Marketers Must Get Past the Gamer Stereotype

Are you a gamer?

Now, don’t rush to answer. I’m fairly confident that over 95 percent of you reading this wouldn’t consider yourselves gamers Let me ask a slightly different question: do you play games? Not surprisingly, more people will admit to playing games. Nearly 70 percent of American heads of households acknowledge playing video game, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

The “gamer” label tends to conjure images of adolescent boys who live in the basement, surviving on pizza and energy drinks, while playing “World of Warcraft” (WOW) on their PCs for hours on end. According to “American Heritage Dictionary,” a gamer is “one who plays a game, especially a role-playing or computer game.”

While that definition includes all those guys glued to their computers playing WOW for hours, it also includes demographics that don’t view themselves as gamers. Marketers have also viewed gamers through this narrow definition that only focuses on the stereotypical hardcore gamer. The majority of brands that have leveraged video game advertising have focused solely on the male 18 to 34 demographic traditionally associated with video games. The ESA reports that the average game player is 33 years old and that in 10 years, over 53 percent of them expect to be playing games as much as or more than they do today. Plus, 38 percent of gamers are female, with over 31 percent of gamers being women 18 or older. Even the baby boomer generation is getting into the act, as nearly a quarter of Americans over the age of 50 play video games.

Not only have gamers been narrowly defined demographically, they’ve also been viewed as antisocial, reclusive individuals who only feel comfortable with a controller in hand. Again, when you dive deeper into actual gamer psychographics, you see a vastly different profile. Gamers spend three times the amount of gaming time each week participating in sports, volunteering, religious activities, cultural events, creative outlets, reading, and other activities, the ESA survey finds. As video games continue to create new online features associated with the game platforms and titles, gamers are becoming one of the most Internet-savvy groups. Connected gaming devices enable them to connect with friends and meet other gamers.

Misconceptions and assumptions associated with gamers seem to stem from the actual word itself. At a recent digital marketing conference, a panelist made a great point. He asked why gamers are identified as a cohesive group when other groups go without a clearly defined label, such as moviegoers or music enthusiasts. While gaming requires a significant amount of attention, isn’t it a form of entertainment similar to both movies and music?

The reason the “gamer” label exists actually points to the importance of video-game-playing consumers to marketers. The following outlines key factors marketers should explore when evaluating whether to target gamers:

  • Video game sales continue to increase, with a record-breaking 40 percent increase in 2007 for the U.S. video game industry ($18.8 billion, compared to $13.5 billion in 2006). The record growth was attributed to “Halo 3” and the continued success of the Nintendo Wii. While “Halo 3” was a blockbuster title targeted at the core gamer, Nintendo lead the charge to expand the gamer demographic to include all ages, as opposed to the typical 18- to 34-year olds. As more games are developed to support this larger group, brands will quickly see gaming rise as the entertainment platform of choice for most prospective consumers.

  • Overall, gamers are a very social and well-connected community. Game communities allow consumers from across the globe to connect and compete while sitting on their couches. Gamers not only compete in their favorite titles but also look to peers for gaming-related decisions, in addition to other categories. Imagine if a brand can engage the gamer with a relevant product message or benefit. The potential reach to their larger circle of influence could result in tremendous lifts in brand awareness and sales.
  • According to the Ziff Davis “Digital Gaming in America” study, the mean age for computer gamers is 33 and the mean income is $69,000. For video games, the mean age is 23 and the mean income is $62,000. With these income levels and ages, gamers are an attractive target for most categories, including automotive, electronic, and consumer packaged goods. As gamers continue to expand to larger demographics, they include key purchase decision makers in households. Brands that leverage an engaging platform like games will be able to break through the overload of media clutter consumers currently experience.

Regardless of whether consumers who play games consider themselves to be gamers or not, marketers should look for innovative ways to effectively engage these consumers through gaming programs. Just don’t call them gamers.

Related reading