Commentary

Data Illumination In Gaming And Esports

In mid-May, I participated in a BIA-Kelsey Webinar on Gaming & Esports alongside Beasley Media Group, owner of Houston Outlaws Overwatch team and more, and two data providers, Comscore and MRI-Simmons.

I presented an overview of the gaming and esports landscape, and explained their differences -- which are critical for any advertisers and ad agencies to understand when beginning to look at these spaces for marketing opportunities.

My fellow panelists focused on viewership metrics and the television-gaming crossover. After the webinar, I asked the dataists what the most revealing insights they have gathered are, and how they properly and accurately capture gaming and esports fans, separately where appropriate.

Everyone knows a few things about gaming and esports fans at this point -- that they are young, male, more affluent than the national average, and  more inclined to be techie types than not.

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Back when I worked at Simmons Research (pre-MRI acquisition), I worked with Ben Paro, who was on the panel representing MRI-Simmons, director of Esports & Gaming Insights, to overhaul the esports and gaming data to glean key insights into the makeup of gaming and esports consumers, which is their speciality.

While I knew what brought MRI-Simmons into the space, I was interested in learning more about what triggered Comscore to invest further aside from the usual idea of a burgeoning industry, given that their data is best known for measurement and viewership metrics. 

To get a better sense of what brought Comscore in the fray among leading data companies investing in this new research, I reached out to CRO Carol Hinnant, one of the driving voices behind Comscore’s gaming and esports push.

"First of all, our internal data showed us that gaming has become a major segment within video, and we specialize in premium video measurement," Hinnant said.

In 2018 Comscore began to focus on OTT data trends, Hinnant said, "and by March 2019 we reported that overall OTT consumption outpaced total time spent viewing on DVR -- and far surpassed time spent on set-top-box VOD. The near double-digit growth in time spent on gaming consoles was a major factor in this trend,” Hinnant said. 

Hinnant's qualification of video games as part of the video ecosystem has been echoed by others, and I agree with their view. To many, the gaming ecosystem is one of the great video opportunities so far relatively untouched by marketers.

This is mostly due to two factors: first, until the advent of major platforms like Twitch and YouTube, ads could not be placed around gaming content, and second, advertisers have difficulty putting their feet in the water without proper, comparable metrics to traditional digital and TV measurement.

The second reason behind the company's push, Hinnant said, is that "Comscore already owns measurement of digital and TV. If we can help build and master the measurement of gaming and esports, we can complete the picture of video metrics that will be translatable across Comscore’s portfolio for other agencies and brands."

A recent, insightful article on the esports observer detailed this issue -- typical metrics like unique viewers and average minute audience, while flashy numbers, can’t be easily compared to other key advertising metrics to give marketers a holistic view of their media strategy. 

And while peak concurrent viewers is great for illustrating the popularity of a competition, it does not help illuminate sponsorship opportunities for impressions across an event or tournament. 

“We announced our partnership with Twitch in March to incorporate their platform into our digital audience measurement to allow our agency, brand and publisher clients to understand and compare Twitch performance metrics against all digital video metrics,” Hinnant explained. “This is a key first step to providing insights into gaming platforms -- and what consumers are doing on those platforms -- as a whole.”

While companies like Riot Games have partnered with Nielsen to make viewership data of their esports scene around "League of Legends" more intelligible, most other gaming-related companies have not yet developed transparent metrics around a crucial aspect of the gaming and esports ecosystem -- game-specific data.

Anyone familiar with the esports and gaming ecosystem knows that not all esports and games are major hits. While it’s relatively obvious that "League of Legends" is the world’s most popular esport (and potentially the most popular video game in the world), advertisers will need to be able to discern which games and esports scenes in particular have the best opportunities.

Hinnant echoed this point in a framework connected to traditional TV and OTT that I had not thought of before: “Advertisers want to buy TV at the program level with content that reflects the best value in terms of audiences for their brands. Comscore’s goal is to bring more transparency to the measurement of esports and gaming.” 

With any luck, Comscore’s endeavors, along with MRI-Simmons’ and Nielsen’s, will help in particular to strengthen the esports ecosystem, which is in desperate need of viewership metrics comparable to those in the rest of the video ecosystem.

All signs point to esports’ continued popularity, but it can only scale so far without proper measurement. 

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