Gamer-Targeted Products: Cautiously Optimistic
With every new popular trend, there are several more that follow it to ‘enhance’ the primary trend. Remember when the GameBoy Advance didn’t have a backlight? Retail stores had significant space dedicated to products filling that void-- from backlights, grips, carrying cases, and screen protectors, to the unnecessary like a Spider-Man shaped rubber figure to hold your GBA (I had this).
Fast-forward a decade or two, and you’ve got the same thing happening. Now there are dozens of companies targeting eSports. Go ahead, when you’re finished reading this look at almost any eSports organization’s site in the sponsor's tab. They almost always have one, if not multiple brands associated with energy supplements, and accessory hardware.
Some of the brands sponsoring eSports have been around for years, like Mountain Dew and Rockstar Energy. Around the time of big AAA game launches, you can expect to see cross-promotions with Call of Duty, Halo, Gears of War, and other games (I have a large Halo Slurpee cup collection). Others were created to jump on the bandwagon of eSports' surging popularity. Energy supplements are a big thing outside of gaming as it is. In the last week alone, however, I have discovered several supplement products not found in retail stores, with labels like “For Gamers” and “Fuel Your Game” on the products.
Steamers and broadcasters are also a growing demographic. More and more products are being released to support these aspects of gaming, which is not a bad thing. Streaming a game doesn’t need to look like a low-budget, low-res video from someone’s basement anymore. Amateurs can now get set up with some nice gear to produce broadcasts that look professional, helping them get subscribers, and sponsors. Razer and Turtle Beach both offer equipment for streamers, and you can get a nice setup for around $400 or less.
Then there’s the clothing. When you watch eSports, the players from a team have jerseys, just like pro athletes. Some jerseys are filled with enough sponsor logos to rival a UFC fighter’s shorts. The teams’ websites sell these clothes, again like pro sports team apparel. Fans of the teams can get decked out with T-shirts, hats, replica jerseys, and other branded gear. In a business sense, selling these branded clothes is genius. Not only is it free advertising for the teams, but for the sponsors. Every time you see yourself wearing a jersey, you’ll see a logo from a company Rockstar Energy, increasing the likelihood you’ll buy that product.
What does this increase in gamer-targeted products amount to?
In the big picture, it means more acceptance for gaming in general and eSports as a profession. I honestly think that a dedicated eSports and gaming department store is not too far in the future. Think Dick’s Sporting Goods combined with GameStop, and you’re on the right track. There's already a similar store concept in Taiwan and Australia.
The other, more worrisome effects of all this pertain to the actual products being marketed. Specifically the dietary and energy supplements. Gamers can be a sedentary bunch. Yes, I know a lot of us have healthy living habits. I’ve been a personal trainer for over ten years, an avid gamer for 28. In my fitness career, I’ve met a lot of gamers, both fit and not so fit. And I get a lot of questions about supplements. A lot. Since this isn’t a fitness article, I’ll just say that energy supplements should be reserved for periods of the day when you are physically active. As in during exercise.
Some of the brands sponsoring eSports and gaming support this. Along with pro gamers, they have pro athletes in their stables. While it seems subtle, psychologically associating yourself with a pro athlete can be enough motivation to get active.
There are always pros and cons with new trends. The surge in gaming support overall is a definitely a ‘pro’. I hope that the ‘cons’ I mentioned can eventually evolve into something that helps gamers long-term and not just long enough.
What do you think of all the new products for gamers? Has your holiday wishlist grown ten-fold? Have you tried any of the supplements aimed at gamers?