The Role of Social Media in Gaming Industry

Are social media and gaming connected? Digital communication comes in many forms, but not everything is social media. Social media means websites or apps where people share content, interact, and exchange messages collaboratively. The key is the focus on shareable content and social interaction, making it more engaging and collaborative compared to other platforms.

Social media is crucial for the gaming industry for a few key reasons. It allows game makers to directly connect with players, share updates, and get feedback, building a community around a game. This connection boosts player engagement.

Social media lets gamers share their experiences and opinions, essentially giving free advertising for games and encouraging others to try them. Social media is widely used for marketing in gaming. Companies can run ads, announce new releases, and partner with influencers to reach potential players.

So, media influence on video games is strong, but how?

The Role of Social Media in Gaming Industry

Historical Perspective

What is gamer social media? Before the widespread use of social media from 2003 onwards, there were early platforms that laid the groundwork for digital communities. In the early days of the internet, bulletin board systems allowed users to connect and share information.

Prodigy, America Online (AOL), and CompuServe were early online services that gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s but faded out with the rise of affordable dial-up internet.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was a text-based instant messaging precursor, and AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and MSN Messenger emerged in the late 1990s. These tools paved the way for convenient communication from home, foreshadowing today’s smartphone communication.

The first true social media networks emerged with SixDegrees in 1997, based on the idea of the six degrees of connection. LiveJournal, launched in 1999, allowed users to create personal blogs and share posts. Friendster in 2002 supported various media sharing and event discovery but eventually struggled to compete with later social media giants.

MySpace, launched in 2003, became a global phenomenon between 2005 and 2008, offering features like music embedding and customization. Despite its popularity, MySpace couldn’t keep up with Facebook, which surpassed it in monthly visitors in 2008. Other platforms like Habbo, Hi5, and Bebo also launched around this time but didn’t achieve the same cultural impact as the dominant platforms that continue to dominate the industry today.

Modern Social Media Platforms

Even though numerous social networking sites and online gaming communities have faded away, there are still plenty of options for today’s users. Social media is no longer just for the younger generation, as these platforms cater to a broad demographic. The most successful ones are now widely used, attracting businesses, celebrities, and everyday users.

  • LinkedIn (2003): a professional-focused platform where users connect for business networking. Users must agree to connect, and features like in-platform messaging and job boards help professionals build their networks.
  • Facebook (2003): one of the most well-known social networks with around 2 billion monthly users. Originally for college students, it expanded rapidly and offers features like friend connections, photo sharing, content creation, and community pages.
  • YouTube (2005): a video-centric platform with over 2.5 billion monthly visitors. Users can subscribe, create channels, and engage through comments, livestreams, and the “Community” feature.
  • Reddit (2005): known for its text-heavy format, Reddit allows users to upvote or downvote posts, create subreddits, and share various content. It emphasizes community involvement.
  • Twitter (2006): popular for microblogging with a 280-character limit per post. Users follow others to see their tweets, fostering public engagement. Recently acquired by Elon Musk, undergoing changes including a new paid subscriber system. Rapidly losing capitalization and active users. 
  • Tumblr (2007): a microblogging platform popular among younger demographics and fandoms. Users create and follow blogs, sharing text or multimedia posts.
  • Pinterest (2010): a photo-centric platform allowing users to bookmark and organize images into themed boards. Users can follow and share each other’s boards.
  • Instagram (2010): originally for photographers and artists, it has become popular across all demographics. Users can like, comment, and save posts. Instagram also introduced features like Stories and Reel for short videos.
  • Snapchat (2011): known for short-form content and temporary messages. Users can add text, effects, or drawings to pictures or videos. Recently introduced an AI chatbot called My AI.
  • Discord (2015): emphasizes voice calls along with written communication. It has developed community management features. Popular among gamers and smaller communities for setting up private servers.
  • TikTok (2017): a rapidly growing platform for short-form videos. Users can like, comment, save, and share videos. The platform employs an AI algorithm for a curated user experience.

