This article originally appeared on Media Post.
The proliferation of gaming has transformed the psychographic and demographic makeup of the gaming community. Shedding the stereotype once attached to gamers as solitary outliers, the “casual gamer,” represents a newly emerged market segment. Meeting their need is Google’s Stadia, the first-ever cloud gaming platform, promising to lower barriers and amplify portability — anywhere and everywhere — without diminishing quality or experience.
A new type of consumer
The casual gamer has given rise to evolving need-states and desires of today’s gamers, leading to three major marketplace shifts that have impacted the industry:
1. Inclusivity without sacrifice: Lower barrier to entry
The rise of PC gaming is leading market growth and replacing the once console-dominated market, quickly pivoting PCs as the tool of choice. Companies are investing in either building games for PCs or developing cross-platform solutions.
With the major advancements in graphics and complexity consumers now get with PCs, coupled with inherent laptop portability, PCs and laptops are outpacing console performance and shifting the marketplace.
New market entrants and category leaders are lowering barriers to entry by investing in affordable options and tiered product platforms. Companies such as HP, Dell, and Acer have recently released affordable (note: still quality) options for casual gamers who aspire to play like the professionals. And Stadia will continue to lower barriers and amplify portability, enabling gamers to play on any computer or smartphone while still maintaining the full quality gaming experience.
2. Relationships outside the game: Proliferation of live-streaming platforms and communities
Increased access to PCs and games has led to the proliferation of small niche communities, giving rise to the popularity of live-streaming platforms. Gamers can now follow their favorite players, enabling borderless interactions and experiences within different gaming communities in real time. While Twitch and Steam dominate live-streaming, continued encroachment from social network competitors like Facebook and YouTube is transforming the live-streaming marketplace.
3. Powerful experiences beyond the screen: Rise of a new type of sport
As innovation continues to enable more portable systems and seemingly limitless online interactions, consumers are leveling up and seeking in-person experiences that fuse physical, digital, and fantasy. Games are moving into arenas and giving rise to a new era: esports.
In response, companies are investing in live environments for gaming, garnering crowds akin to what is seen in NBA and NFL finals, with fierce fans and competitors forming highly immersive experiences that cannot be replicated in front of a computer screen.
What was once an industry dominated by specs and tech innovation is now led by immersive brand experiences. As esports continues to grow, brands like Google will create immersive experiences at every touch point.
Brands that bring virtual worlds to life through immersive experiences in unique and intriguing ways that go beyond product are the ones that will survive this groundswell and win.
For those that don’t? Game over.