Claire Nance, head of Global Industry Marketing and Communications at Activision Blizzard Media, has made it her mission to dispel the outdated and inaccurate stereotypic image of gamers as teens in basements.
“[I] help brand marketers and advertisers understand the opportunities to activate within the gaming space,” Nance explained. “My role is to help educate the industry on gaming and break down some of the misconceptions about it.”
There’s a lot to educate on: The industry delivered $249 billion in revenue in 2023 and is projected to reach $300 billion by 2026. Recent growth has been driven by mobile games, such as Activision’s Candy Crush. The average age of a gamer? Thirty-five, and 48% of gamers are women. All of that is great news for brands hoping to market to this growing audience.
Ahead of her panel at Ragan and PR Daily’s Social Media Conference, Nance shared how a player-first experience is crucial to authentic and immersive connections, the creative ways brands are incorporating marketing placements in VR and gaming experiences, and the breakthrough she’s hoping for in 2024.
Gaming has long been at the forefront of community building in virtual reality and in virtual spaces, especially in MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. How do you nurture those communities?
Nance: Gaming is a very immersive experience. One of the things that we see especially at Activision Blizzard, is the power and the strength of gaming IP and the fandom [around] titles. [Players] develop a really strong emotional connection because playing makes them feel relaxed or it gives them a sense of achievement or adrenaline and excitement – and it also offers a way to connect.
Community within gaming exists both on the platform and off the platform. In [Call of Duty or World of Warcraft], you have it within the game itself where you jump on with your friends and you’re working together as a team. But you also have connections that happen off platform in communities on Reddit, Twitch, Discord, gaming forums and other places where people want to talk about this thing that they’re passionate about.
And this comes down to this idea around passion. We see that even with a game like Candy Crush, which for the most part is a solo player experience. But a community is still being built around it—it may just not be within the game platform itself.
Talking hypothetically for a moment, do you see Web3 and its potential for a decentralized structure affecting community governance in those spaces?
One of the things about games is that it is often the precursor for future technologies, the first entry point that sets the scene for the future technology. A lot of the examples that folks were giving when they were talking about the metaverse [already existed in] gaming. If you want to start to think about, ‘What will the metaverse look like?’ Or: ‘How should I activate in the metaverse in the future?’ Look at how brands and people are [already] interacting in gaming spaces or virtual worlds.
It’s often raised around e-sports in particular. You mentioned collaborations and partnerships, and in the gaming space there’s opportunities for brands and content creators to participate and interact within VR or virtual spaces.
Absolutely. For brands or anyone that’s interested in getting involved in the gaming space, one of the things we always say is to have a player-first mindset. Everything you do should be a positive experience for the player. What that means is no spammy popup ads or awkward product placement. Any kind of activation in that space needs to be authentic to the environment and ideally additive to the player experience. That can be in-game boosters or awards [in Candy Crush] or advertising opportunities within Call of Duty where there might be actual billboards with real life products that help create a sense of immersion. Having [the player] at the core of the experience is really going to help you guide you, whether it’s on mobile, console, or huge, beautiful, bespoke activations.
You called it player-first, but a positive user experience is global. On to one of the hottest topics: do you see any uses for AI, especially generative AI, in the gaming space?
The current opportunity is around optimization, and how [it can] free up more time, brainpower, thinking energy. Of course, anything that makes it easier, faster, better to create games, because making a popular video game is really difficult, both in terms of the actual development of it, but [also when] introducing new IP. It’s not easy to get folks to feel an attachment [to a new franchise] compared to games that have been around for 10 plus years. The other piece is looking at access, and how can we reduce some of those barriers to entry, whether it’s through access via device or access via gameplay, so that more people are playing.
What is something you’re hoping to see in the coming year?
What excites me most is less [about] the technological developments and enhancements. There’s always lots of exciting things happening in that space. [Instead] it’s what I hope will be a shift in the way we talk and think about gamers, the gaming industry and gaming in general. I think we’re ready [to] have a more sophisticated understanding of who the gaming audience is [and] how powerful and impactful the gaming landscape is.
Join Nance at Ragan and PR Daily’s Social Media Conference on March 27-29. Nance will speak alongside communications leaders from Dropbox, Alaska Airlines, Hyatt, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Wendy’s and more.