are becoming a huge opportunity for retailers. With global tournaments offering sponsorship deals, advertising platforms and merchandising contracts.

Cosmetics brands Johnson & Johnson’s Carefree (BOSCO™ Index: 569), L’Occitane, and Benefit Cosmetics (715) have all recently sponsored the Girl Gamer Esports Festival. Johnson & Johnson said that its brand values of empowering young women to be confident and ambitious aligns with the Girl Gamer mission for women empowerment, equality and inclusion.

Big name brands such as Puma (BOSCO™ Index: 669) have embraced the esports scene, partnering with Gen.G, the leading esports organisation. This deal saw Puma create its very own line of esports clothing, specifically tailored to the gaming market. Gen G’s players and online influencers also received the clothing line as merchandise.

Similarly, Louis Vuitton (BOSCO™ Index: 735) unveiled a collaboration with Riot Games for the League of Legends World Championship in 2019. As well as creating a one of its kind trophy travel case, the luxury fashion brand created an esports collection, which sold out in just 60 minutes.

Social media is also the new frontier for gaming, advertising within games on Facebook. The biggest opportunity for brand integration within Facebook games is the use of strategic marketing where consumers don’t even realise that they are being sold to. For example, Miracle-Gro (BOSCO™ Index: 720) recently partnered with Zynga’s Farmville to allow players to use Miracle-Gro to grow and harvest their crops in-game.

What’s next for the gaming market

It’s clear that the traditional gamer has evolved and to appeal to the wider market, retailers need to become more inclusive and innovative. Despite the increase in female gamers and exclusive leagues, there is still a lack of representation within the industry.

Analysts predict that by 2025, the global gaming market is forecast to be worth $256.97bn. Most retailers are yet to take advantage of this untapped market, with masses of opportunity not yet explored.

Given the crowded marketplace, you require a competitive advantage when it comes to advertising in the right marketing channels to target gamers. BOSCO™ gives retailers the power of predictive marketing analytics, combining trusted data and machine learning for maximum budget efficiency.