E3 2018: The Takeaways

By Matt Chamberlin, Senior Partner, Director

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, commonly known as E3, has been the premier gaming event in the US since 1995. In its early years, thousands across the gaming industry came to see what was on the horizon in game development. Now it is three days of gaming madness open to the public. Well over 70,000 attend in person with 2017’s show watched by 1.1MM concurrent streaming viewers (2018 data is not yet available).

Walking through the elaborate booths inside the LA Convention Center, three key questions weighed the heaviest. These questions challenged me to think outside of media norms – it’s what we as advertisers should be asking for our brands as we look to the gaming space for innovation.

Fortnite: This is a free-to-play game that makes $300MM in one month in sales?

As fans made their way into the South Hall at this year’s E3, we were met with a massive display of lights, action, and fan engagement. Was this a new game? No. Were they giving away something? No. Do I now know how do a dance called “The Floss”? Yes! (This will be important later.) This is Fortnite; the free-to-play game that has over 125MM players and runs across every platform, now including mobile and Nintendo Switch. To put it simply, Fortnite is a multiplayer third-person shooter that drops 100 players live on an island and says, “go until there’s one left.” Fortnite’s battle royale style of play is what makes it so popular and something anyone can participate in, anywhere, on any device. It’s become a cultural movement backed only by in-game microtransactions, and doesn’t show signs of slowing down.

The team at Epic Games, the developers of Fortnite, are using the speed of culture to propel their game into something bigger. Professional athletes are streaming live and talking about their games on social media.  Musicians Drake and Travis Scott famously played live on Twitch with the game’s most popular celebrity, a 27-year-old who goes by the name “Ninja” back in March. The most popular dance crazes today aren’t coming out of MTV; they’re in Fortnite (did I mention I learned how to Floss?). There are even high schoolers using the game as a platform for their “promposals” (asking each other to the prom).

What Fortnite means for brands is still up for debate. Marvel Studios partnered with Epic Games to put the Avengers’ arch rival Thanos directly into a limited version of the game for fans to play. Gamers could also buy an Iron Man themed costume to wear as they play with friends. Chipotle is now a sponsor of a professional Fortnite team.  But beyond in-game integrations, what can we do now? It all starts with live streaming.

Everything is Live:  Why get off the couch when you can watch it live?

Viral video is becoming a thing of the past. Live video is here today. Live streaming viewership is growing exponentially with gaming content leading the charge. YouTube Gaming saw a 343% increase in monthly active streamers in 2017, while Twitch, still the dominant platform, grew at a rate of 197%. Even though Microsoft’s Mixer and Facebook Gaming trail these two in viewership, they were both front and center on the E3 floor and report annual growth of 58% and 62% respectively. These platforms have established themselves as viable consumer and marketing channels that look to only continue to gain support.  Much like live sports, game streaming is appointment viewing. But unlike in the major leagues, video game fans are calling the shots. Since these are their communities, we as advertisers need to learn how to participate on their terms. If fans and streamers are now the modern-day innovators, how do brands get ahead of the trend?

In Real Life: Why does everyone have their camera out and who are they talking to?

IRL, or “In Real Life” for us newbs, is a growing category of game streaming on Twitch that begs the question: “what happens when you get off the couch and things start to get real?” It’s still fairly new; Twitch created the IRL channel in 2016 in order “to both enable and encourage Twitch’s creators to step outside of their traditional gameplay content, and share content captured from their everyday lives.”

This new form of “real life gaming” is successfully increasing online viewership – whether it’s a streamer talking her way through E3’s halls or a group of friends live streaming their reactions to this year’s biggest announcements. Over the course of E3, 6.8MM hours of IRL video was watched with a peak of 171,570 concurrent viewers, making it one of the most watched weeks in the IRL channel’s history. This aligns with trends seen during major sporting events like the World Cup, which drive appointment viewing. Except IRL viewers are watching content as if they’re participating “in real life.” For advertisers, this new way of watching content is a chance to get ahead of a fast-moving trend and truly participate with the streaming community movement. The value of that selfie stick you’ve hidden away in your closet may have just gone up.

Further Reading:
Ad Age / MarketWatch / Streamlabs