As you can see gaming and social media are pretty connected. The growth and popularity of online mobile games make you question “How profitable are they?” And we have a whole article dedicated to this topic. Marketing in video games is always changing because technology makes games more accessible. We’re just starting to understand the vastness of gaming beyond virtual worlds, and this will grow even more in the next 20 years.

Social media is relatively new, but it keeps evolving as users change how they use it. In Asia, trends like livestream shopping and using regular people for brand promotion are already popular and are becoming more common in the U.S.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will likely become a bigger part of social media, with chatbots and smarter algorithms. While businesses use gaming social platform to connect with customers, some users may prefer simpler platforms like Reddit or Discord, feeling there’s too much focus on buying stuff.

Influential Social Media Platforms in Gaming

Facebook and Gaming Communities

Facebook and Gaming Communities
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Twitch: Live Streaming and Gaming Culture

Twitch Live Streaming and Gaming Culture
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YouTube: Gaming Content Creation

Youtube gaming content creation
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Some of the social media gaming platforms in this list are outdated, but who are we without our history? 

  • GameSpot

GameSpot is an American website about video games. It was started on May 1, 1996, and provides news, reviews, and other game-related info. Users can also write their own reviews and post on the site’s forums. It’s been owned by Fandom, Inc. since October 2022.

  • GOG Galaxy

GOG GALAXY is an app designed for easy game downloading and installation, with added useful features. It’s user-friendly, keeps your games updated, provides fast download speeds, allows pausing/resuming, and, crucially, ensures thorough protection against file corruption during downloads.

  • Origin – Replaced by the EA App

Also known as EA Desktop or Origin, is a social media for gamers and game industry for buying and playing video games on Windows and macOS. Origin for Windows was replaced by the EA App in October 2022, while the macOS version remains the primary way to play EA games on that platform.

EA Desktop has social features like profiles, chatting with friends, and streaming on Twitch. It also connects with other social networks like Facebook, Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Nintendo Network, and Nintendo Account. In 2011, EA aimed to compete with Steam by adding features like cloud game saves, auto-patching, achievements, and cross-platform releases. As of 2013, Origin had over 50 million registered users.

  • PlayStation Network 

Introduced in November 2006, PSN was initially designed for PlayStation consoles but later expanded to include smartphones, tablets, Blu-ray players, and high-definition televisions. If you play games on your PlayStation, check out the PlayStation Network. It lets you invite friends to games, chat, and buy new games. However, for chatting, platforms like GameTree or Discord might be easier than the somewhat outdated PlayStation Network.

  • Xbox Live

Launched on November 15, 2002, for the original Xbox, the Xbox network, previously called Xbox LIVE, is a service by Microsoft Gaming for Xbox users. It allows multiplayer gaming, digital media delivery, and features like inviting friends, chatting, and buying games and DLCs. However, if your friend is on a PlayStation, you can’t chat directly through the built-in apps and need a third-party messenger.

Marketing and Monetization Strategies

Marketing and Monetization Strategies

Brand partnerships and influencer marketing

Gaming social media and search ads on platforms like Google work well for brands, while TV and radio struggle due to younger people preferring streaming. Brands should explore other platforms for marketing.

Esports, especially gaming, is growing, with revenues surpassing $1.1 billion in 2020. Big brands like Nike and Coca-Cola sponsor esports. Companies like Bumble, Lenovo, and Louis Vuitton have unique partnerships in gaming.

In-game ads, especially blended ones, boost brand awareness effectively. Brands can use advanced technology for targeted ads in games. Examples include Mastercard in the League of Legends Summer Split and Gatorade in basketball games like NBA 2K19. Samsung and Vodafone also successfully placed ads in virtual environments in various video games.

