The U.S. video game market is massive. In 2017, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and The NPD Group, $36 billion was spent on gaming across both hardware and software, including in-game purchases and subscriptions.
The industry has changed, though, from one dominated by first-person shooters to co-op games like the massively popular Fortnite and Overwatch, which encourage team play and feature ongoing stories and gameplay. That makes them perfect for the burgeoning esports industry, perfected by Twitch and being copied by YouTube, Facebook and others, where viewers watch others play the games. The idea of passive viewing of someone else playing a game may have initially sounded ridiculous, but it’s literally no different than watching football, baseball or any other organized sport.
The ESA has more detailed demographic information on video game players while Business Insider has a good overview of what groups make up the eSports audience. In both cases, while there is certainly a diverse group of people playing and watching, the majority of people are <30 white dudes.
That’s a demographic movie marketers are still, despite much evidence to the contrary, eager to reach. Hence at least two efforts so far this year to sell movies to the video game audience.
As part of Warner Bros.’ campaign for Tag, the studio placed a clip from the movie within the Machinima-produced YouTube show “Inside Gaming” in an episode about the recent announcement of a new installment in the Fallout game series.
Taking things a step further and going more direct to the eSports audience, Lionsgate sponsored a popular Overwatch league, with players wearing Uncle Drew-branded jerseys. That put the movie’s brand in front of a lot of people and was a good fit given the movie’s stars and their popularity.
It’s easy to see this becoming more common, with championship eSports games receiving a similar amount of movie marketing attention as the NBA Finals or other “traditional” sports tournaments, maybe even as big as the Super Bowl. The market is so huge Epic Games recently announced a $100 million prize pool for a Fortnite tournament and will likely only get bigger as NFL, MLB and other audiences get older and richer while video games continue to attract younger people’s attention.
I’d expect to see this pulled out as a tactic much more frequently for either contextually relevant movies as well as tentpole franchise releases.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.