Commentary

Gaming Evolution Into the Tune-In Realm

Guess what? I bet you haven't heard this before: Adults under 34 years old are watching less and less traditional, linear TV. Although national TV is still the reigning champion for reaching audiences in the United States, it is falling off with younger audiences.

Aside from live sports, which has maintained its status as the most-watched programming on television, TV viewing is dwindling for many generations Millennial and younger.

That’s because OTT platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Roku are taking all of them over to streaming, right? Yes, but that's not the full story.

Video-game streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube are attracting adults 18-34, and even younger, to events online. In the same vein, video games themselves, like "Fortnite," created by Epic Games, are becoming social hubs for connecting with friends and for discovering unique and new content pertaining to the world outside of "Fortnite."

For example, back in February, "Fortnite" held a virtual concert in-game for popular electronic dance musician Marshmello. For 10 minutes on a Saturday, anyone who queued up to play "Fortnite" was instead portaled into a condensed version of the battle arena, equipped with a holographic version of Marshmello and a “live” DJ set.

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According to Epic Games, 10.7 million players were pulled in to the event, and the YouTube recap, as of February, had more than 27 million views in addition.

That number doesn't even count all the people who probably watched their favorite content creators on Twitch and other platforms experience the event live. Players could buy a custom look of Marshmello for $15 in-game, and a $55 sweater in real life. As a result of the event, Marshmello’s music was searched and listened to 241x more than usual.

Talk about a revolutionary advertising and publicity tactic.

Now, "Fortnite" has done it again. On December 14th at 2 p.m. EST, in preparation for the hotly anticipated "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker"(Episode IX), "Fortnite" teamed up with Disney, owners of Star Wars, to hold a similar in-game event. For a limited period of time, JJ Abrams, critically acclaimed director of the new movie, appeared as a custom "Fortnite" avatar of himself and spoke to fans all across the world of "Fortnite" after walking out of an in-game rendition of the Millennium Falcon. Visitors then got to see a brand new teaser clip of the movie, which aired only for this "Fortnite" event, and were then gifted lightsaber weapons to use in-game. In addition, players can buy custom Star Wars inspired outfits for their characters, using real money, of course.

For the first time, "Fortnite" and Star Wars did something even more unique than the Marshmello concert, a precursor to this kind of event.

The Rise of Skywalker in-game event is a perfect example of tune-in advertising. Six days prior to the release of the new movie, Disney and Star Wars went to their audience through "Fortnite" rather than expecting their audience to come to them, and reached countless consumers that they would not have otherwise reached through traditional methods.

The main takeaway is this: companies like Disney are using game hubs like "Fortnite"to execute tune-in campaigns -- not just because Star Wars fans are nerds, like me, but also because it's a viable way to reach millions of younger consumers. They delivered players a unique experience, littered with promotional materials, and catered to their interests.

This is advertising and marketing done right.

Paying attention to the trends, focusing on authentic connection with target audiences, and creating one-time events that get mass publicity, both in real-time and in coverage through multiple other avenues (streams, video recaps, and articles like this one).


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