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Who are the Tribes Defining E-Sports and Gaming?

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The gaming industry is predicted to exceed 180 Billion USD in the next year, as innovation in the industry continues to move at a record pace. The e-sports and gaming sectors appear to have weathered the ongoing pandemic and outpace expectations with an explosion of new online platforms and apps. The social landscape confirms this trend is strong, as communities have sprung up to satisfy gamer appetites for high quality content.  Identifying the consumers driving the boom can help you claim a piece of this growth. 

From familiar platforms like Twitter and Reddit, to relative newcomer Twitch also growing at an incredible rate year to year, there are several options available to brands looking to reach gamers. However, the gaming community is a dynamic environment with people of all ages that transcend geographical borders. With so much variety, this digital culture is defined by their common passions instead of traditional demographics. Identifying their concerns, expectations, and their conversational points is the key to effective engagement. 

Many players  were accustomed to meeting each other in person, but given the digital nature of gaming, they were able to quickly adapt to the new context. This adaptation pushed e-sports into the spotlight. In 2020, both leagues and their teams found new ways to engage with fans which allowed for even more community-wide growth. Who are these people, and how can brands leverage insight to best connect with their target tribes in 2021?

Gaming as a Way of Life

Among the most active and devoted members of the wider gaming community are Living Fantasists. This tribe is home to gamers who  bring their virtual experiences into their real lives. They define themselves as creatives and designers, and can be found talking about both fashion and technology innovations on the social web. First-person shooter games (FPS) like Bethesda Softworks title, Doom Eternal are particularly popular with this tribe.

Billion dollar blockbuster games like Rockstar Games franchise Grand Theft Auto and EA Games franchise Star Wars Battlefront are also celebrated for the attention to detail and diverse experiences they produce for players. These tribes’ appreciation for immersive experiences spans both their off and online lives and many have created genuine lifelong relationships. While Living Fantasists missed in-person events in 2020, they were able to continue their conversations online under hashtags like Overwatch League #OWL2020 or #blizzcon.

Gaming Culture Maniacs are similarly committed to merging their on and offline experiences, but do so in a more mainstream way. Instead of cosplay, intersectionality is the name of the game as many users highlight the causes they support on their profile including, #womeninesport and #realonesgaming.

This tribe also discusses food, fitness, and tech as they  relate to their lived experience. Given their interest in fitness, it comes as no surprise that sports games reign supreme with cult favorites NBA 2k and the FIFA football series taking the lead for Gaming Culture Maniacs.

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Source: Linkfluence Gaming Report - Topic Wheel, September 2019 - September 2020

By mixing gaming content with posts about social issues they integrate their on and offline lives in similar ways to Living Fantasists. For brands looking to activate either of  these avid gaming tribes, an eye must be kept on how either group interacts with the real world.

The Rise of the Casual Gamer

Until recently, gamers were seen as a monolith of hardcore players. Studies on the effects of gaming on younger players have constantly reinforced a message of care to avoid overuse. 2020 has done a lot to change that perception as more consumers took to gaming for casual escapes and pleasure. 

For the Slow Lifers tribe, gaming presents a “chill out” space where they can take a break from reality and enjoy virtual socializing and entertainment from the comfort of their homes.  Many gravitate towards collaborative gaming experiences with Multiplayer Online Battle arena (MOBA) games like Fortnite.

Despite seeing gaming as a means of relaxation, Slow Lifers still see themselves as serious and competent players. Through the support of this tribe and others like them MOBA game Fortnite managed to secure the second place game streaming ranking and 3rd overall behind cult classic World of Warcraft. However, their ability to balance a more mainstream lifestyle presents plenty of opportunities for brands seeking a marketing foothold in the gaming industry. Their social media accounts are full of food and fashion shots as they discuss their passions for photography alongside their gaming hobbies.

Where Slow Lifers see gaming as a hobby, Inspiring Mentors see the industry as an invaluable resource to help others improve their skills. As community leaders and innovators within the industry, this tribe also values spreading gaming culture. Many run businesses related to gaming and position themselves as resources to newcomers.

Gamers like OG E-Sports COO and Co-Founder Evany Chang are able to mix both their gaming business ventures and personal passions to straddle both arenas. Her feed mirrors that of typical non-gaming influencers as she highlights her many passions to her 16k followers.

Inspiring Mentors are on top of the trends from AI, gaming updates, live-streaming platforms, and more. They are some of the largest presences at E-sports competitions, and often take on the personas of traditional athletes as they strive to be role models for younger gamers. Discussions about business, technology, and sports are common within this community as they continue to contend with e-sport changes through 2020. 

This tribe can be engaging ambassadors for multiple industries as they are capable of appealing to both hardcore and casual gaming audiences. Their deep ties to e-sport competitions present sponsorship opportunities, and a more business minded approach to collaborations.

Activating Gaming Tribes

The persistent growth of the e-sport industry, and its dynamic and rapidly changing landscape, will attract an increasing number of brands in the coming year.  Whether your brand is new to the gaming industry or has already made in-roads, adapting marketing strategies to specific e-sport tribes is paramount as we move into 2021. As gaming becomes mainstream, distinguishing which consumers are part of this revolution will be essential.  

Social media intelligence can help direct these efforts by identifying which tribe is most likely to engage with your marketing and product. Once you have identified your tribes, connecting with them in a more authentic way will be second nature. Continue to track developing trends among your tribes and the media they follow to better identify opportunities  to activate gaming audiences into the future.

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