Millennial Gaming: How to Market to a Modern Generation

Gaming is everywhere. As with most other forms of technology, video games are extremely popular with young adults, or the generation more commonly known as millennials. Millennials have undoubtedly had a huge impact on the gaming industry, due to a variety of contributing factors that promote the link between the two. One of these factors, that is often overlooked, includes marketing.

Gaming companies have managed to attract and retain millennial audiences through successful marketing techniques and campaigns, a praise-worthy achievement considering that the millennial audience is notorious for being extremely discerning. To further explore the relationship between millennials, marketing and gaming, let’s first take a look at some statistics in regards to the same.

Numbers Speak Volumes

According to a survey done by the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 say they play video games often. The survey “counts video games played on a computer, TV, game console or portable device, such as a mobile phone.” Another study published in this article on DM News states that “There are more than 320 million people in America, and 155 million of them play video games.” The study further breaks up the gamer population, showing that 56 percent are under the age of 35, with 30 percent falling within the age bracket that many consider to represent the millennial generation. 



It’s not just the millennials in the United States that have been swept up in the gaming phenomenon. In China too, the gaming industry has been gathering great momentum. As stated in an article on China Daily, “the gaming market grew 5.2 percent year-on-year to reach 105 billion yuan ($15.27 billion) in the first half of 2018.”  Similar to the in the States, most players are people born between the 1990s and 2000s — millennials. These figures show that the gaming audience is massive.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just millennial males who play games. This article from Advertising Week 360 states that females make up almost 45 percent of all gamers. Additionally, research has shown that gamers don’t exist in a vacuum. While the popular media is quick to suggest that gaming leads to a decline in work hours, the aforementioned survey by the Pew Research Centre suggests otherwise. It found that young adults “who work full- or part-time are about as likely as those who are unemployed and looking for work to say they play [games].”

A Millennial Gaming Market

These figures show that millennials do indeed love gaming. However, it would be naive to think that the content of games alone is responsible for this significant growth within the gaming industry. In truth, the right marketing mix, specifically targeted towards a millennial gaming audience, is a notable contributing factor in terms of the popularity of gaming.

This is an impressive feat, considering that gamers can often be quite elusive. “The millennial gamer is difficult to reach, and it’s hard to get their attention even when you do reach them,” states Amish Tolia, Chief of Strategy at grassroots sponsorship platform Pear in the article on DM News. Even so, gaming companies have mastered the art of appealing to millennials, using clearly successful marketing techniques.

To further understand how gaming companies have managed to cater to the infamously picky millennial audience, we first need to understand the psychologically behind marketing to millennials in general. Perhaps one of the most important things to consider when marketing to millennials is that it’s likely going to be very different from marketing to different generations — even if everyone is only within 10 years of age of one another.

This all depends on what your audience of millennials finds important not only in games, but in the messages portrayed in those games, as well as your image as a game company and the vibe you give off. The type of millennial you really want to target is going to ultimately determine which direction you want to take your marketing, perhaps in ways you weren’t expecting.

For example, experts at Ohio University state, “Mobile eCommerce, word of mouth advertising and social media outreach have a much greater impact on millennials than television or print advertising.” This is corroborated by an infographic that details the best practices for marketing to millennials, created by analysts as USC Dornsife.

Aside from mobile optimization, social media outreach, personalisation, and multi-platform presence, millennials tend to value authenticity. While millennials are happy to share good advertising, they have strong feelings against deceptive and false advertising.

A prime example of these tactics in action comes from Nintendo, one of the biggest and oldest gaming companies around. Focusing on the concept of authenticity, the success of the Nintendo Switch has been largely attributed to marketing techniques. While the Wii was one of Nintendo’s best sellers, its successor, the Wii U was a relative failure. In comparison, the Switch has been extremely well received.

When asked about the Switch’s marketing in relation to the previous Wii U in an interview, Reggie Fils-Aimé, president of Nintendo America said, “What we’ve been able to do with Nintendo Switch is a number of very important things. First, we’ve been incredibly clear with the positioning of the product. Why should you purchase this device? Well, it’s because you can play this great content, anywhere, anytime with anyone. Tell me what the Wii U proposition was in 10 words or less. We weren’t as incredibly clear.”

With the Switch, Nintendo stuck to the simple, real message Fils-Aimé mentions in the interview. By the time the first trailer came out, this core message had been honed to perfection. Essentially, Nintendo showed consumers what the Switch was all about rather than just telling them. The trailers delivered exactly what the core message had promised — nothing more, nothing less. Alongside the concept itself, this authenticity in advertising appealed to the millennial gaming masses, making the Switch an immediate hit.

A World of Possibilities

As we can see, there is a strong link between the millennial generation and the gaming industry. But it doesn’t just stop there. Gamers and millennials tend to be passionate at heart, and their purchasing power is slowly but surely increasing. As stated in the DM News article, today, “many of top crowdfunded projects are games or gaming products, a trend recently exemplified by the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter, which exceeded its initial $2 million  within hours of the campaign’s announcement.”

Even for those outsides of the gaming industry, statistics like these show that there is still plenty of opportunities to connect with a vast audience through gameplay. Additionally, the passion millennials have for gaming has led to the exponential rise in gamification, with organizations across a variety of industries using games or gaming concepts to train employees, boost productivity, enhance skills, and even improve mental health. The impact millennials have had on the gaming industry, and vice versa, has been profound. As technology advances, there’s no doubt this mutual relationship will grow even more powerful.


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