Note: This piece was written before the onset of COVID-19, and has been published with the hope and intention of gathering together as like-minded, social individuals once this horrific pandemic comes to an end.
When video games first stepped on the scene, some 50 years ago, there was a social aspect to them, because you had to go to the arcade to play the latest game. People gathered and friendships were forged as the arcade became the entertainment destination.
Fast-forward decades, and the in-home experience has supplanted the arcade. We now mostly play and communicate over the internet versus in person. But the pendulum is about to swing back, towards a hyperlocal destination experience.
Fellow marketers: if you haven’t yet, you need to ready yourselves to leverage this opportunity.
Gaming continues to expand globally as technology matures, while at the same time growing roots on a local basis to bring back social opportunities that gaming once afforded. Gamers gather locally and regionally on a youth, amateur, and professional basis, similar to how traditional sports athletes recreationally play and compete at a city, district, or state level. This will be furthered by the opening of more local gaming centers and esports arenas.
Together with fans, gamers will gather in their communities to learn, watch, play, and compete for the social experience, and to see how they measure up competitively against other gamers. Like the arcades of yesteryear, gaming will have a new out-of-home destination filled with in-person social engagement, pulling gamers out from behind screens.
Forward-thinking developers, publishers, and third-party vendors will see the value in this upcoming hyperlocal entertainment source, and develop in-person, onsite activities to enhance the experience. With increased occasions for people to connect, brands also have the opportunity to add value, and become a relevant part of these new moments by creating meaningful experiences.
Once this fully takes root, the pendulum swing will be in full effect, and gaming will see another major evolution. The result will be like what happened decades prior when a new generation went to the mall not only to check out the latest clothes, music, and movies, but also to play games and connect with one another.
Some might contend that Gen Z and the following generation, Gen Alpha, having grown up in an era where gaming was not about the arcade, but rather a graphics-rich and connected in-home experience, doesn’t value or care about the foregone social experience provided by arcades.
Focused on creating experiences that inspire extraordinary memories in the minds of a brand’s current and future customers, our experience tells us this is not true. There is a fundamental human need and desire for meaningful social connection, real face-to-face time with one another.
On the one hand, the advancement of technology has eroded some of this connection but on the another, it has created a phenomenal opportunity for brands to champion this by being at the center of the conversation. This new future is now — and as marketers, we are privileged to be part of history in the making.