Tag Archives: Gaming

The Future of Video Game Retailers

Video game stores have for some years faced the dilemma of how to diversify their offering to stay afloat in a market evolving to become primarily a digital one. Since the launch of the “next generation of consoles” back in 2006, digital downloadable games have been available through the marketplaces of Microsoft, Sony & Nintendo on their respective consoles. However, initially, the list of games available to download was quite limited which benefited retailers as it would not take away business from them. 

Fast forward to 2013 and the next generation of consoles were released. The release of these new consoles brought a brand new, more reliable system in place to download full video games over the internet. The ability to download full games happened on the previous generation however, numerous factors attributed to its rather low popularity as it did not have the stability and the large selection of games as it does on the console’s successor. 

GAME’s game-changing new direction

The PS4 & Xbox One were game-changers in driving interest in digital games. This meant retailers had to diversify their offerings to provide more than just consoles and video games. For example, GAME is now selling Gaming PCs and a lot more accessories for all gaming platforms. On top of this, they provide access in-store to the Belong Arenas which are equipped with all of the latest consoles and gaming PCs with room for around 6 people to game. GAME is a prime example of a company successfully diversifying its business model to become a more experienced/service-based company. This is due to the nature of the video game market and its continuous push towards the all-digital era.

The new direction GAME is taking features a better value proposition. Martyn Gibbs, Chief Executive Officer recently described  BELONG, the Group’s esports and experience-based gaming proposition as “core to our transformation strategy and we continue to expand the business through the opening of larger BELONG gaming arenas while improving our GAME Retail offer to fully capitalise on the strong growth potential in the esports market.” (Waller-Davies, 2018)

This has proven to be successful in driving footfall to their stores with the gaming arenas as proven by the positive recent trading results.

COVID’s accelerating impact on digital transformation

Clearly, a huge impact on the video game retail industry as with all retail was the dramatic impact of COVID. Not solely due to the fact stores were closed, more so due to the change in lifestyle, most people had to adapt to. Logan Plant from IGN described COVID-19 as “not an instigator for the rise of digital media, but simply an accelerator of a trend we’ve seen take shape throughout the last console generation.” (Plant, 2021). Working from home became the norm for 1+ years and subsequently, a lot of businesses had to change how they operated to take advantage of the customers/consumers being stuck at home.

The impact of COVID was a record-breaking year for digital sales of video games. Sony also revealed that nearly 63 per cent of its “full game” sales for the 2020 calendar year came via digital downloads rather than games sold on discs at retail. 

As a result of COVID’s accelerating impact, it is important to reevaluate the current proposition and business direction of video games retailers. The current moves console developers are making into the all-digital era are having a dramatic impact on the performance of bricks and mortar retailers. A significant development happened in 2020 when the latest consoles were released (PS5 & Xbox Series X). These new consoles were released with a cheaper variant; a disk tray-free model with a cheaper price tag available from launch. This highlights the increasing dominance of the digital era and the ongoing decline of physical sales.

Owen Good from Polygon described it in stark terms: “The implication is clear: Video game fans, stuck at home, with the ability to make one-click purchases for entertainment to pass time, will do so in amounts up to the price of a full game.” (Good, 2020)

As an avid Gamer myself who has been a loyal customer of GAME since I could remember my weekends used to involve regular trips to pick up a new game or the latest console at the time. Interacting and talking with knowledgeable staff members was a huge part of the experience.

Embracing an experience-centric playbook

Despite knowledgeable in-store staff that can assist and support the customer journey, the gaming industry has changed to be a primarily digital one. However, despite this reality, there’s still a significant percentage of customers purchasing physical copies of video games. Yet the online giants such as Amazon have further eroded this market, offering next day delivery on the same selection of physical video games that high street retailers offer at a discounted price. 

The same situation is happening with Gamestop, in an article covering which companies would Amazon effect, it stated Gamestop “historically has made its money by serving as the middleman, but the game publishing industry’s move toward downloads and away from discs and cartridges is increasingly making the venue less of a destination for gamers.” (Brumley, 2019).

This of course reduces the need to pop into town and purchase a game. Additionally, on top of the physical video game competitors, each of the gaming platforms also have their own store integrated into the console where you can purchase digital copies of any game on that platform. Digital games usually have a higher RRP, however, they are usually heavily discounted during sales.

