Make Time For Game Time

A new class of media channels is creating vast new audiences of deeply engaged young viewers. They are also blurring the line between creators and consumers. While some marketers recognize the potential of these platforms, there is more that can be done.

Twitch, Major League Gaming and Steam have made it possible for gamers to share their skills and connect with other gamers. These services have made gaming a spectator activity that has become wildly popular. While teen engagement through traditional media channels may have advertisers and marketers reaching for their Maalox, participation in these new platforms is going through the roof. Consider these facts:

  • Twitch has 100 million monthly viewers and over one million gamers streaming their sessions live
  • In 2013, MLG compared viewership for its Pro Circuit Championship with the NCAA March Madness Tournament Video Live viewership: MLG had 54 million hours of video consumed vs. just 14 million for the NCAA
  • On Jan. 4 of this year, steam saw its highest number of concurrent users:8.5 million; NBC was the highest rated network for the week ending Jan. 4– with 7.3 million viewers

These are big, big numbers and they point to a level of engagement between streamers and viewers that other media channels can’t approach or replicate. But what does this engagement look like? What are these millions of streamers and viewers doing for all of these millions of monthly hours? These are the basic activities:

  • Play — there’s got to be someone streaming their gameplay for this to work and so it starts with the gamer. Their game screen is the core of the experience. As they play the gamer is visible, either in a small pop-out box or green-screened in one of the corners.
  • Narrate — as they play, most streamers are talking — mostly about the game they are playing, the opponents they are facing, the system they are using, etc.
  • Interact — viewers can talk to each other via chat and with the streamer. Sometimes there may be a Twitter feed on the screen, sometimes a chat box. Either way, there is a lot of flow across the screen.

It can be a pretty busy experience for the uninitiated. What is missing from this cacophonous space is any meaningful marketing. What there is typically takes the form of video before a stream launches or a site takeover (“The Lazarus Effect” owned the MLG screen when I wrote this). There are also brands that sponsor specific teams or players. Little evidence of that appears in the actual stream experience though and that’s where the action is.

Figuring out how to connect with the audience is a tricky business and one that needs to be handled with some sensitivity. As was the case with social media when it first appeared on the scene, brands need to learn the rules and norms of these channels before barging in. Here are a few ideas for getting a handle on the world of streaming gaming:

  • Watch — have someone spend time simply observing what is happening, learning the language that is used, understanding how interactions take place in the environment.
  • Play — this is a tough job, but if you want to connect with this audience, someone is going to have to be a gamer. Why?
  • Stream — This is why you need a gamer. Ideally, you want people to want to watch you. Your brand can become a destination for this audience if you can present a personality that they want to connect with. A funny, affable, skilled player and voice is key.

Obviously, this type of thing isn’t appropriate for every brand; but for technology companies, game publishers, snacks and soft drinks, and entertainment properties this approach could make sense. Yet as was the case with the early days of social, brands wanting to participate in this channel need to be authentic, committed and thick-skinned (there’s no shortage of trash talking, trolling and inappropriate banter here).

A brand that is able to create a strong personality and following within the new realm of streaming gaming will have a direct channel to a large and growing audience in a way that no other channel currently offers. Seriously, make time for game time.

Originally published at

Hey Nick, What Are You Thinking?

My wife Wendy sent me an email earlier today about Nickelodeon and and how Nick was promoting inappropriate content to kids. Here’s the text of the email:

Did you know that Nickelodeon, the children’s media empire, is promoting sexualized and violent video games to children as young as preschoolers? Its popular gaming website,, features games such as Candy the Naughty Cheerleader, Bloody Day (“Back alley butchering has never been so much fun. . . . How many kills can you rack?”) and the Perry the Sneak series, where gamers take the role of a peeping Tom trying to catch revealing glimpses of scantily clad and naked women. Nickelodeon promotes, and links directly to, on its website for children and even on its Nick, its website for preschoolers.

Please visit Democracy in Action to tell Nickelodeon to stop promoting sexualized and violent videogames to children.

The content of some of the games on is truly shocking. Please demand that Nickelodeon stop directing children to a website which features games such as:

Stick Figure Penalty Chamber 2: “Small, black, stick figure death can happen in so many different ways! Do you choose shotgun to the face, or acid in the lungs?”

Naughty Classroom – “Here’s your chance to fulfill your ultimate childhood fantasy. Naughty Classroom will leave you begging for more homework.”

Dark Cut 2 – “More macho surgery! No anesthetic. No antiseptics. Just rusty knives, corn whiskey, and lots of blood!”

Foxy Sniper – “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Fear me, because I am a crack shot! Assassination isn’t just a job; it’s a way of life.”

Please visit Democracy in Action to immediately stop promoting on its websites for children

Being skeptical I went to the Nick and Nick Jr. but found nothing approaching anything like what is described above. So I sent Wendy an email saying basically “Come on, there’s no links to anything like this, what a poor job of advocacy these guys are doing.”

But I thought I’d better double check myself – just in case I was missing something. Sure enough, at the bottom of the games page on both Nick and Nick Jr. there’s a section for Addicting Games:

If you click the link for “Flash Games” this is what you get:

Granted the number of click throughs from Nick Jr. is probably pretty low – but for better or worse plenty of parents probably park their kids in front of Nick Jr confident that if they aren’t getting an enriching experience they’re at least not going to be exposed to anything bad. But I think Santa stuffing a gun into a zombie’s mouth is probably not something most people would suggest for toddlers.

Now people who know me know that I am a pretty bad person, but even I realize that this is inappropriate. Come on Nick, WFT?

A new game I’m working on

I had my 25th high school reunion in May. For my senior year I attended The New Hampton School, a small boarding school in the middle of New Hampshire. The reunion started on Friday evening and lasted through Sunday brunch. It was a great time. One of the things that happened while I was there was that I started to think about a new game.

The first iteration involved a pitcher’s mound, the rubber, a golf ball and some softballs. The golf ball sat on the rubber and players tossed softballs onto the mound to try to get as close to the golf ball as possible without knocking it off. It seemed like a game with potential.

Since then I’ve been working on the game. The mound has been replaced by a circle (usually a 25′ hose), the pitching rubber by a post, the golf ball by a whiffle ball and the softballs by bocci balls. Here’s how it looks (click on the image to see details on the field):

The object is the same – to come as close as possible to the post without knocking off the ball. I kind of combines horseshoes and bocci I guess. The circle can be almost any size depending on how much space you have. I’m still working on the ideal balls to use. The whiffle ball is probably too light – it flies off the post at the slightest touch. Also I think the post should be shorter – probably just a few inches off the ground. This would allow you to hit the post without necessarily dislodging the ball – and this is important.

It’s important because of how the game is scored. If a player hits the post and the ball stays on top they get 10 points. If they are the closest (and no one has hit the post) they get five points. If they knock the ball off the post they lose two points. The scoring formula still isn’t quite right – but it’s getting closer. We kept running into negative scores and deep deep holes no one could get out of. (The first game I think the score was -15 to -10 when we gave up . . .)

It is starting to stabilize though and attracting fans. Matt Searles wrote about the game on his blog and I think it’s going to catch on like crazy.

Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts on improving the game. If you do decide to play and have fun let me know that too.