Yesterday, Google had its biggest announcement in the entertainment industry since its acquisition of YouTube in 2006. Google unveiled its new Stadia cloud gaming service with some very impressive technical specs (4K & 60fps on any device) that are applicable to gamers—but when you look a little deeper, there are huge opportunities for brands and marketers.
But, before we dive into these opportunities, let’s get something straight:
Gaming is a sport.
Sport is entertainment.
And Google is about to make it obvious to everybody.
To understand the technology in simple terms, this announcement essentially means that the Chrome browser becomes the operating system, and the cloud becomes the hardware. This isn’t novel for Google; Google Docs, Sheets, etc. have been running within browsers since their inception. But the processing power for applications like those is relatively light. Rendering, data crunching, and responsiveness of video games (especially those that include lots of people playing together) is another story. Stadia eliminates the need for costly consoles or expensive computers. Their service means that any TV, mobile phone, tablet, or lower-end computer can essentially be more powerful than the latest Xbox or PlayStation.
The barrier to entry for those wanting to play the latest, most popular games has plummeted.
But what does this mean for brands and marketers?
One of the primary benefits of digital media has been the ability to target people based on demographics and/or activity. This pinpoint targeting can now enter what is the fastest-growing entertainment market: gaming. This market has been primarily a “walled garden” to brands and marketers. The most popular streaming platform for gaming has been Twitch (owned by Amazon). And though Twitch offers both smart targeting and impactful creative opportunities for marketing, it pales in comparison to what Google knows.
As with any emerging social platform, the most applicable brands gravitate there first. Watch any Twitch stream today and the brands you’ll see are only relevant within the gaming industry (controllers, chairs, other games, etc.). You will also see brands that sit within the halo of a perceived “gaming lifestyle” (e.g., Red Bull, Doritos).
This isn’t novel. Nor is it innovative.
It is also rooted in the stereotype that those who watch gaming as entertainment are a) gamers themselves; b) middle or high school–aged; c) without purchasing power outside of video games. No surprise: these stereotypes do not fit. It has been a challenge to show effective data to counter this stereotype. And the brands and marketers who have fostered this illusion are missing tremendous opportunities.
When smart marketers come to the realization that there is a simple precedent, they can see the true marketing potential. Simply put, the vast majority of people who watch NFL, NBA, FIFA, MLB, and the like do not consider themselves athletes in those sports. And when you have online broadcasts of these events—complete with play-by-play and color commentary hosts—you attract anybody who might enjoy watching an octane-fueled sport.
You have probably heard about the growth of eSports. Universities and colleges are creating teams and leagues. The large established leagues (like Overwatch) are selling out stadiums and drawing major investors like Mark Cuban. Traditional cable brands like ESPN are writing massive checks to compete with services like Twitch for exclusive broadcast rights. It is getting bigger by the minute.
By leveraging their massive amount of user data, storied experience scaling data centers and services, and a well-established streaming service (YouTube), Google has fired a shot across the bow of console makers and “walled garden” platforms.
Brands and marketers don’t have to think about this audience as a separate silo. Smart, effective marketing will now be able to seamlessly follow people into the eSports world in a way that feels natural to all.
And the smart marketers who have been championing this audience, countering stereotypes, and trying to convince brands won’t have to work as hard to convince brands anymore…so, my job just got a little easier.