Media Innovation Round-Up: women in gaming, Gucci Roblox & 5G foosball

The Drum 27 May 2021 12:00
By Marek Wrobel-May 27, 2021

Once a month, Marek Wrobel, Havas Media Group's head of media futures will guide readers through the best shiny, new tech in the sector. He'll look closely at the trials and tribulations of the pioneers and spotlight where marketers should be paying attention.

Marek Wrobel vigilantly tracks emerging media tech for Havas Media Group. And once a month for The Drum, in the Media Innovation Round-Up, he explores ‘new and shiny’ tech and its role in the ever-evolving marketing mix. This month, it’s gaming that’s getting him excited.

Game over for gaming stereotypes

Female gamers are more likely to be found playing puzzle-based games on mobile. They represent around half of gamers in the ten largest gaming markets.

But sadly, many marketers still believe in a very outdated stereotype of a typical gamer. However, after a quick look at data from Ofcom, we can see that UK gamers are a diverse bunch, no matter how you look at this audience. Furthermore, there is no one type of gamer. Using a magical rule of three, we have power gamers, mainstream games and casual gamers.

But what about female gamers? Based on Ofcom data, 48% of 5- to 15-year-old girls played games online in 2019, increasing from 39% in 2018. Furthermore, when we look at gaming revenues, while it’s still men generating the majority of them, growth is coming from female gamers. And lastly (thankfully) we are seeing more female games developers – last year the figure stood at 28% compared to just 11.5% in 2009. Good news, but of course there’s still a lot more to do.

Female players can be found across the whole gaming ecosystem, and thankfully some brands have not only noticed this, but also acted on it. I hope there will only be more of this, as it looks like the future of gaming is in fact female.

If you haven’t heard about it, then do ask your kids (or your friends’ kids) about it. There’s a high chance they know about it, as 67% of Roblox’s users are under the age of 16. Recent research looking at kids’ spending habits revealed that in 2020, for the first time ever, digital games claimed the top spots and Roblox was #1, leaving old favorites such as sweets, books and magazines dropping down the pocket money spending charts.

And brands are starting to take notice. Lil Nas X had a record-breaking concert held in Roblox, Netflix created virtual items for the launch of the new season of Stranger Things, Ready Player Two was promoted by a bespoke event including a Q&A with the author, and Liverpool launched free in-game items and outfits. With an audience that’s so hard to reach anywhere else and older audiences also embracing the platform, along with the level of creativity that brands can tap into, I think Gucci’s activation is a great example. Other marketers should pay close attention to Roblox and the opportunities it offers.

Each generation of mobile communications had a killer application or use case – whether it was phone calls on the go for 1G, text messages for 2G, internet connection for 3G or video on the go for 4G. The jury is still out on what it will be for 5G. My bet? Rather predictably, augmented reality. And I believe live sports coverage will play an important role in making it happen.

As cool as this is, I know many cynics still consider it gimmicky. However, 5G will make it possible to create AR experiences that add value and transform sporting events. One of the best examples of what will soon be possible is Verizon’s activity during Super Bowl LIV. Spectators were invited to a purpose-built mini-cinema, which was equipped with 5G phones offering multiple 5G-powered experiences and AR stadium navigation, as well as AR overlays with players’ stats, different angles to view the content and even volumetric replays. I don’t know about you, but I think this looks like a game-changer – pun intended.

O2 and Vodafone have agreed a deal to trade bands to create more efficient blocks of 5G spectrum. With exactly two years to go until the 5G launch in the UK, what’s the latest on the 5G roll-out?

Launching 5G requires updating the existing network, as 5G operates using millimetre waves which, while offering better data capacity, struggle with penetrating objects, so need a network of small cells. All of this is expensive and time-consuming. However, UK mobile networks have made good strides with 320 towns and cities having 5G coverage. But the 5G network can’t be accessed without 5G-enabled phones.

It takes time for a new generation of mobile communications to build penetration. Based on historic data, it takes on average around four years for a new one to cross the 50% mark. However, recently published global data shows that 5G is outperforming these forecasts. According to industry trade organization 5G Americas, as of December 2020 there were a total of 229 million 5G subscriptions. That means 5G adoption is proceeding at a pace four times faster than 4G.

And last but not least, the use cases. I really like this quote from the World Economic Forum admitting that “many of the benefits probably aren’t yet apparent to us. At the dawn of 3G and 4G’s adoption no one could have predicted the new business models that grew on the back of mobile broadband”.

So, what about the use cases for 5G? The best way to think about them – one that I learned about while I was virtually attending CES earlier this year – is ‘better on 5G’ and ‘only on 5G’. To be completely honest, right now we are looking mostly at ‘better on 5G’ use cases, which are very often doable on 4G, but 5G will offer a much better experience. As for ‘only on 5G’ – well, there are some test-and-learn projects, but we need to be patient.

Read my last round-up here. If you’d rather get my weekly video briefings (they’re short and sweet, I promise) get on my mailing list here. And remember to sign up for The Drum’s weekly Future of Media briefing here – you’ll see me in there from time to time.

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