In conclusion, it’s clear to see that for retail stores to drive more footfall they need to reposition themselves and expand what they offer as a business. GAME have taken this in their stride and expanded their traditional offering of physical Video Games and Consoles to offer an immersive customer experience including VR, the opportunity to play video games with your friends in the Belong arenas, purchase fully built gaming PC’s along with the necessary accessories and gaming merchandise such as POP Vinyls or plushies. It has been proven that GAME’s new direction has driven footfall and has been profitable for them too. In order to win in the future and remain relevant, it’s time for video games retailers to embrace an ‘experience-centric’ playbook.

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In-Game Advertising – Smart Ways for Brands to Reach Targeted and Immersed Audiences

More of us are spending increasing amounts of our lives immersed in electronic games. It is a trend many brands have cottoned on to, as they use the virtual world to encourage real world action.

The stereotyped view of the gamer remains the headphone plugged in, square-eyed teen in their room. But of course, the fact this image has persisted for twenty years highlights an important fact. The teenagers of the 90s are now middle-aged and still love gaming. While younger consumers might game more, there is significant penetration among older audiences who have grown up with consoles. According to Statista while 73% of 18-24 year olds regularly play computer games, 40% of their parents’ generation (45-54 year olds) are also still regular gamers.

Generation Gamer

Gaming is moving away from being an entertainment source to being integral to how many people form connections with their friends, as well as with their preferred brands. So the idea that gaming is anti-social is misplaced.

For millennials, gaming is a huge part of their life and identity. They are gamers, they have purchasing power, they’re into new stuff, but also respond well to games that make them feel nostalgic. They are also mobile-first. While the traditional view of gaming is via an Xbox or Playstation, mobile games now contribute 51% of the entire global revenue from the gaming industry.

Today, advertising in video games is served in a way that is sensitive to the game environment and blends unobtrusively with gameplay. Smart brands have really begun to capitalise on the opportunities presented with in-game advertising. It has become more urgent for many. The onset of Covid and social distancing has blocked off many other traditional mass market advertising routes. This ranges from less footfall for outdoor advertising in ghostly city centres to still shut sports stadia.

The Covid Effect

Recent evidence highlights how much time we are now spending immersed in online, virtual worlds. A report from Digital Voices shows that viewership of the gaming category on YouTube is up an astonishing 31% since the start of Covid. Reflecting this, there has been a sharp increase in Twitch viewership and a jump in esports influencers on TikTok. People are playing and watching games to keep themselves distracted during these difficult times.

So brands have varied, engaged and growing audiences to reach through collaborations which many are now acting on, if belatedly. For brands dipping their toe in the virtual waters, they should take the time to really think about what they are looking to achieve with sympathetic forms of collaboration. Being seen to advertise in an inappropriate way can backfire as Burger King recently discovered to their cost on Twitch. They used a bot that normally reads out messages from fans to announce meal offers. This was seen as being “spammy” and exploitative and fans were quick to vent their fury.

Here are some of our favorite examples of effective in game brand collaborations:

1) The face that launched a thousand trainers
Adidas recently chose to collaborate with streaming star Tyler “Ninja” Blevins to launch a new line of trainers that was sold out in under an hour. Ninja, famously known for playing Fortnite, was delighted and posted a video thanking his fans. 

2) No stadiums? No problem
Adidas also recreated the canceled European Championship in the FIFA Playstation video game in June as a way to offset some of the inventory it lost from the live matches. Matches between 12 footballers and 12 celebrities were live-streamed across Adidas’ Facebook Live, IGTV and YouTube Live profiles in Turkey. 

3) DHL delivers an inter dimensional experience
The ESL One Hamburg activation with shipping company DHL was one of the most compelling examples of a smart brand collaboration. It showcased what is possible when a brand’s message is paired with a game and community to deliver an effective and engaging result. ESL’s campaign featured content creator Jake “SirActionSlacks” Kanner cast as an employee at an “interdimensional” DHL facility that serves both the physical and video game worlds, complete with an in-game version of DHL’s automated warehouse robot, EffiBOT. 

4) Can we target voters? Yes, we can
Back in 2008, Barack Obama (then Senator) achieved a first when his presidential campaign ads appeared in the popular EA game Burnout Paradise on Xbox 360. A billboard message inside the game encouraged players to register to vote. Obama realized back then what many brands are taking note of today: young audiences of 18 to 34-year-olds — which represent the core gamer group. As we approach the next Presidential election expect similar plays from the candidates to reach a younger audience. 

As brand collaborations with game developers become more common, the industry will move into a structured ecosystem demanding more advanced measures of viewability, analytics and real-time data to improve campaign performance. For one of the newest advertising markets, it’s Game on!

To read the full article please visit Digital Doughnut.

