Industry Analysis – How the Gaming Industry Uses Social Media
With the games industry booming and as popular as ever we thought it would make a perfect case study for some social media analysis. Not only that, 2013 promises to be an interesting battle between the computer games console heavyweights – Nintendo, Xbox and PlayStation. With Nintendo having already released the Wii U and with both Microsoft and Sony set to launch brand new consoles ready for November, it can only mean one thing – PR warfare! Let the games begin…
The PlayStation brand launched way back in 1994 and has been an ever present figure in the gaming industry since. With Sony being one of the established elite in the sector it’s not surprising to see the amount of fans they have spread across social media. On Facebook they have a total of 34,722,020 fans positioning themselves as the 5th most popular brand on Facebook (according to Social Bakers). On Twitter PlayStation find themselves within the top 20 brands on the platform with 2,305,937 followers.
When it comes to social engagement few brands have as big as exposure as PlayStation. They use Facebook as a means of showcasing their blockbuster games titles. Over the past few months PlayStation have been teasing their audience with the latest screenshots and gameplay videos of a soon to be best seller – GTA5
Despite the huge amount of titles available for their current console it seems PlayStation only really focus their social media content on the upcoming smash hit titles rather than previously released games. You’ll often see posts about getting consumers to pre-order titles so that they make sure they’ve got their copy before anyone else. Gamers are well-aware how stores often sell out on release dates so companies like PlayStation give their fans the earliest advance possible to make sure they stay happy. For example, pre-orders are regularly being pushed already for their brand new console (the PS4), for it’s anticipated mid-November launch.
PlayStation also use Facebook as a means of keeping gamers informed of any shows they’re attending such as the likes of E3 as well as revealing as much information as possible about how their new console is going to blow the competition away.
PlayStation use the tab functionality of Facebook to help gamers get closer to their brand. Highligting upcoming events, career opportunities as well as some premium content via their podcast.
On Twitter PlayStation like to encourage gamer feedback asking their fans about their gameplay styles and target this interaction towards the blog articles on their site.
Different playstyles in Splinter Cell Blacklist detailed: http://t.co/MUrSandMKc How will you play — Ghost, Panther or Assault?
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) July 24, 2013
Another great way of how PlayStation encourages their fans to get involved is how they ask their audience for tips, which get highlighted and posted onto their blog – giving PlayStation fans recognition, enabling them to feel more part of the brand.
Playing The Last of Us multiplayer? If so, tweet your most valuable MP tip and include #TLOUMP – you may appear in an upcoming Blog post!
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) July 24, 2013
PlayStation use Twitter in a different manner to Facebook regarding new game releases. They’re a lot happier to post about all their new releases rather than just their flagship ones. Interestingly they also tie promotions of their games relating to sporting events. For example, take a look how on this tweet they use the all star baseball game to remind fans about their MLB title.
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) July 17, 2013
Before we move on to the other brands it’s important to note despite PlayStation’s huge fan base – they don’t have any of their social buttons on their main website! A rather strange choice, especially considering how much of a role they want social media to play alongside gaming for their new console. Furthermore, there’s a distinct lack of hashtag usage and there’s currently no usage of Promoted Posts.
Of the 3 brands showcased in this analysis piece, Nintendo clearly has the smallest fan base. On Facebook they have an audience of 2,264,949 fans and on Twitter it’s a little confusing. There isn’t a non-specific location account for the Nintendo brand, there’s America, Europe, UK, Japan as well as other nations. So for the purposes of making thing simple, we’ll use their UK account that has 50,790 followers (a far cry from the million mark that their competitors sit at).
One thing that has impressed us is how far Nintendo have gone in order to understand their audience on Facebook. They created a survey which asks their fans which consoles they own, what information they want to see on the Nintendo Facebook wall as well as which games and news they’re excited about – indeed a great way to get some consumer feedback!
Nintendo also give their fans a chance to catch-up on any events they’ve attended by publishing videos on YouTube and posting them on Facebook. This is certainly a more visual and enticing way to attract the attention of their fans than by simply posting images.
Nintendo also like to put a face to their wall, regularly showcasing the games producers and senior figures. Just by visiting their Facebook wall you’re greeting with a cover page with their team at a recent expo. This does help the brand to become more personal, which fits with the family and home-gaming atmosphere that they push through their advertising and it’s certainly something that their competitors don’t push as much.
On Twitter Nintendo makes thing a little more fun, using their background and cover images as advertising space to showcase their latest games. At the moment their main focus is on the real-time strategy game Pikmin 3. It’s a great initiative to appease games developers as well as a great way of adding to the buzz behind new releases.
Interestingly, you can see from the image above that @NintendoUK they clearly state they will not respond to customer queries on their wall. You might think this is a little awkward, however it does make consumers understand from the outset not to make a complaint via Twitter. It does have a negative impact potentially making their wall a little lifeless with a lack of feedback and interaction – perhaps a reason for their smaller fan base.
In terms of content, nostalgia is a current theme with the anniversary of Luigi behind used to take gamers back to previous titles that he has been featured in.
