Sci-fi film and video game studios find the way into the mainstream via social media
How can film and video game studios cater to their audiences? Columnist John Donnelly III shares how social media insights can deepen your understanding of your audience and their preferences.
When you think about the persona of a video-gamer or a sci-fi movie buff, you may draw up images of the stereotypical “Star Wars” die-hard, the Trekkie and the video game nerd.
However, film and game studios have found that wider audiences have grown increasingly receptive to their content. Using social media analysis, developers, studios and others in the media and entertainment industries can highlight more than just the kinds of people watching their movies or playing their games.
By gathering social intelligence and analyzing the interests, affinities and conversations of people discussing their content, game developers and filmmakers can inform plotlines, marketing strategies and even the technical elements of their products to bring them in line with their audiences’ expectations. Marketers in any industry can do the same by leveraging social data on their target audiences.
Sci-fi films appealing to younger audiences
Science fiction’s shift into the mainstream hasn’t gone unnoticed. The success of “The Martian,” the latest “Star Wars” movie and other films in the last year suggests people of all ages and interests have made room for sci-fi.
However, this larger market opportunity for film studios doesn’t automatically create more revenue. Filmmakers need to understand the kinds of content that will appeal to their audiences and the best channels and strategies for publicizing the release of new content.
Using social media, film studio executives can see that people discussing prominent sci-fi movies are 247 times more likely to also discuss high school. Moreover, they’re 44 percent more likely to discuss Snapchat.
Between January 1, 2013, and September 8, 2015, people aged 17 and under and between 18 and 24 accounted for 37 percent and 30 percent, respectively, of social discussion related to sci-fi movies. Previously, the 35-and-above age group dominated sci-fi conversation on social media.
So, what does this signify?
Knowing the appeal of sci-fi films to high school-age students is the first step to marketing directly to this newly identified demographic. Leveraging the intelligence pulled from social data tells film studios that marketing sci-fi films on Snapchat may attract more viewers than on other platforms.
The niche element of sci-fi fans still exists to an extent. Many of the people actively engaging with other sci-fi fans on social media discuss sci-fi-adjacent topics, such as graphic novelist Alan Moore, comic books and prominent sci-fi franchises.
However, the social data demonstrate the possibilities inherent in casting a wider net with the sci-fi genre and the marketing and advertising campaigns designed to generate interest.
PC gaming coming back to life, thanks to multiplayer games
For years, Xbox and PlayStation dominated the gaming industry. However, PC gaming has made a significant comeback since 2014, when hardware sales reached $21.5 billion — more than double that of consoles.
Game developers trying to broaden their product portfolios need to understand how to proceed into PC gaming to develop titles their audiences want to play. Social intelligence tells video game developers precisely what kinds of games generate the most buzz in an increasingly crowded and dynamic space.
Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, designed to let users control an individual character in what’s essentially a universe of other gamers, have emerged as a wildly popular genre. From 2013 to 2014, the number of people discussing MOBAs on social media doubled, while conversation related to first-person shooter games dwindled from 2012 to 2014.
The lesson for game developers here is that MOBA games have significant appeal moving forward. These games are exclusive to PCs, which should inform strategy and product development for gaming companies and brands creating hardware for PC gaming.
Demographically speaking, MOBA gamers are a largely diverse group in terms of affinities and overall interests. Thirty-six percent of PC gamers regularly discuss popular culture on social networks, while 19 percent also fit into the sports fan designation.
Just 45 percent are “core gamers,” which represents an audience that regularly discusses topics related to the gaming industry as a whole, such as Xbox, PlayStation, League of Legends and Pokemon. Understanding that gamers have more diverse interests than they previously did needs to inform game development, among other things.
Competition for gamers’ attention — and money — has been ratcheted up significantly. Greater insight into gamers’ motivations to play — whether it’s competition, aesthetic appeal or just plain fun — helps gaming studios decide what products to develop.
What this means for marketers
It’s not just the media and entertainment industries that can use social media insights into consumer conversations. From retail and consumer packaged goods to travel and hospitality, the role that consumer social insights plays is ever-expanding.
Even industry-specific insights like the ones about video game and sci-fi audiences are helpful for marketers in other industries. For example, knowing that a pocket of PC gamers are also sports fans could lead to in-game marketing by a sporting goods brand for the newest sneaker line from a basketball star.
Similarly, knowing that sci-fi has a wide appeal with young audiences could be helpful for youth-oriented fashion brands, like Forever 21 or Abercrombie & Fitch, in order to ensure fashion trends inspired by the genre are highlighted in-store or on e-commerce sites.
As much as video games and science fiction filmmaking have changed, the audiences enjoying them have been transformed, as well. More people from more backgrounds engage with the content, so the ways that studios and companies reach these people also must evolve.
Social analysis creates intelligence that tells companies more than just how popular a game is. By analyzing social insights, film and video game studios can understand who their audience is and, more importantly, what they want to see.