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, KFC Philippines made a creative island with a restaurant, challenging players to find Colonel Sanders for a chance to win real-world food. The Getty Museum surprised players by making its famous artworks available in the game, allowing them to decorate their virtual homes with masterpieces.

Ads in video games reach millions of players during gameplay, and even more people watch these games online. Twitch, the biggest streaming service, had 3.8 million broadcasters and 1.44 million average viewers in March 2020. YouTube Gaming reported 461 million hours watched in April, and Facebook Gaming saw a 238% year-over-year increase, totaling 291 million hours watched.

To authentically promote your mobile game, consider mobile game influencer marketing. Partner with influencers on platforms like YouTube and Instagram, leveraging their large following to boost your game. This approach adds authenticity and broad reach to your marketing.

The benefits include targeted outreach to specific gaming audiences, enhancing credibility, and potentially getting more downloads. Choose influencers aligned with your game’s genre and values, collaborate for authentic content, and communicate clearly for a successful partnership.

Advertising and revenue models

Monetizing a game isn’t one-size-fits-all, but in 2020, in-game mobile advertising is gaining popularity, surpassing in-app purchases. The US market for in-game ads is predicted to exceed $3 billion, with mobile contributing 47%. Rewarded video ads are on the rise, with a 400% increase, driven by player demand for free content and rewards. Publishers report improved retention rates with opt-in ads.

Candy Crush, after four years without in-app ads, is now embracing them. In-app purchases (IAPs) still generate significant revenue, especially for certain game genres. AdColony’s survey shows video ads and IAPs are top choices for monetization, with rewarded and interstitial video ads being effective.

While some note IAPs stay below 5%, others report a shift in player sentiment towards ads, wanting more. Brands are seizing the opportunity, with 77% targeting in-game ad inventory. A vast market exists, with 5.19 billion mobile users globally and 204 billion apps downloaded in 2019.

Balancing IAPs and ads, a hybrid model is gaining popularity, with a 50% increase in adoption, as per Google AdMob data. Wooga, a game developer, successfully combines in-app purchases and ads in their game June’s Journey. Their goal is to make rewarded video ads contribute 30% to the overall revenue without hurting the user experience.

In-game purchases and microtransactions

The challenge for many publishers is finding the right balance – too many ads can drive users away, while too few ads can impact monetization. Wooga addresses this by integrating ads into the player’s experience, making them part of the routine. Players view around 2.5 ads a day in June’s Journey, contributing positively to user engagement. Wooga’s strategy aims to create an expectation among players for ads, making it seamlessly integrated into the gaming experience.

Hyper-casual games, known for their simple mechanics and addictive gameplay, dominate the app store. Despite driving lower revenue per user, they are immensely popular. If you’re a hyper-casual game publisher, ad monetization, especially with new ad formats, is the key to success. Successful game makers seamlessly integrate ads into the user experience. Explore tools for in-game mobile advertising and monetization on our App Annie page for a trial.

The Role of Social Media in Engagement of Players

The Role of Social Media in Engagement of Players​

Community building and interaction

Soft launch for games provides valuable data for game development, but community building is equally crucial. Here's a simplified guide to fostering engagement during a soft launch:

  • Identify your core audience and engage in niche communities for focused communication.
  • Create forums for players to share experiences and respond actively to their input.
  • Host livestreams, Q&A sessions, or contests to maintain player interest and encourage user-generated content.
  • Craft a welcoming onboarding experience with exclusive rewards for early access.
  • Introduce features like guilds or chat options to foster interaction within the game.
  • Share gameplay snippets, behind-the-scenes content, and encourage players to share their experiences on social media.

By prioritizing community building during a soft launch, you gather valuable data and cultivate a dedicated player base ready to support your game upon its full release. Engage with early players, build a thriving community, and propel your game to success!

User-generated content's influence

User-generated content (UGC) is unpaid content created by customers like reviews, photos, and social posts, boosting brand credibility. In gaming, UGC is crucial for its role in creating limitless gameplay experiences. Players contribute to the narrative, enhancing player retention and engagement.

