The Business of Gaming – how storytelling & community building can bring monetary success

25th Jan 2023


We’ve all heard of video games like Minecraft, Mario Kart, and Fortnite – over the last few decades, they, amongst a range of other games, have become an integral part of today’s culture with a colossal following across the globe.

Not only are there over 3 billion people playing video games worldwide, but the industry itself has been notoriously gaining popularity in the mainstream media and, more importantly, becoming a sector that’s arguably unchallenged at growing loyal communities around their products.

There are some surreal examples within the industry – brands that have mastered the art of appealing to their target audiences and monetisation. Where you have free games that are available across all major platforms (mobile phones, consoles, and PCs) that are racking in billions by selling vanity in-game items (which some call the predecessors of NFTs, for example, CSGO weapons skins).

Just think about how crazy that statement is. These companies earn BILLIONS in profit by growing highly engaged communities around their FREE-to-play games. And, often, the only incentive a person has to spend money, is because they really like the game and not because they need to pay to access the content. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all games & businesses, but if these examples aren’t perfect case studies for monetisation and community building – what is?

Even though the negative sentiment that video games are a massive ‘waste of time’ remains – there is a lot, we as marketers, can learn & adopt from the way the business of video games is done. From humble beginnings to being a daily part of a lot of people’s lives – let’s take a look at what marketing lessons we can learn from the gaming industry.

Storytelling is king

As you may know, the value of storytelling in marketing has been proven repeatedly. However, the gaming industry experts are especially good at it. Granted, they have the benefits of delivering narratives in a more immersive and interactive way – but, what about engaging people in a written, visual, or auditory way?

Stories have a lot of power – they can engage, teach, and even tap into people’s subconsciousness. Utilising storytelling is a great way to creatively convey information, allowing the customer to imagine your product or service in their life.

Listen to your audience

Most best-selling games have taken years to develop. Even still, problems and glitches arise. It is the responsibility of the developers to listen to the feedback from their community and make the required changes.

Some of the best developers always try to remain transparent & approachable. You want your community to trust you and feel like they can bring their ideas to the table. An upcoming update is going to be delayed – say so. New features are being introduced – ask for feedback. Struggling to decide how to celebrate Christmas – ask your customers what they would like.

This is a business practice that everyone should be inspired by. Trial and error. Listening to your customers. Staying on the pulse of your industry. This is especially relevant to marketing in terms of strategy development, which isn’t a one-off task. It requires adaptation to meet the ever-changing consumer’s needs, as well as remaining relevant and compliant.

So, keep an eye on what your followers are engaging with and think, is my current content strategy still working?

Good product + community = sucess

The gaming industry isn’t just popular for the games, they are also known for the passionate communities they’ve built.

Games are entertaining and compelling, which naturally creates plenty of discussions online (especially on platforms like Reddit, Discord, and Twitter). As a result, it produces large pools of people, connecting millions of individuals with a shared interest. People get a feeling of belonging. The perfect recipe for a community.

How can we apply this to marketing?

  • You can create social media groups or pages. Use this opportunity to communicate with your engaged users – answer questions, reply to comments and make each person feel seen. Groups are a great way to get to know your audience on a more intimate level. Use this opportunity to deliver value and make the members feel like they are a part of something exclusive!
  • Focus on publishing community-driven content.
  • Similarly, you could create a membership site with exclusive content and forums that are only available to members.
  • Engage on other platforms that make sense for your business. Ensure a page/profile is set up to moderate the discussions.
  • Create a Discord server where users could directly interact with company members, not only the social media team.

Take full advantage of the theory of gamification

In most cases, the key purpose of a game is to entertain. It’s often achieved by creating goals (or missions) to achieve, that provide a reward upon completion. This cycle creates the ‘want’ for the user to return to the game as a form of escapism or to experience the satisfaction of dopamine that comes from achieving a goal.

This concept, also known as gamification, can be also applied to marketing. The goal is the action you want the customer to carry out, and the reward is the incentive you give to the customer for carrying out the action.

A common example of gamification is loyalty programmes where customers get points after every purchase which can be redeemed in-store or online. Other examples include pop-ups where users can ‘spin the wheel’ and win various prizes.

This method has been proven time and time again for being an effective way of achieving marketing goals. Why not look at some of your favourite games and see what inspiration you can get to improve your brand engagement?

Learn from the gaming industry and kill your marketing game

The gaming industry has taken the world by storm because of its effective storytelling and development of new technologies. However, just like any other business, they have a product and customers to take care of.

There are many overlapping techniques that marketers can benefit from looking at the gaming industry and use these learnings to inspire future marketing efforts.