Once long ago, it seemed like there was a single gaming culture. That’s always been a bit of an illusion, but it was closer to the reality than it is now. The big difference is not what some people might think: console vs. PC or Japanese developed games vs. Western developed games. The big difference is “young” vs. “old”.
For the “young” and “old” contrast, the reason we put it in quotes is because the “old” gamers aren’t really that old; mid-thirties, most of them. These members of Gen-Y were the first generation that grew up with games. They were the center of the marketing bulls-eye for the NES when it was marketed to kids, they maybe picked up a PlayStation as a teenager and are still dedicated gamers to this day. For many years when people thought of “gamers”, they probably though of someone from this demographic – probably male, probably white, almost certainly nerdy.
The “young” generation, aged 18-years-old and below, are those in Gen-Z and are the so-called “digital natives”. They’ve grown up in a world awash in games, they’re parents might have gamed (or still do) and access to games has never been easier. These gamers are more diverse, both ethnically and gender-wise, and their differences with the “old” generation could not be more acute.
Entering marketing or PR in the gaming space, it might be difficult for the acolyte who hasn’t necessarily been immersed in games for their entire life. It’s important for marketers to understand the differences between these generations of gamers, whether they intend to target one or both. While we’ll be talking broadly about these generations in contrasting terms, few people will fit neatly and completely into either category. Still, the generalizations are useful for demographic targeting. First, let’s establish some general play-style habits for both groups.
Many Old Gamers are Omnivorous
A gamer who grew up with games in the ’80s and ’90s is probably used to playing a lot of games of different types. From shooters to platformers to RPGs, they’ve probably beaten hundreds of games during their lifetime and experience (if not play) dozens of games each year. While there’s too many games releasing now for any one person to experience them all, they’re likely to bounce Super Mario Kart 8 to Bloodborne, depending on how the fancy strikes them and what console systems they own.
A lot of Young Gamers are Exclusive
While those growing up in the late 20th century were used to playing games with the goal of getting to the end and finishing them, many younger gamers focus on one game. The prime example of this is Minecraft, but there’s others like World of Warcraft or League of Legends that players can easily spend all their time in. A game that is infinitely replayable is seen as a boon and many aren’t looking for the next experience coming over the horizon.
Old Gamers Have Deep-Seated Brand Loyalty
To those that grew up with the NES, Genesis and SNES, there are many series which are sacrosanct. Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, Final Fantasy: these games are tied to the childhoods of so many 30-year-olds. For some, the release of a new entry is nigh unto a religious experience; even lapsed fans of a cherished franchise still perk their ears up when a new entry comes out.
Reaching these gamers, it can be useful to be evocative of these older games, or even of some newer titles (like Dark Souls or Skyrim) that has a large fanbase. One only has to go to riptapparel.com to see the potential appeal of nerd franchises applied in a clever way. It’s important to appeal in a genuine way – anything that seems fakey will be mocked and called out. Speaking to these gamers on their own terms will go very far; messaging has to be like one fan talking to another.
Young Gamers Are Entrenched in Particular Franchises
For the upcoming generation of gamers, there’s no large sense of history. Many of the games that they play and follow, like Minecraft, League of Legends or Clash of Clans, are very new. Furthermore, they maybe hugely devoted to one game, perhaps to virtual exclusivity. While this makes the obvious target more specific, it also makes it smaller.
Just like old gamers, appealing to the right brands in a genuine way can make all the difference. The important thing is realizing that something that appeals to one specific group does not appeal to another. Young gamers who play almost nothing but Minecraft are going to have different sensibilities to those that are dedicated League of Legends fans or those that are. However, it’s as much the where online as the what that can reach the younger demographic.
Old Gamers Are Used to a Changing Media Landscape
Anyone who grew up with games during the ’80s and ’90s knows that the main way to get news back then was to subscribe to an enthusiast magazine. With the Internet still in a nascent state, magazines were the best source of information for new and upcoming games. While print has fallen by the wayside, it’s successors are conventional gaming sites like USGamer and IGN, with message boards like NEOGAF being important as well.
Finding these old gamers, it’s important to be on enthusiast sites and also on the other places of the web where news can spread – Facebook, Twitter, etc. TV is also something of a thing, though that’s quickly disappearing for this cord-cutting demographic.
Young Gamers Trust Individuals
For the new generation of gamers, YouTube is truly king. Personalities like PewDiePie, CaptainSparklez, and Sky rule the roost and command a large audience. For young gamers, they see individuals as more trustworthy than a large site designed to have it’s own editorial voice. Regardless of how true that is, it’s the perception.
Because of these tendencies, it’s key to go after these YouTubers to appeal to the younger demographic. They’re very wary of conventional advertising, so marketers need to be aware that how they present their messaging is almost as important as the messaging itself. Another important component for this the nature of these videos – they tend to be on the long side and lightly edited. Replicating this style, and this can’t be emphasized enough, in a way that’s genuine can go far with this demographic.
Regardless of the age of gamers, they’re all highly dedicated to their hobby. Games command a loyal following practically unseen in non-interactive media, but players are also sensitive to anything that seems counterfeit in tone. Still, if messaging knocks it out of the park, gamers are loyal and dedicated customers.