Last week I headed to Birmingham with the Bidstack team for the biggest annual gaming event in the UK, Insomnia64.
Growth in the gaming industry has continued apace since last year’s event and I was interested to see how these strides have influenced the way the event was planned and delivered. Here’s six trends that stood out for me at this year’s festival:
1. Brands are doing it right
The gaming industry continues to grow year on year and recent announcements from Amazon and Google demonstrate how brands are waking up to the possibilities that the gaming space can offer. It’s therefore no surprise that new brands are beginning to fight for a piece of that pie and Samsung’s involvement at Insomnia64 was a perfect example of a brand making positive efforts to reach the ‘unreachable generation’ through gaming. Samsung have been making moves to enter the gaming space for some time with recent ads targeting Fortnite players and new phones with longer lasting battery lives being released specifically for gaming.
All of which is nice, but is it enough to gain the trust of gamers? Probably not. The gaming community is unique and those within it have their own preferences and loyalties when it comes to the gaming hardware they use. In other words, when a brand delivers a new product with improved features, it doesn’t necessarily mean that consumers will automatically flock to them and switch – it comes down to trust.
That said, Samsung went a step further at Insomnia64. Firstly, they were one of the few brands that participated in the UK’s biggest gaming event, giving them an obvious edge over other brands. Secondly, and arguably more importantly they did more than just slapping their logo on every space available, instead they showcased their gaming gear and allowed people to play their favourite games on impressive, high-quality monitors. Interacting with gamers and learning about their interests in this way is precisely how brands will succeed in the gaming space.
2. Gaming is for everyone
One of the unique things about gaming is the fact that it is appropriate for all ages and i64 didn’t disappoint on this front. At the Apex Legends section of the festival, I saw a young boy gaming with his father against another team. In the Nintendo section, a young girl was trying out Yoshi’s Woolly World, whilst her grandfather was playing Super Smash Bros right next to her. I even saw on older couple trying out the new Vive VR headset and they couldn’t stop laughing with one another.
Insomnia64 continues to be a great representation of what gaming really is about, bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together, whether it’s online or in real life. After all, out of the 32.4 million gamers in the UK, 23.1 million are aged between 6-64! Of course, the famous ‘pub-quiz’ at the festival which is considered by some to be the main event is for over 18s only as it usually involves, well, a lot of alcohol. As a result, some of the attendees will have to wait a few years just yet until they can join in!
3. Nintendo is still leading the way
One of the most intriguing things about this year’s event was the impact and influence Nintendo continues to have on the gaming industry. Their area was by far the largest and busiest zone at the expo (excluding the influencer meet up sections). The dominance of Nintendo at the event is easy to understand given the brilliant, fun, creative games the company have created for the Switch, with the likes of Mario Kart 8, Yoshi’s Woolly World and Super Smash Bros proving to be big crowd pleasers. The games are not just genius in terms of their gameplay, but they are also visually pleasing, meaning that the gaming experience is enhanced.
The Nintendo section included a tournament zone, where people competed with each other on their favourite games, a huge screen (visible from anywhere in the expo room) displayed live gameplay from various games being played out by the public, and a section where people could casually game and try out their different titles. Nintendo’s representatives did an amazing job of keeping everyone entertained by handing out merchandise and commentating on the gameplay on the big screens which really enhanced the experience for both the gamers and the viewers.
4. The growing influence of influencers
Queues for days… It was fascinating watching fans queue for hours and hours to meet their favourite influencers, who they follow everyday on YouTube and Twitch. The impact these individuals have on their fans can’t be underestimated. Having the opportunity to meet their heroes in person and have a conversation with them (even a short one) can leave a big impression on these young fans. The power of influencers is huge and growing, which can be both a positive and negative thing.
Some influencers have used their popularity in the wrong way in the past, leading to negative reactions from the gaming community and damage to their reputations. So it was heartening to see influencers like Syndicate (shown above) using their voice to spread positive messages and discuss important issues that some of their followers may have been facing. Leveraging the power and reach of these influencers makes a lot of sense for brands looking to promote their services and products but they should do so carefully.
5. The rise and rise of esports
It wouldn’t be a gaming event without a little bit of competition, would it? From College esports to Arena Clash Finals, Insomnia 64 had something for everyone. Of course, esports as an industry itself has been on the rise for a number of years and the influence on the way leading events like this one are held was clear to see. The competitive element added excitement to the festival and it was obvious that the audience were anticipating the esports tournaments the most out of all the activities on show here. Brands are realising the potential opportunities that esports has to offer, given the level of support it has from audiences all around the world. So it isn’t surprising that brands like Coca-Cola, Samsung and Mercedes have started to invest time, money and resources into it already.
Studies suggest that the attention spans of young people have become shorter in recent years and the fast-paced nature of esports may explain why some young people are beginning to attend esports events ahead of more traditional sports. At the Overwatch Arena Clash Finals, the audience seemed to actively enjoy the fact that each game lasted between 5 to 20 minutes on average. The shorter game length meant that it was hard not to focus on the action without missing a good move from a player or their team.
6. It feels like VR’s time
Virtual reality has failed to meet the expectations of many gamers until now, however, the general feeling about it at i64 was different. People were queueing for hours to experience gaming virtual realities and new technologies seem to be helping VR brands to achieve what they originally aimed for – to change gaming forever. Of course, there is still a long road ahead for this to happen but things certainly seem to be heading in the right direction so watch this space!
All in all, the Insomnia experience was a very positive one. It’s obvious that the gaming industry is heading in the right direction, with brands now providing even more legitimacy to the area. Of course, brands wanting to promote and advertise their services in gaming need to understand the unique interests of gamers and ideally become more involved within the community. The industry provides the opportunity for brands to innovate and differentiate themselves from their competitors – all they need is a little creativity and a lot of dedication.