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The Evolution Of The Gaming Industry: A New Approach For Gaming Companies

Oct 09, 2023

Marketing News

The Evolution Of The Gaming Industry: A New Approach For Gaming Companies

The gaming industry is constantly evolving. As you know, the landscape of the gaming industry 30 years ago is drastically different to how it is now. 

But how did we get here and when did the gaming revolution begin?

Digital gaming began in the 1970s, spearheaded by US gaming company Atari. Atari revolutionized the gaming industry with the simple digital game “Pong” which was playable on Arcade machines in shopping malls, bars, cafes and gaming spots worldwide which were naturally accessible to everyday people. 

Eventually, digital gaming options broadened beyond Pong when Space Invaders finally burst onto the scene which pioneered diversified gaming, paving the way for new game genres. Later came more arcade games such as Pac-Man (1980) and Donkey Kong (1981).

Undeniably, Atari helped shape the video gaming industry in the beginning with its digital games playable on the arcade. Atari naturally entered the home console gaming space in the beginning with Atari Video Pinball, and advanced beyond genre-specific gaming with the multi-compatible Atari 2600. The Atari 2600 was initially successful and sold 30 million units – with its most popular game “Pac-Man” selling 8 million!

Nintendo eventually took over in the 1980s with the NES, which helped popularize gaming in the US market, especially with the game “Super Mario Bros” which sold 40 million units. 

The popular gaming brand also ended up spawning one of the most recognisable mainstream brands with its titular protagonist. Around the 1980s to mid 1990s, Nintendo and SEGA were competing with each other in the video game industry, also releasing handheld consoles to reach an even wider demographic. SEGA would establish its own mascot in “Sonic” to compete with Nintendo’s “Mario”. Atari, without a strong brand foundation or identity, would fizzle out by 1992.

You might wonder, how did Nintendo and SEGA promote its products to gain prevalence and sustain their popularity for a decade? Well, as aforementioned, Nintendo and SEGA were not just game console manufacturers, they were also gaming producers. Nintendo and SEGA had their own gaming franchises which they used to help advertise their consoles and give them personality, nodding to the importance of brand identity.

When SEGA promoted its successor to the Master System which was competing with the Nintendo NES – the “Sega Genesis”, they used anti-Nintendo advertising, highlighting the console’s superior features and game library in magazines. In the media, a common trope at the time was that SEGA was generally seen as for more “mature” and “hardcore” gamers, whilst Nintendo was negatively connoted as “for kids”.

Sega marketing

Sega marketing

Sega marketing

Nintendo’s game marketing strategy was less aggressive than SEGA’s. Nintendo had a campaign run from July 1994 to September 1996 called “Play It Loud!”. It had a $10 million budget and was produced by Burnett, and the objective of the campaign was to encourage young audiences to enjoy video games in hardcore fashion, similar to the way rock fans are passionate about the genre, with rock music being layered over video gameplay. 

Overall, it’s safe to say that the old gaming industry was mostly marketed to mainstream audiences through forms of traditional media such as TV ads, newspapers and magazines, which were the main forms of media consumption at the time.

THE CURRENT GAMING INDUSTRY

It’s safe to say, a lot has changed since the late 1900s when it comes to the state of the gaming industry.

The online gaming business was inaugurated in the mid-1990s and is now prevalent. 

Microsoft’s Xbox Live platform was the first dedicated online service for home consoles. Nintendo is still a prominent video game console competitor, with the Nintendo Switch potentially on its way to being the best-selling video game console of all time. Sony has been a leader in home consoles since their entry in the mid mid-1990s with its PlayStation brand, with the latest iteration being the PS5. Microsoft, with its Xbox consoles, have been Sony’s main competitor in home console gaming since the 2000s.

The rise of mobile and the Internet grew the gaming industry to hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue in the 2010s. VR has been a new technology that has been growing in presence. 

Most importantly, though, the internet has also re-shaped how marketing works, and we now see video game companies marketing their products through social media rather than newspapers and magazines which have been declining in market share with Gen Z and millennials, the largest demographic for video games.

So how can gaming companies thrive in this new environment?

If brands want to succeed at game marketing in the modern gaming economy, they need to utilize digital forms of marketing such as social media, digital ads, and widely visible traditional forms of marketing such as bus ads and billboards. 

Aggressive anti-competitor game advertising, as SEGA did against Nintendo in the 1990s, is hardly employed these days. Likewise with video games, this advertising technique seems to hardly exist. For small companies, game marketing is much cheaper. Social media is free of charge, unlike spots in a magazine or newspaper.

Brands looking to launch a new product in the gaming industry will usually launch a YouTube channel, Twitter account, and potentially have other social media handles, and start promoting from there. 

For example, Stray, a post-apocalyptic adventure game developed by BlueTwelve Studio that was released in 2022, has had its production journey documented on Twitter since 2015. 

gaming industry: Stray

By 2020, when the developers had marketable gaming footage available, they released an official trailer on social media, slating the game for a 2021 release for the upcoming PlayStation 5 and PC. This would also be naturally distributed on YouTube, which is currently more popular for game and movie trailers. As PlayStation have an established following, Stray collaborated with Sony to advertise the game on their account, giving it more exposure and visibility. Leveraging millions of views, Stray impressed viewers with their unique concept of a cat adventure game with impressive post-apocalyptic graphics.

gaming industry: Stray

The game would be delayed to 2022, but it garnered largely positive reviews on release and was nominated at the Game of The Year Awards, showcasing a successful marketing strategy.

WHAT SHOULD GAMING COMPANIES DO TO STAY RELEVANT?

If gaming companies want to stay relevant in the ever-evolving space that is the gaming industry, they must keep in line with the latest social media trends and technological advancements. 

30 years ago, video gaming was in 2D and in 8-Bit graphics. Now we have 4K, highly-detailed, 3D adventure games. Not all developers make these games, of course, but these are the types of games that generate the most impressions in modern marketing, as hardcore gamers, the ones that will most likely consume advertisements, want to see evolution in new games.

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Author

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Ella Proctor

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