Gaming Marketing: Trends to Stay Ahead of the Game in 2020

The gaming sector is arguably one of the most fast-paced industries out there. A constant stream of new game and technology releases, accompanied by new ways of playing, new events and new audiences means the world of gaming never stands still. But what of 2020? What does this new year, and new decade, hold for the gaming marketing industry? 

From our research, we’ve found 7 key topics to consider for 2020, these include:

  • Cloud gaming
  • Mobile gaming 
  • Virtual reality 
  • Esports 
  • New monetisation models
  • Social channels and influencers
  • The rise of women in gaming

Read on to discover how these trends are set to shake up the world of gaming, and how you can stay ahead of the marketing game…

Gaming goes on-demand 

In 2019, anticipation around cloud gaming reached fever pitch, with lots of new technologies set to change the way gamers game forever. Microsoft previewed Project xCloud at June’s E3 convention, while Google launched its cloud gaming service – Stadia – in November after its Founder’s Edition sold out in a matter of weeks. 

In 2020, with Sony’s PlayStation Now, Nvidia’s GeForce Now and a host of start-ups also entering the cloud gaming race for supremacy, consumers will be exposed to a range of services. But how will cloud gaming change the way gamers purchase and play their games? We’ve broken it down for you:

  • New subscription servicesCloud gaming companies are experimenting with full-price game purchases and subscriptions but people may find they need to subscribe to multiple services to play every game possible.
  • Making use of 5G – By 2022, the cloud gaming segment of the overall global gaming industry could represent between 25% and 50% of 5G data traffic (source: Openwave Mobility).
  • New in-game advertising models – As online gaming grows with the cloud, there’s no reason why in-game advertising couldn’t work in a similar way to other forms of online advertising. Take Bidstack, the ad company who take real world OOH ads and places them in video games.
  • The ultimate cross-platform gaming experience – With cloud, gamers can kick things off on their TV at home and keep up with the action while travelling to work on a mobile or tablet.

Want to know more about the future of cloud gaming? Download our guide ‘Gaming Marketing 2020: Trends to Stay Ahead of the Game’.

Small screen heroes

Thanks to an increase in cross-platform titles and improvements to mobile hardware and mobile internet infrastructure, including the rollout of 5G networks, mobile gaming was the global gaming market’s largest segment in 2019, growing +10.2% year-on-year (source: Newzoo). So, what does the future hold? 

  • A brand-building opportunity – More gamers means more potential customers. Mobile gaming and in-app environments will be an increasingly attractive arena for brands and advertisers looking to reach just about any demographic.  
  • Social joins the game – Facebook has introduced a gaming tab for streaming content. Snapchat has launched its own gaming platform and Google recently launched Stadia, creating potential streams of advertising revenue and creating new opportunities for marketers in the process.
  • Tackling negative headlines –  Going forward – as the mobile gaming industry grows and controversies around mobile gaming addiction continue – the industry will need to reassure existing and potential gamers that it has their best interests at heart. Brands will need to respond to any best practice framework or legislative changes that might be introduced.

Gaming just got real

The development of virtual reality headsets such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift, and more recently Oculus Quest, has certainly helped bring VR into the mainstream. Meanwhile PlayStation, Nintendo and Valve are all helping to shrug off its niche categorisation. You only have to look at the hype surrounding the 28 February 2020 release date of Marvel’s Iron Man, which will be available on PSVR, to see that the consumer appetite for virtual reality is there. At the same time, barriers to entry are being removed thanks to low-cost headsets, like the Google Cardboard. 

Here’s the VR stats you need to know for 2020:

  • It’s estimated the global VR gaming market will be worth $22.9B by the end of 2020 (source: Statista).
  • There will be 216M augmented/virtual reality gamers by 2025 (source: Gaming Scan).
  • 75.9% of consumer entertainment content creators in the augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies space say VR has had a very or somewhat positive impact on their business (source: XR Industry Insight 2019-20, by VR Intelligence).

