Commentary

YouGov Sails Deeper Into Esports And Gaming Research With Nicole Pike At The Helm

I am not sure that there is anything exciting about pet food. Pets are exciting, food is exciting, but specifically pet food? When Nicole Pike started working at Nielsen over a decade ago, she worked on CPG research mainly around pet food, and despite her love of research, found it uninspiring.

Then the Wii came out -- the old console famed for on-your-feet games like Wii Tennis -- and Nicole saw people who were never quite gamers before jumping (sometimes literally, since we’re talking about Wii) into more video game playing, and how engaged they were. That was inspiring.

From there an idea sparked, and she built a robust career (my words, not hers) while at Nielsen for 13 years working in gaming research, expanding their gaming research and practically founding their esports vertical.

“Why esports and gaming?” I asked Nicole, as she was one of the earliest to jump into this burgeoning industry.

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“Aside from the general rise that everyone talks about, I truly believe that the way people watch a lot of esports and gaming content now,” she explained, “namely digitally and with interactive elements, is the future of entertainment -- that’s where it’s headed. On top of that, these industries have practically become new social networks and I believe all the trends will continue to go that way.” 

This is not the first time we’ve heard about a focus on the unique social appeal of the gaming world -- Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney has referenced the “metaverse,” a term coined by Neal Stephenson’s famous Sci-Fi book, Snow Crash. This means that Epic’s hit game "Fortnite" might not be just a game, but also a new world for social interaction -- living two lives in a physical and a digital world as parallel universes. Fortnite’s in-game concerts, movie events, and more certainly back up these ideas.

While at Nielsen, Nicole became a familiar face among esports insiders as she sliced and diced important data and was one of the first to popularize one of the only relatively reliable metrics in esports: average minute audience (AMA). “AMA is as close to TV ratings as you can get and it’s also the best you can get while also maintaining consistency across game-streaming platforms.”

Unfortunately, however, AMA doesn’t stretch farther than that. While flashy Peak Concurrent Viewer numbers are eye-catching, methodology questions arise about time frame, how many channels were debuting the same content, what time those peaks were reached across those channels, and more. 

In the middle of June, Nicole left Nielsen to take up a position at YouGov as the Global Sector Head of Esports and Gaming -- a position uniquely created for her, it seems. “Is it fair to consider your hiring as YouGov’s official commitment to revolutionize data in esports and gaming?” I asked. “Absolutely,” she replied. I asked her to tell me why she chose YouGov, and what excites her so much about the opportunity. 

“Although YouGov hasn’t made a concentrated effort in esports, their sentiment data (data that reflects panelists’ feelings toward particular brands, ideas, etc.) coupled with their existing robust metrics on traditional sports will enable a true comparison between esports and traditional sports, and that is thrilling to me,” Nicole said. “Previously, YouGov’s work in the gaming and esports space has been very custom, but if we can synergize that work with the syndicated data, we can show that esports is just as exciting as traditional sports. One of the best parts for me,” she added, “is that YouGov is trusting me to do it.”

During her first week at YouGov, Nicole shared a chart tracking daily sentimentality change about Mastercard (Mastercard is particularly well integrated with "League of Legends," the world’s most popular esport) with esports fans, prompting excitement among insiders, and for good reason. I can’t remember ever seeing data updated daily in esports. 

Aside from the obvious significance of that information, which showed massive brand growth in esports for US "League of Legends" esports fans versus the US population, it’s also exciting new data that doesn’t just repeat a lot of what we already know about esports fans: they are male, 18-34, somewhat affluent, and enjoy technology. 

“Soon I’ll be sharing this same kind of data comparing esports fan and NBA fan sentiment for Allstate -- stay tuned,” she said. “Esports moves so fast that YouGov’s adaptable data sets and high-speed collection also appealed to me. Games like "Valorant" (Riot Games’ new shooter game) didn’t exist two months ago, and so YouGov uniquely has the ability to capture data starting off on the small scale as games and trends get bigger. Collecting this data fast is also key because marketers no longer want to know only what happened in the past -- but also where the trends are going six months down the line.”

In addition, Nicole explained, her work with YouGov will focus on revealing more info for brands and marketers on the effectiveness of their activations in esports. “Clients want more than just a fixed data set -- with YouGov, we can provide them with daily, fast, robust insights that they can manipulate using YouGov’s advanced dashboards and visualization tools.”

YouGov also collects global data. With esports being such a global phenomenon, what’s not to be excited about?

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