Gamification and Esports: The Next Wave of Brand Assets

Tatiana Tacca, Director of Esports, Momentum Worldwide

Tatiana Tacca, Director of Esports, Momentum Worldwide

As COVID-19 profoundly impacts every sports & entertainment property and how audiences spend their time, gamification and its intersection with gaming & esports may become a solution for multiple brands looking to make their impact in an unprecedented time. 

However, with the loss of live experiences, including gaming conventions like E3 and esports finals like League of Legends Spring Split and ESL Pro League, gamers are losing tentpole moments that serve as valued and rare experiences for this community to come together and celebrate their passion points. The impact of these cancellations is huge: look no further than the atmospheres and rapt attention at live esports experiences to understand how cherished each event is for the community.The flexibility and digital nature of esports means that major esports leagues are still continuing with online-only matches in a landscape when major sports were forced to shut down completely. This provides an exciting opportunity for brands to fill their own marketing voids through the gaming space. 

So as esports leagues and live gaming content continues, there is still a gap where audiences will crave the element of interactivity – the ability to engage directly with their favorite character IP, attend matches, meet players, and feel closer to their passion points. Gaming publishers, leagues, teams, and brands now have the opportunity to innovate and redefine live experiences through the digital space.

The Value of Gamification and Sponsorships 

Gamification can be one of the key tools to evolve the brand’s role in sponsorship from a simple media asset into a value-driving live experience. According to a study conducted by Momentum Worldwide, 58% of people surveyed say they want to be part of an experience to escape from everyday life. What this statistic tells us is that there is a need and a want for next-level engagement across the board.

  ​Gamification can be one of the key tools to evolve the brand’s role in sponsorship from a simple media asset into a value-driving live experience 

There’s serious whitespace that virtual and digital events can capitalize on. It’s the chance for brands to become game-changers by enacting new, innovative ideas on transferring the value of live events to the online world.

Gamification Overlays with Live Streams

Looking at live streaming platforms like Twitch, YouTube Gaming, Mixer, and Facebook Live, these platforms already offer significantly more interactivity and engagement than consuming content through TV. Live chats, real-time subscriptions/donations, and clickable buttons adjacent to the streams all allow for a deeper engaged experience, and with that, offers more customization for gamification experiences. But the asset with the biggest potential is the interactive overlays, which has already driven fantastic examples of gamification in the esports & live gaming content industry. Examples of this include:

● Twitch viewers could vote in real-time during the live broadcast of the Game Awards on who they thought would win on key categories. This was then integrated into the content with occasional callouts from the live stage.

● Porsche partnered with Twitch to unveil their new electric racing car by having Twitch viewers vote to guide engineers through a live maze on the stream.

● While notable Fortnite influencer, TimtheTatman, was streaming on Twitch, Hershey’s had clickable images of their classic Reese’s eggs pop up over the stream, which included a leaderboard with live rewards.8

While these executions are definitely driving new innovations of how we can interact with content, I would argue that we’re just scratching the surface of integrating gamification through content. The possibilities are endless as long as the esports industry remains flexible and willing to try new initiatives. From a brand perspective, that is a pretty exciting notion. 

Rewarding for Loyalty, Viewership & Engagement

The esports industry has been particularly progressive around rewarding users for their hours spent viewing and watching content. For instance, several publishers offer in-game rewards to viewers of their esports leagues. Riot Games took this concept into a deeper gamified model, with specific “watch missions” that users could partake in. 

As esports continues to grow and new concepts are developed, there is an opportunity for marketers to explore this continual evolution of rewarded gamification, and brands can take a central role in this growth through their sponsorships. As esports fans are continuously looking for exclusives and brag-worthy items – whether it’s custom emotes on streaming platforms, unique skins in games like Fortnite and League of Legends, or limited-time merchandise from their favorite esports teams – there will always be new ways to up the ante. 

The Triumphant Return of Experiential & Gamification’s Role

Esports & gaming is an always-on industry, with continuous events scheduled throughout the calendar year. While gaming joined the rest of the entertainment industries with cancellations and closures, the hope will be to look towards the exciting events in Q3 and Q4, including TwitchCon, PAX West, BlizzCon, and several esports finals. With that, gamification becomes a key tool to drive deeper KPIs in activations. 

The experiential opportunity in esports is still among the industry’s major whitespaces: 50% of esports audiences are only “somewhat satisfied” with brand activation at gaming events, despite the fact that 81% of esports fans have or are willing to invest time and money by traveling to these major tentpole moments. Because they have to travel, they’re looking for opportunities that extend and amplify their entire experience and deepen personal engagement with their passion-points. Gamification can be a perfect fit – whether brands explore communal activities with achievements, live competitions, rewards for engagement, and more.   

What’s Next?

It’s no surprise that agencies, brands, and companies alike are all scratching their heads at what to do around new event restrictions. Gamification is going to play a huge role in the transition of these events. Deeper engagements with your audiences online can create memorable experiences with increased levels of engagement and help fill the void left from live experiences.

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