3 Ways To Invest in Games For Every Budget

April 12, 2019

One of the questions we frequently get is: “I want to get involved in games, but I’m not sure how?” It’s a good question! It’s a big world out there and depending on who you are it can be confusing. Even if you’re not in gaming, your company doesn’t need to be in the world of gaming to reap the benefits of participating in it. If you hadn’t noticed, 2018 was a huge year for gaming, from Twitch dominating as a streaming platform to Fortnite becoming a cultural phenomenon (both closely related). According to Reuters, not only has gaming grown to be bigger than it ever was, its revenue eclipsed all other major entertainment categories at $116 billion, increasing at an annual rate of 10.7 percent.

Still not sure? Here are some ways that brands can invest in games. 

Fund game development. As a move to share Fortnite’s massive success, Epic Games will give away a $100 million to fund creative projects that use the Unreal Engine toolset. Last month, Apple announced that its new gaming subscription, Apple Arcade, would offer exclusive games commissioned and funded by the company. Pouring money into game development is a smart move, but brands typically sit on the sidelines.

Understandably, creating your own experience can be a big undertaking. Instead, look for ways to support the ecosystem. 

It’s paid off for brands in other realms of entertainment, such as music. Since 2016, Toyota has teamed up with Oath to live stream music festivals, allowing the brand to connect with young, diverse consumers. Mission accomplished: With 83 million views, viewership of the live streams in 2017 grew a whopping 107 percent compared to the previous year. The result? Among adults 18-24 seeking to buy a car, there was a 23 percent jump in consideration to buy a Toyota.

In 2012, Coca-Cola contributed a minority investment of reportedly $10 million to Spotify, which now could be worth as much as $100 million-$150 million. “We saw music consumption was accelerating for the younger generation thanks to all of the streaming platforms that were growing at the time,” Emmanuel Seuge, Coca-Cola’s former VP of global alliances and ventures told Billboard. “The question was, ‘How do we start a platform where Coke is able to be part of those moments on a daily basis?’” Coco-Cola helped Spotify expand its locations with messaging on millions of Coca-Cola products, co-branded marketing campaigns, and location-based playlists.

These partnerships were successful because they delivered unique experiences that their target audience of young music-lovers wanted. With Spotify and Coca-Cola, each company benefitted by expanding its reach through the other—Spotify was able to reach new countries and Coca-Cola a millennial demographic. 

In games, you can reap the same benefits by funding content gamers want, from AAA to indie developers. Maybe you may not have tens of millions, so look to dip your toe in with a slate of smaller experiments.

Get on Twitch. As I mentioned, Twitch’s dominance in streaming cannot be ignored. Good news—the platform’s audience is open to advertising: 82 percent say sponsorships are good for the gaming industry; 78 percent want to see more charity in gaming, and 80 percent are open to brands sponsoring a specific gamer or team. Not to mention, users viewed nearly a billion hours on Twitch in January.

Some brands, such as Red Bull, have had success in creating their own Twitch channel. Starting this week, you can even find the face of Twitch’s most popular streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins on limited edition Red Bull cans in a major crossover.

If the idea of maintaining a Twitch channel for your brand sounds too lofty, you could always sponsor a streamer—and it doesn’t have to be Ninja. He’s charging a lot these days.

Any Twitch streamer who has partnered with the platform has already developed a loyal fan base. Even mid-tier streamers allow you to tap into a strong community. Plus, they’re more likely to respond and tend to drive the most sales, according to Brooke Van Dusen, formerly the director of business development at Twitch and currently at Xsolla. But it’s up to you to do your research and find out about the streamer’s values, goals, and community and whether those align with your brand. It’s becoming more and more common for every big game to include influencers in their marketing plans, but nonendemic brands can be ahead of the curve by doing this, too.

Since streamers are image conscious, they also want to work with brands that match their personality. Authenticity is one of the top priorities to them and their audience, so maintaining that should make for a successful partnership. 

Sponsor an esports league. In case you haven’t heard, esports is booming. According to a Washington Post poll, 58 percent of teens and young adults (ages 14-21) have watched people play video games online on websites like Twitch and YouTube. Competitive gaming has drawn big-name sponsors such as ToyotaMastercard, and Coca Cola.

The latest to join in is Nike: Last month, the sportswear company made its official move into esports with a four-year League of Legends sponsorship deal, similar to its partnerships with the NFL and NBA. If a league-wide sponsorship sounds too expansive, your brand could sponsor a pro gameran esports team, or an esports organization.

Also, look beyond the best of the best. Focus on smaller, lower-ranked teams, such as Immortals in Vainglory championships or even college esports teams, which are gaining traction. Similarly, you should invest in smaller tournaments, such as Super Smash Bros. Melee, Rocket League, and Pokemon VGC. And last but not least, don’t overlook mobile esports. With mobile’s majority market share of game revenue, the mobile esports scene is set for growth and innovation.

Respawn your brand strategy. Whether you’re onboard or not, entertainment is becoming more and more interactive. Games now play a large part in that shifting landscape, so get in as soon as possible. Because it’s not a matter of ifbrands will clamor to gaming and interactivity, it’s a matter of when.