There are three times each year that I look forward to most: Christmas, Spring and E3. This post is about the latter—that time of year in which gaming’s biggest companies and indie developers show off the latest and greatest in the world of gaming on the world’s stage. This is the time of year where fans, like myself, get to piece together what the next year of gaming will be.
This year was different on a few fronts. Gaming seems to be on the cusp of entering a new era, an era that’s about inclusivity, accessibility and mainstream appeal. This has major implications for marketers. Gaming is mainstream behavior. It’s taking a massive chunk of the time spent with media by players, and with gamers growing up with games like Fortnite intertwined with how they live, this is only going to continue.
Gaming Goes Mainstream
Following E3 like I do no longer feels special. It feels normal, boring even. Gaming’s taken on a mainstream appeal that hasn’t existed in the past. This year we saw Keanu Reeves take the stage to talk about one of 2020’s most anticipated games Cyberpunk. Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead is starring in a new game called called Death Stranding. The guys behind It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia announced a new upcoming series focused on video game development that will be launched on Apple TV+. George R.R. Martin is in the process of developing a new game. The list goes on and on.
This is mainstream A-list Hollywood talent, not only appearing in games, but standing alongside them, influencing their development and actively advocating for them. They’re not touting blockbuster movies. They’re touting games.
Gaming’s only taking more of the spotlight of mainstream culture, and even if you’ve just been seeing the random Fortnite headline here and there over the past year, that shouldn’t be a surprise to you. As far as the advertising community goes, it won’t be long before gaming is considered a critical medium for reaching an audience and not just an experimental side project.
There’s another reason to think that will be the case: streaming.
Gaming Goes the Way of Netflix
This year’s E3 was pre-empted with details being shared around Google Stadia, a new cloud-based gaming service that lets gamers stream high-quality games to their devices. That service joined Xbox Game Pass, which gives gamers access to Xbox exclusives for a monthly fee just like Netflix. But those services are just the beginning.
Square Enix announced a subscription gaming service of its own, as did Ubisoft with its announcement of UPlay Plus. Gaming is following the path laid by video. It’s going to the cloud. It’s going to be streamed. As long as it can give gamers the responsiveness they demand and graphics that meet or exceed what they can get by playing games locally, the future of gaming will be streamed. This, of course, brings its own set of problems.
The gaming landscape is likely to get more fragmented just like our video landscape. Walled gardens are popping up left and right, and it’s going to be interesting to see if gamers embrace it or if subscription fatigue sets in. My guess is the former, and if that’s the case, the future of gaming is going to look different. It’s going to be easier to get into gaming because the commitment of spending $60 on a game will be done away with. Casual gamers will be able to sample, find what they like and then commit.
The barriers to gaming get lower, and gaming’s mainstream appeal will only continue to grow.