Related Read: AR in Marketing: The Latest and Greatest

The new sport on the scene

The consensus amongst gaming marketers is that esports is one of the gaming sector’s biggest marketing trends for 2020. Indeed, Newzoo predicts that, by 2021, there’ll be 297M global esports enthusiasts, and a further 347M casual viewers (source: Newzoo). So, millions of esports fans are watching intently, meaning there’s a great opportunity for brands to get some airtime. Especially non-gaming brands who can profit from event sponsorships, influencer collaborations, social content on streaming channels and more. So, what should marketers do to make the most of this esports phenomenon? 

  • Get strategic with esports sponsorships, supporting players, teams or leagues. 
  • Engage esports fans and players by releasing specially designed esports products. In 2019, K-Swiss did just that with their One-Tap trainers which sold out within an hour of their launch. 
  • Introduce new esports events and tour them around the world. Across their various global events, Red Bull have achieved over 2M peak viewers, 283 hours of airtime and have clocked over 5M hours of viewership – all great exposure for the brand (source: Esports Charts).  

Want to find out more about the rise of esports? Read our latest guide on the gaming marketing trends of 2020! 

Paying to play

In-game monetisation might be a huge source of revenue, but it’s likely developers will need to come up with alternatives following well-publicised concerns around loot boxes. This form of random reward sees players purchase a digital grab bag with no idea as to what might be inside, causing many to view it as a form of gambling. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Belgium banned loot boxes in 2018 and, in 2019, top console producers Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony announced a strict loot box policy to be introduced in 2020. 
  • Entertainment Software Association’s initiative to disclose loot box odds is launching by the end of this year. 
  • Game-gamer relationships should be built on trust. Transparency, in particular around micro-transactions, will go a long way in 2020.

The social media game plan

There are so many channels out there, each with their own pros and cons when it comes to engaging gaming consumers. So what of 2020? Well, here’s some key stats to help you with your social media strategy:

  • 3.7M streamers a month consumed video game content on Twitch in 2019, so Twitch is still a top player when it comes to streaming (source: Twitch Tracker).
  • A staggering 2.8M comments are posted on Reddit daily making it a great place to engage with your gaming communities and get customer feedback (source: Digital Trends).
  • According to GamingScan, 39% of gamers find YouTube content most useful when making a purchasing decision, with 30% looking to customer reviews and 20% turning to streaming. 
  • Influencer collaborations are still the way forward. Hershey’s ‘Best Duo’ video, a collaboration with influencers Ninja and Dr Lupo, saw impressive results. 70K viewers watched the entirety of the mashup livestream (source: Influencer Marketing Hub).

Related Read: Gamers: Marketing to the Fastest Growing Consumer Tribes

It’s game time for women in gaming

More and more brands are recognising female gamers as an important audience. Indeed, there’s a real feeling that, in 2020, the tide is turning, with Edelman calling it ‘the year of women in gaming’. So, how can brands reach female gamers in a way that feels authentic? 

  • As part of their diversity programmes, brands need to factor in women. For example, EA has pledged its continued support of the HeForShe movement.
  • Brands should take actions to embrace diversity, but they must act on their promises if they’re to be trusted by consumers. Take inspiration from Google; the development of their Stadia platform is being led by Jade Raymond. 
  • The representation of women in games also needs to change. Luckily, many brands recognise this and are tackling the situation through female-first games like Wolfenstein: Youngblood and Gears 5. 
  • The average gender split of mobile gamers is 49% male to 51% female, so it’s clear that female mobile gamers are a key audience to connect with, especially as mobile gaming continues to rise in 2020 (source: Tech Crunch).
  • Gaming communities are spreading across the internet, like Women in Gaming and Team Kitty. A great way to engage female gamers is to provide them with opportunities to meet other gamers in an inclusive environment. 
  • Brands should support female esports events, teams and competitions in the same way that they’d approach male esports activity. In 2019, big brands like Logitech G, Alibaba Cloud and Sephora sponsored Girl Gamer, a notable esports competition which toured around the world. 

We hope this brief look into the state of the gaming sector in 2020 has been insightful! For more stats, facts and tips on the trends changing the gaming marketing industry, make sure to download our latest guide ‘Gaming Marketing 2020: Trends to Stay Ahead of the Game’.



Natalie Thomas
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