Embracing UGC benefits game developers by extending game life and quality without excessive costs. Involving the gaming community in development builds brand loyalty and advocates. Studios that embrace UGC gain a competitive edge in the saturated gaming industry, making it a must-follow trend for success.

Gamification and social connectivity

The future of gaming engagement is bright, with increasing gamification, diverse gamers actively playing, viewing, creating content, and socializing. The industry is attracting increased marketing focus and budgets. According to NewZoo’s latest report of social media and games analytics, based on the 2023 Global Gamer Study, reveals four key insights:

  • Gaming Engagement Today. 79% of the online population engages with video games.
  • Cross-Platform Players. Nearly 50% of gamers play on multiple platforms.
  • Spending. In the last six months, 57% of players spent money on video games.
  • Brands. Players respond positively to brands and discover new ones while gaming.

Understanding gamer attitudes and behaviors is crucial in this competitive landscape, making access to current data and trend insights essential for success.

Trends and Future of Social Media in Gaming Industry

The gaming industry and social media are in a perpetual tango, each influencing the other’s rhythm and pace. Here’s a glimpse into the current trends and exciting possibilities for the future:

trends and future of social media in gaming industry

Current Trends:

  • Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming hold court, offering players real-time engagement, community building, and revenue opportunities.

  • Platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels are seeing a surge in gaming content, with bite-sized clips, trends, and challenges creating virality and attracting new audiences.

  • Discord servers, social media groups, and in-game chat features are fostering thriving communities, driving organic promotion, and providing valuable feedback.

  • Gaming influencers wield immense influence, shaping tastes, promoting games, and driving revenue through sponsorships and endorsements.

  • Social media platforms are integrating esports tournaments and highlights, blurring the lines between spectator and participant.

The TikTok Revolution:

TikTok’s rise is particularly redefining gaming engagement. Players showcase their skills and creativity through short clips using AR filters and VR overlays, making even niche genres like rhythm games visually captivating. Game-based challenges, dance routines to in-game music, and creative interpretations of game mechanics are driving virality and attracting new players.

Bite-sized narratives woven through gameplay footage resonate with younger audiences, creating a new avenue for game promotion and lore exploration. TikTok’s personalized algorithm exposes users to diverse gaming content, potentially uncovering hidden gems and niche genres.

Social media gaming industry case studies and success stories

Case Studies and Success Stories

Social media integration in games isn’t just for marketing; it’s a game-changer for building communities and achieving success. Check out these inspiring case studies:

Fortnite: Community & Events

  • Memes, dance parties, and creative modes build a strong community.
  • Concerts and movie premieres create unique experiences, boosting social media engagement.
  • Partnering with streamers amplifies reach and attracts new players.
  • Encouraging fanart and cosplay fuels organic promotion.

Among Us: Viral Success

  • Easy for friends, perfect for streaming and sharing.
  • Social deduction aspect spawns memes, igniting viral marketing spread. You know that something is serious when it spawns memes. 
  • Popular streamers boost visibility and create a “want-to-play” effect.
  • Mobile release ensures wide accessibility, fueling the social media fire.

Impact of Social Media on Indie Games

  • Direct connections with target audiences on platforms like Twitter and Steam forums. Crowdfunding is a key to indie game creation. 

  • Engaging content attracts attention and positive word-of-mouth. For example, there is a channel on Instagram about making an MMO game – The game’s development is funded solely by its creators and fanbase, and the creators are attracting new fans by making art and previews of the game. And it’s a pretty common thing to promote an indie game in such a way. 

  • Communities around early access versions foster valuable feedback and player investment.

  • The average indie game budget is usually made of social media campaigns that mobilize communities for funding projects. If you need to know more, read our other article about indie game monetization. 

Social media is indispensable for game developers. Learn from these case studies, use effective strategies, and social media to bring your game to success.