Every year in early Spring, San Francisco becomes “Grand Central” for all things related to the business of games. It’s GDC (Game Developers Conference) — the game industry’s biggest professional event. And as smartphones and other platforms continue to push beyond the boundaries of the “typical” console game, GDC has become far more relevant to digital marketers representing CPG and retail brands that have come to understand that their lifestyle audience is spending much of their online time playing games.
From mobile, social games like Candy Crush and Color Switch to console-TV crossover games like Quantum Break, there is a game for every person — and that means a potential opportunity for brands to connect with them through that game. This year, it’s the excitement around virtual reality (VR), the rise of eSports, and the sustained growth in mobile gaming that make GDC 2016 ultra-relevant for digital brand managers and senior marketers.
1. VR’s crossover appeal
The VR explosion will impact storytelling across screens in a way that is entirely new and deeply engaging. How can we tell it’s more than just hype?
First, consumers will have their choice of VR headsets from at least three well-known brands this year: Samsung, Sony and Facebook’s Oculus, creating a sizable install base here in the U.S.
Second, brands have already begun experimenting with VR campaigns. Take insurance brand Liberty Mutual’s choose-your-own adventure series on Facebook, and The North Face: Nepal, a “cinematic VR” experience by outdoor apparel maker The North Face, as the most recent examples.
With educational sessions on using VR for storytelling from major studios like Lucasfilm, HBO & Disney, CPG marketers and brand managers can expect to learn more about the medium’s mainstream appeal at GDC.
2. eSports as the next live-action frontier
Video game competitions attract millions of viewers, creating reach and brand awareness opportunities that compete with the likes of the Super Bowl. Some 36 million unique viewers tuned in to the final game of the League of Legends 2015 World Championship series, for example, to watch players from around the world battle each other in the real-time strategy game. With a global, cross-generational audience, and a combination of live and online events, the growth of eSports creates unique opportunities for lifestyle brands.
GDC is great for learning where and how brands can fit into the eSports space, from sponsorships of specific events, players and teams by brands like American Express, to interactive ad formats during live-streamed matches on platforms like Twitch.
3. Learn app marketing from the pros
Every brand may not need a mobile app — but the brands that have them, know that there’s no channel more intimate or effective for real-time customer engagement. And there’s no group that’s better at app marketing and engagement than mobile game developers.
User acquisition and monetization teams at mobile game studios have elevated the art of driving downloads and keeping users engaged to a science. So from understanding how to balance retention with monetization, to learning how to measure and test alternative advertising and demand strategies, retail and lifestyle brands have much to learn from game marketers at GDC.