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Why Google’s launch of Stadia is a game-changer for the gaming industry

Stadia Blog

Google’s launch of Stadia is a game-changer, and a move that will have Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony quite concerned. No downloads, no patches and no console makes this the cloud gamers dream, and Google is delivering this incredible service without compromising on graphics quality. With 2.3bn active gamers globally and 46 per cent of those (1.1bn) spending, the financial impact to the establishment is significant. More so with the forecasted growth of gaming from $137.9bn (£105.3bn) in 2018 to more than $180.1bn by 2021.

Generational changes in consumers have seen Millennials identify with nostalgia, and they recapture their youth through console gaming, just as they have been doing for over 20 years. Back in 1994 PlayStation appeared on the market and having sold 525m consoles. It’s by far the most successful gaming platform ever.

Sony, together with Nintendo and Microsoft, has attempted to evolve the proposition and gaming to a digital platform with some degree of success. The most successful here is again PlayStation, with 80m active users on its PlayStation Network, up from 70m only a year ago.

However, PlayStation 4 Sony’s most up-to-date platform, is now six years old and accounts for a third of the total Sony turnover and profit. It’s no understatement to describe PlayStation as the jewel in Sony’s portfolio and that may just be about to be disrupted.

“A new generation platform”
Enter Google with its Stadia solution. As Phil Harrison VP and general manager at Google stated when launching Stadia: “It’s a new generation platform, rather than a next generation platform” which is what perhaps Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have failed to achieve. Instead they’re merely evolving the concept of their platforms, rather than recreating them. Stadia will be a tough act to follow, with sharing options via YouTube, which has 63m daily viewers worldwide, Google Assistant built in, 4K resolution games at 60 frames per second with HDR (High Dynamic Range), and a plan to support 8K resolution in the future.

It may be game over for the business of selling hardware and encouraging gamers to ‘upgrade’ to a new console. This is not great for retailers who make a good margin on selling the hardware to eager gamers needing to upgrade to access the dream being sold by the platforms. For the platforms, success relies heavily on the hardware sales as the portal to the business end of the operation, the games themselves. Much like the print industry, brands sell the hardware at little or no margin to acquire users to the platform, tying them in to facilitate access to the gaming titles which deliver the true spoils and profit to the platforms.

Now with Stadia the internet is your store, with the network and data centre as your platform. So perhaps the paradigm is about to shift and the gaming industry will see a new emperor wear the clothes.

Generation Alpha

Consider Generation Alpha, the generation born after 2012, who as future consumers have been born into an era where minimalism in hardware drives digital innovation. This is the generation whom Stadia speaks to in volumes, and it may well turn out to be the only gaming platform this generation ever knows. Given that many 10 year olds become avid gamers, mobile phone, tablet and computer users, with no concept of physical media, this seismic shift could make the gaming establishment obsolete, unless their platforms evolve quickly.

To read the full article please visit Mobile Marketing.

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Create a real experience to bring gamers back into store

Despite a mixed result for the physical entertainment market in the first half of 2017, with sales of music falling by 5% and video by 13%, gaming beat this trend, however, growing by 0.5% year on year.

These results are positive news for dedicated gaming retailers, but hardly reassuring for those who are fighting a tough battle against the increasingly dominate position of online retailers and online download platforms. These results are thanks in part to a strong set of new releases such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn which have drawn consumers into store. However, if gaming retailers are to increase their level of growth and avoid results seen in other physical media categories, they must adapt to suit the ever changing needs of consumers and gaming fans.

At the moment, it is all too easy for consumers to download software via their consoles’ marketplace, or purchase a new console or piece of hardware from an online retailer for home delivery – and this isn’t going to change. If gaming retailers are going to compete against online retail, they need to offer a service that will bring consumers onto the high street and into store. Game’s recent demonstrations of PlayStation VR (however controversial) show exactly what retailers can offer – a real, unique and immersive gaming experience that consumers can’t download or stream.

Though space is limited in some stores, retailers need to offer demos of key new titles for consumers to try. Rather than just leave customers to their own devices, store staff need to be more active in-store, speaking to customers about their needs and offering advice on the best game or console for them. Most other categories in tech and consumer electronics make use of brand ambassadors and product demonstrations to great effect – 74% of consumers want to shop in store so that they can see, touch and experience the product before buying.

Likewise, offering exclusive deals or special offers that are only available in store is a great way to encourage footfall. Competing with online only retailers is easier said than done, but offering exclusive deals is a sure-fire way of convincing gaming fans to spend their money on the high street rather than for the basic package online.

If gaming retailers can make this effort and offer consumers a space where they can really experience a gaming system or piece of software before buying, they can bring consumers back into store who might previously have stayed at home.

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