Marketers need to be aware that the gaming industry in South Africa is made up of women. If they consider only the stereotypical audience, which is male-dominated, they might miss out on a whole new audience that makes up this industry. This is a new audience — maybe even a bigger audience.

The new gamers of today are very diverse, and targeting these individuals is going to take a whole lot of research. Luckily for you, dear marketers, we’ve taken out the guesswork!

We gathered insights into the gaming sector from the author and founder of Tech Girl, Sam Wright, to find out what it’s really like to be a female gamer.

Here’s what she had to say:

What advice can you give women and young girls who want to get their foot in the door of this male-dominated industry?

You need to be prepared for some of the sexism you'll be met with. The South African gaming and esports community has become far more diverse and open, but even now, years on, I still experience sexism at varying levels from brand managers and decision-makers. It's far less than what it was but it is still there.

Understand that as women, we sometimes need to face this and shouldn't be scared to stand up to it is really important.

My advice would be to know your strengths, work on your craft and never accept that it is just what it is.
It took me a long time to find my voice, but refusing to conform to antiquated ways of thinking is really important. I've found the general esports and gaming community far more open to diversity and educated around the gender bias that can sometimes exist.

So, hopefully, we'll see the change filter to the top. There is a horrible narrative that it is easier for marginalised groups now, but that isn't the case. As women, we tend to have to work 10 times harder to ‘prove’ ourselves and I hope that changes. With more women entering the space, the shift is already beginning.

What does this future of marketing hold for esports?

Esports, in South Africa, is a niche form of gaming. Something I think is important to explain from the get-go — there is a difference between competitive gaming (esports) and casual gaming. You have highly skilled and competitive gamers who want to test their strengths against other players at their level.

They're an always-on digital audience that is fiercely loyal to their favourite games, players, teams and the brands that support them — even if the core group of players and fans are still relatively small locally.

Marketing is targeting a new generation of young consumers who have grown up with technology and [are] playing games online with friends and competitively. They're highly engaged in these communities and, as marketing looks towards experience-based content that drives emotion and engagement, I think esports is a prime space to take advantage of. As more internet access rolls out and — hopefully sometime soon, cheaper data prices — this audience will only grow.

What can marketers learn from the esports and gaming industry about how to reach their younger target audiences?

Most people liken esports to traditional sports and I think this can diminish the very real marketing lessons we can learn from esports. Competitive gaming has shown that it’s possible to create new and innovative ways to communicate with your audience.

An esports event is usually broadcast for free on various streaming platforms, with the option for revenue coming from subscribers or advertising offered by those platforms. A tournament broadcast can include product placement, branded highlight clips or even addressing the talent in front of the camera.

Teams or individuals can be sponsored, and there is an opportunity to create bespoke in-game content and branding in certain game titles. While there are so many spaces to market it, the core lesson marketers can learn from this industry is that it is important to identify your core demographic and find unique opportunities that are customer-centric, authentic and that create an experience the consumer enjoys.

Successful marketing in the esports and gaming industry focuses primarily on amplifying the younger audience's passion or experience — whether it be playing the game or watching competitions — as opposed to pushing ‘key messaging’ down their throat.

The esports and gaming industry has realised that traditional models seen in something like sport don't necessarily work for a younger audience and have adapted accordingly.

What can marketers do to stay at the top of their content game?

Working on esports broadcasts as a commentator or presenter means, I'm regularly at different events. And new events give me fresh storylines and player narratives to share. It allows me to regularly supply fresh and different takes to my community.

For marketers, my biggest lesson from my own esports experience would be to focus on telling stories or sharing experiences that interest your audience first, and worrying about promoting second.

How can marketers in the gaming industry build up their followers on social media?

It has become somewhat of a cliche now, but honestly, be authentic and focus on a conversation rather than turning your social profiles into bulletin boards of announcements. Engagement always boosts followers and engagement comes from authentic conversations.

Do you think it is important for marketers in this industry to utilise YouTube?

I think every platform has a place and potential for engagement with the target audience. Video content is extremely popular and I do think YouTube plays an important role in the gaming and esports industry.

But, I don't think it is a must use platform for every single brand — success has been achieved by other marketers who simply ran a Twitter account. It really comes down to the quality of the conversation you're creating.

What other esports platforms can marketers consider to reach their audience?

From an esports perspective, Twitch and Discord are definitely two platforms where you'll find these audiences. I think a lot of esports content and influencers are still extremely active on Twitter as well, so it is worthwhile investing some time in investigating these platforms.

Do you think South Africa’s gaming industry has a place for influencers?

Without a doubt, there is definitely a space for influencers in the South African gaming industry. However, I don't think an influencer has to be a Youtuber, Streamer or traditional content creator.

We have some of the best FIFA players in Africa who would make incredible influencers or even experts in the fields of broadcasts — like a shoutcaster — can also become influencers and share messaging that resonates with their audiences.

I'd love to see the South African gaming industry create a space for more diverse influencers as well.

Do you play any online or video games? Be sure to let us know in the comment section.

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Hungry for more? Then be sure to check out The rise of mobile gaming marketing here.