Aaron Walker, Media Assistant, and Alexander Taborda, Media Manager, give their two differing perspectives as a hardcore gamer and a casual gamer on the EGX London 2014 gaming exhibition they attended.
Hardcore Gamer – Aaron Walker
As we walked through the doors, an electric atmosphere filled the rooms of the Earls Court Exhibition Centre as hundreds of avid gamers (me included) flooded the floor to witness the most exciting developments in the world of gaming. The sheer scale of people was staggering; by no means a market to be ignored. Booths were set up everywhere, ranging from the small, niche indie developers to the industry titans: Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, etc. Gamers were rapidly interacting with one another, sharing opinions, voicing their views, and forming queues at every corner eagerly waiting to get to grips with their most anticipated titles. It really showed the sense of community that they thrive off. It was also diverse, not dominated by teenage boys (Gamers are definitely not as male, young or nerdy as a lot of people think).
The Games on offer at the expo were incredible, graphically stunning and exciting to play. When playing Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, I was taken back at how mind blowing and complex all the features were. At one point watching as a ravenous caragor (huge angry dogs) bounded through a wall to attack an Orc chieftain I had been tactically hunting after collecting strategic information on his whereabouts from the mind of his underling. Definitely one of my most satisfying game experiences to date. One major highlight was the Oculus Rift, creating a queue spanning many twists and turns; putting gamers inside the fantastical worlds they were playing, letting them experience true first person action. Having tried one for myself, it is definitely a massive step forward in how immersive content is for the user, you really feel like you’re there. It creates huge potential for not only game developers, but for advertisers as well, with more starting to use it to good effect, engaging their audience more than any conventional advert can.
Also at the expo were some of the most dominant YouTubers in the community, with masses of fans lining up to watch them play live and interact with their gaming idols. The Yogscast in particular had an especially large following at the show. These guys have a massive grip on their audience, able to influence opinions on a game in minutes. If they don’t like a game, chances are a lot of their fans won’t either. Twitch’s stage (the gaming livestream site) was also extremely popular, with streams running from some of the ‘celebs’ of the gaming world. To a lot of people in this community, these guys are as symbolic as A-list celebrities. To exemplify, a recent study by twitch asked 2,000 American teens who their favourite celebs are. Three of the top five were gaming YouTubers: PewDiePie, KSI and Smosh.
For a gamer like myself, EGX was amazing, like a kid in a candy shop I could admire and interact with all the incredible advancements developers keep making. It showed the importance of these events for other gamers and the community too, allowing them to network, boost their own rep and create and govern views on what the next big game is going to be. The biggest take out for me however, was the sheer power YouTube and Twitch giants hold, able to influence millions of people through just one video or livestream.
Casual Gamer – Alex Taborda
Walking through Earl’s Court station, I could tell that Eurogamer was going to be a big deal, seeing as how Sony had seen fit to completely dominate the walkway towards the centre, as well as outside the station. Round 1 to Sony.
Once in, I was struck by the scale of the operation. Aside from the stands showcasing the new generation of games, one of the most striking aspects was witnessing just how quickly the industry is moving at and the innovations constantly being announced. Technology such as Oculus Rift is taking gaming onto another plain, and platforms such as Twitch (who had a rather sizeable stand) are changing the way gamers consume content and share thoughts. One of the key challenges for advertisers in this market is to try and keep up with this ever-evolving landscape, and ensure we are placing ourselves in the right environments, in the right way.
If I was struck by the innovations on show, then I was stunned into silence by the number of gamers attending- thousands piled in to make a massive, open space feel constricted. But it wasn’t only the number of them that surprised me, but seeing just how much the convention means to them; looking at the reams of people queuing up for the chance to try out games due for release in the next 6 months, I can only describe it as the equivalent of listening to an album by your favourite band, well in advance of it being released, with the producer there to fill you in on exactly how it was made. They really care, which isn’t meant to sound patronising in any way- it in fact opens up massive opportunities for us to engage with the audience and get them to care.
Another aspect that we are seeing massive changes in is the make up of the gamers themselves. A recent study has shown that, for the first time, women make up a bigger share of the gaming market than men. Whilst this has to be put into context with the fact that the study took into account gaming apps, which does account in large part to this shift, I was certainly still struck, as a casual gamer with pre-conceived perceptions over who would attend such conventions (in my head, 99% male), by how many women were at the convention- it wasn’t a 50:50 split by any means, but it is clear that women are increasingly becoming engrained in the gaming culture, which in itself necessitates the need for a re-think in the targeting techniques used for new releases.
So there are a number of ways we can look to utilise these key take outs in how we develop our comms strategy- we know the key for a successful game release is getting this audience excited about it. As long as the content is there, this can be done in any number of ways, from the old-school demo releases/magazine first reviews to more innovative and contemporary platforms such as Twitch, which boasts an ever increasing number of users desperate to take in content and find out more about games. We need to fuel an excitement amongst gamers, putting ourselves in the right environments and ensuring we are feeding through the right content, because we know that, if we can get a few people excited about a release, this can snowball very quickly through our massive, increasingly diversified audience.