Kim Bayley is the chief executive of ERA (Entertainment Retailers Association) the trade group representing UK digital and physical retailers in the music, video and games markets. This year, ERA joined forces with a number of leading video game publishers to launch the UK’s first ever collaborative catalogue trade wide promotion, #LetsPlayMay, which ran through the month in physical and digital retail.
The video games industry continues to expand as gaming becomes a staple of everyday life and culture. Yet, there remain a number of myths and misconceptions within the mainstream media, around the impact of gaming on the family environment and more generally.
ERA research identified that contrary to the myth of gaming being a solitary activity, 8 million UK families are in fact regularly gaming together, with grocers and entertainment retailers increasingly focusing their efforts in the gaming space, as it continues to grow. We felt it was time to celebrate the gaming environment and tackle mainstream misconceptions around gaming. Gaming is in fact a hugely positive cross-generational activity, which is accessible to all, and here to stay.
#LetsPlayMay was devised as a trade-wide retail promotion, covering 11 physical and digital retailers, offering fans access to some of the biggest selling games of the past year, under one consistent brand. The positioning, amplified through PR, social and in-retail marketing, was simple… Gaming is for everyone and this is a chance for people of all ages and experience to give it a go, with access to top content at a great price.
To engage a core consumer audience – parents and families – we harnessed the ongoing conversation around gaming and shone a light on the positive effects of gaming together. With the recent explosion of Fortnite, the debate was on fire within the mainstream media and in social parenting communities, and discussion around how gaming should, or shouldn’t, fit into the family household was rife. We made a decision not to shy away from the controversy. We undertook consumer research into the rise of gaming as an all-inclusive family activity, and looked at why parents are increasingly adding gaming to the roster of regular family activities, like cinema trips and cultural days out. Bonding, friendly competition, escapism and stress relief were all named by UK parents as the top reasons for why they game together as a family.
We selected a #LetsPlayMay ambassador, TV personality Joe Swash, as he’s father and avid gamer, and due to his resonance with the mainstream parenting audience. Joe appeared on national television and radio, and took part in national press interviews, to discuss the positives of gaming with his ten-year-old son. He talked honestly about how gaming allows him to open up conversations, during an activity where his son’s guard is down and he’s candid and relaxed. The friendly rivalry and competition provides Joe with a bonding tool, and also a way for him to impress his son with the gaming skills he’s built over years of playing himself. Joe also discussed gaming as an activity he personally uses as a form of escapism, to distress and compress after a busy day.
To drive conversation within consumer communities directly, we implemented a social competition offering families the chance to win a gaming session, with Joe. The entry mechanic opened up social media dialogue around why households across the UK love gaming together. Overall, we believe that the campaign may have encouraged parents not to be scared of a world they don’t quite understand, and instead, experience it for themselves and play with their kids in order to get under the skin of what’s so enjoyable and important about the activity.
Positively tackling conversation around such a huge debate might seem daunting, but with the combined support of the leading publishers involved in the promotion; Activision, Sony PlayStation, Take-Two, Warner Bros Interactive and Ubisoft – the #LetsPlayMay campaign delivered a united message for everyone involved.
Most importantly, the integrated and aligned trade-wide campaign met its objective of opening up the world of gaming to a broader, and sometimes lapsed and casual gaming audience. Sales data from GfK revealed that the promotion helped deliver a volume uplift of over 50 per cent on participating catalogue sales over the campaign period.
This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of demonstrating the opportunity and potential impact on sales, when a collective of – often competing – publishers and retailers can work together on a trade-wide initiative. An approach we hope to revisit in the year ahead.