He’s the star of New Super Luigi U, arriving at retail today – but can you name Luigi’s earlier roles on display? pic.twitter.com/Q0ssnGcctA
— Nintendo UK (@NintendoUK) July 26, 2013
Nintendo do a great job of keeping fans updated with new releases, tip guides and system updates. They make Thursday’s #eshopThursdays encouraging fans to go their eshop. With so many updates and downloads constantly available, it’s an efficient way of giving fans a key date in their calendar to come back to the Nintendo Twitter wall.
A final note regarding Nintendo is that you wonder how they’ll be able to attract the attentions of gamers with Xbox and PlayStation set for huge product launch dates later on in the year.
Xbox are in the top 20 of Facebook’s most popular branded pages with 21,926,229 fans. On Twitter Xbox are in the top 40 most popular brands with 1,647, 870 followers. One thing that is particularly striking is how Xbox use their cover photo to showcase their upcoming new console release – Xbox One. They also get across their core messaging of what they want the console to become, an ‘all-in-one entertainment system’.
Xbox do a great job of presenting their brand in all the messaging, incorporating their logos, colour schemes and fonts – taking the time to design the content that they post gives the page a polished feel. They also encourage much more consumer feedback over their Facebook page than their competitors. Friday’s is usually set aside for Xbox to target gaming related questions to their audience who eagerly feed back in their thousands.
Xbox regularly keep their Facebook fans informed of the events they attend, publishing videos for fans who didn’t manage to get tickets to the expo’s and trade fairs similar to what Nintendo create. Really though, right now the key core product and messaging revolves around their new console and by constantly showcasing its ground breaking technology, they’re building up the excitement for gamers well in advance of November’s launch date. On the post below they make consumers feel part of something special as they offer a limited edition controller by reserving your Xbox One – great brand recognition.
On Twitter again Xbox do a fantastic job of using their background and cover images to show off their upcoming console. It’s really important to give consumers the feeling that they need to be part of this new experience and by reminding them through imagery across their main social channels they’re delivering an exciting and seamless brand experience. Discount codes play a bigger part amongst Xbox’s tweets than the competition – enticing gamers to download updates and expansions to various titles:
Not only do Xbox take care of their console gamers they also tailor their messaging to windows phone owners encouraging mobile gaming via their Xbox app.
— Xbox (@Xbox) July 29, 2013
This enables Xbox to attract a much wider audience through their messaging than their competitors. They’re also a lot more social when it comes to engaging with gamers, giving them recognition at gaming contests:
— Xbox (@Xbox) July 19, 2013
Comparison and Analysis:
As we can see from the graph above PlayStation currently sit at the top of the gaming industry regarding fan base on Facebook. Over the last 3 months they’ve also had the biggest increase of fans 7.6% compared to Xbox’s 2.2%. Curiously despite Xbox’s branded page being around for longer, PlayStation have managed to surpass their fan base by using their premium content such as blogcast as well as showcasing game trailers.
On Twitter the 3 brands follow the same trend with PlayStation at the top and Nintendo sitting last. This is slightly misleading as for Nintendo we’ve had to use their UK account which is just over a year old. However, over the last 3 months Xbox has registered a 70% increase in their following compared to PlayStation’s 27% – showing signs that Xbox’s interaction and offers prove to be very popular. Certainly a good sign leading up to a key period in the year.
Regarding online mentions Xbox for the month of July have outperformed their competitors receiving greater levels of feedback over posts regarding their online store offers – this is certainly encouraging alongside their follower growth. Nintendo clearly though has some work to do in order to attract similar levels of engagement.
(Key: Yellow=PlayStation, Green=Xbox, Blue=Nintendo)
Xbox’s growing follower rate can also be attributed to the fact they’re posting and getting in touch with their audience on a much more frequent basis.
It’s interesting to see how the gaming industry often look to the future regarding their posted content regarding new release dates rather than focusing on previously released titles. Pre-ordering and limited edition products also help to keep gamers on their side. Gaming nostalgia is also a great way to entice a fun debate.
It’s incredible how big the gaming audience is, with Xbox and PlayStation being 2 of the most popular social media pages on the planet. There’s such a wide captive audience available to these brands on a daily basis, getting to know them closer through surveys like Nintendo have done and ‘Find Out Friday’ from Xbox can provide useful consumer insights.
In this sector, it’s fascinating to see how Twitter becomes the go to location for directing visitors to their online stores rather than Facebook and we’ve also seen how backgrounds and cover images can showcase the team or even the latest products. Updating a cover image with your brands latest product will keep it in the mind of the buyer and is certainly worth testing out. I also really like how Xbox and Nintendo target specific days for users to come back and visits their social profiles – it’s a great strategy for delivering regular engagement and discussion on a weekly basis.
Right now there’s a lot of intrigue as to which console will prove to be most popular amongst gamers, one thing for sure is mentions will be likely to hit the roof in Q4 for these brands – definitely something worth revisiting later this year.