Guest Columns
5 mins read

Digital-first audiences are looking for a wider range of content and formats to engage with

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While the pandemic may have inadvertently caused an explosion both in gaming and online video consumption, both trends look set to continue in 2022 and beyond. More than half of consumers in the UK (52%) spent between 30 minutes to three hours watching short online video content every day according to our own research from last year. Streaming platform Twitch experienced rapid growth in 2020, approaching three million monthly viewers worldwide.

But what’s perhaps more interesting for brands and marketers than the growth in these two audiences, is the ever-increasing convergence between them. Gaming companies are providing massive multiplayer online environments, which digital publishers like TheSoul Publishing are producing more and more content for. There are concerts happening in Fortnite and new virtual artists being created and launched in Avakin Life for example.

So why is this overlap happening? Firstly, it’s becoming more apparent that gaming enthusiasts are blurring the lines between audiences.

Gamers are no longer the geeks in their parents’ basement, with gaming now very much being a mainstream phenomenon. Both of the audiences are not only growing and maturing but are also becoming much more demanding. They expect to be able to interact with their favourite content anytime, anywhere through any platform they choose.

Digital-first users

When you consider gaming enthusiasts, most are digital-first users. They want to engage and consume their content through new digital-first formats such as Twitch, YouTube, and other social media channels that give them multiple opportunities to engage directly with their favourite streamers, players, games, and brands.

These new habits have also driven an increase in the number of partnerships between creators or digital publishers and gaming companies. Publishers and developers are exploring more TV tie-ins (and vice versa) such as Scopely with Wheel of Fortune: Free Play, or JamCity with its Family Feud tie-in to Cookie Jam. Both went beyond the historical co-branding/licensing opportunities and focused on more of a dedicated user experience.

As time has passed, partnerships have also begun to go beyond an actual product or brand and have even started to include gaming personalities. In the recent film Free Guy, high-profile gaming streamers, Jacksepticeye, Ninja, Pokimane, DanTDM, and LazarBeam all appear as themselves in the film providing “commentary” as part of the film’s storyline. This crossover highlights the changing tastes of a traditional movie-going audience, and the power influencers or personalities have in drawing a wider pool of demographics.

Keeping content universal creates a diverse and engaged audience

One of the major trends in gaming is looking at how to further access the relatively untapped female audience. When we look at TheSoul Publishing’s audience breakdown in the United States, we have a 70% market share of the female audience between the ages of 18- 34. Gaming is trying to aggressively move into the same market now and content provides the ideal hook for cross-pollination.

It’s also important to allow the user to interact and engage with your content through different mediums. At TheSoul Publishing, we’re not just on YouTube. We’re on Facebook, Snapchat, and Tik Tok as well as our own websites and applications. We are in China and on some of the social media platforms there too. Once the user identifies that you deliver added value to their lives, they should be able to engage with you on as many different platforms as possible. Providing engaging, uplifting, and value-added content that is tailored to different demographics and geographics will keep users or fans in the ecosystem.

Tapping into a hybrid audience

We’ve seen recently that gaming-related content on social media has one of the highest engagement and follower rates. It’s an area that we are creating content for and that will grow over the forthcoming months and years. 

Successful games, especially those featuring free-to-play mechanics, need a lot of content to drive both player retention and user acquisition. Due to their own organic and authentic style of content, influencer partnerships are becoming an important element to help companies increase their visibility and brand equity through multiple social video channels and allow for themed in-game features.

It’s clear that the line between gaming and other areas of digital entertainment is becoming increasingly blurred with entertainment companies now competing for users’ “screen time” above everything else. This was made apparent in 2019 when Netflix said its greatest competitor was Fortnite. Game companies are no longer just competing with each other, due to the ever-growing crossover, they now also need to contend with all the other areas of digital entertainment for attention. This is actually as much of an opportunity as it is a threat.

Based on our own experience at TheSoul Publishing, we’ve experimented in this new hybrid audience space, launching several videos in Avakin Life (a 3D open world with 200 million-plus downloads on mobile). It’s helping us to understand how to maximize added value for our fans because we can now see that the viewership rate and duration of viewing of our videos inside the game were comparable to what we see on YouTube. Importantly, it shows us that users are willing to stay in-game while consuming different media.

A huge opportunity

The cross-over between gaming and digital publishing is hugely exciting because it presents us with new ways to innovate and grow our audience. It’s a space to watch and we will continue to see publishers and brands experimenting in the gaming space to deliver the type of content their various audiences are looking for. This is a strong indication that audiences are willing to explore new ways of consuming content and that viewing it on alternative platforms does not negatively impact engagement or retention. In-game content consumption is here to stay and therefore the opportunities for cross audience pollination and media consumption are huge.

Patrik Wilkens
VP of Operations
TheSoul Publishing

TheSoul Publishing  is an independent digital studio that produces entertaining, positive and original content for a global audience. One of the world’s most prolific and popular online media companies, their globally based creative team continuously and consistently delivers engaging and irresistibly shareable content for all ages — in 19 different languages — distributed via a social media-driven cross-platform network.  From handy life-hacks to clever craft projects, from head-turning beauty tips to brain-twisting puzzles, TheSoul Publishing’s portfolio of media brands emphasize the positive and the purely entertaining. Their most-viewed channel, 5-Minute Crafts, is the No. 1 DIY digital brand in the world and ranks among the Top-10 of all YouTube channels with over 72M subscribers.