An Outsider’s Perspective on Gaming, Social Media, and Digital Business

An Outsider’s Perspective on Gaming, Social Media, and Digital Business

By: Justine Merriman

For anyone like me, who grew up with an original PlayStation and one single disk of Spyro the gaming industry is pretty foreign. Sure that purple dragon was fun to fly and capture some shiny gems with, but not enough to spark a true interest in gaming. That said I am an avid YouTube viewer who is used to hearing terms around fortnight and twitch being used pretty frequently. So after a two and a half hour class on the gaming industry I was shocked when neither Twitch nor YouTube were mentioned once. 

Now to be fair the topic may have been gaming, but the subject was around how Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. Specifically, how these businesses have chosen to build, buy, and expand their core competencies in relation to their gaming departments. Despite trying to keep us on topic the conversation kept coming back to the numbers… we are at business school after all! Profit, market share, total units sold, promotional discounts, etc… Which in my mind translates to how have these businesses utilized their digital footprint with social media to promote their brand and create buzz for new products.

Microsoft: Xbox 

Sony: PS4

Nintendo: Switch

In case you were wondering Sony has had and maintains the largest market share of the three with Microsoft in second and Nintendo in fourth. However, the Nintendo switch is quickly gaining momentum and is on track to beat Sony’s most popular iteration of the playstation as long as the sales trend continues. These brands also make and buy rights to the games themselves in hopes that limited editions or early releases will help drive these sales but over-all we never touched on the true importance of digital media and this industry.

As someone who doesn’t care about gaming, but loves to discuss new forms of monetization, I am fascinated by this two-billion plus user industry that is still in the infancy of using social media to grow their digital businesses. The main forms of social media being used are specifically for games and the real-life actors who are portraying the virtual characters and social media influencers who are either paid to post sponsored content or have turned their own gaming habit into a viable source of income with twitch. 

The Try Guys sponsored video that has received over 1.7 million views in the first 48 hours of publishing:

Ninja, one of the most popular streaming gamers on Twitch:

Now as I am not one of the 150+ US gamers, I would think that these companies would be interested to learn that I am actually familiar with their products not because of any promotions they put out, but rather because of the activity and posts from influencers. I particularly enjoyed watching the Try Guys video as they documented going from not owning a console to participating in a tournament in less than a week. To any business this must send off monetizing and profit bells, which is why it is so surprising that digital businesses like twitch are not included in industry conversations more openly. 

So if we all know that these businesses are utilizing social media influencers through sponsored posts, then why are the companies so afraid to share this information and more importantly why have none of the Big Three gotten in on creating their own digital streaming platform?!

Side Note: I may be totally wrong here, but this is just my opinion :)

Oh and lets not forget… even the Foster’s had a whole story-arch around children being paid as influencers for gaming companies:


  1. When I read your post, I was thrown back to the wild and unforeseen success of Nintendo’s Wii (not to be confused with the failure of the Wii U, which was launched in 2012). The Wii was arguably inferior to both the Xbox and Playstation in almost every sense that a gamer would consider important – the graphics were lo-fi and clunky, the games were relatively simplistic, and the actual tech (processing power, etc) were behind that of its competitors. Still, the Wii was the “hot” platform for much longer than it probably deserved to be – a trend, in my opinion, that was largely driven by the sense of accessibility that the Wii brought. You did not have to be a skilled or serious gamer to understand the Wii or become part of the Wii user community, and I think the same dynamic is at work with the social media aspect of today’s gaming that you describe here. Like you, I would not consider myself a gamer, but I am very much aware of gaming trends and have watched my fair share of Markiplier and PewDiePie videos on YouTube. The social media buzz around trendy games/platforms and the subsequent one-to-one connection you can develop with the industry through influencers seems to broaden the gaming community and reduce the barriers to participation (or at least makes it feel that way). Agreed that social media, digital brand promotion, and the consumer-brand relationships they create should be a significant part of the industry conversation!

  2. I was in your same shoes Justine. That is, until I played Fortnite for the first time and grew addicted. I was always an outdoorsy kid and loved to play outside and never had the same draw my friends did to the newest game on the market. However, fast forward to today and now I looking forward to going home after a long day of school and playing Fortnite. I too feel victim to the buzz that surrounded it proceeded by numerous social media influencers and my own friends hyping it up. Indeed gaming has become a new form of social media where friends are proud to show off their newest in-game outfits and boast of their wins, even when they’re no where near a console. I agree these companies should look into a way to take part in the streaming craze that has made Twitch millions. Social media in changing and Fortnite has Netflix quivering as they lose their subscribers to the more interactive, gaming alternative. I look forward to seeing what happens with these gaming giants in the coming years as gaming becomes less “nerdy” and more mainstream. Maybe twitch will soon be up there with Facebook, maybe not…

  3. masonpeterman · ·

    I’ll admit I was never really a huge gamer. If it’s possible I guess I could call myself a “social gamer”. Spending so much time around people playing video games, I started to play myself. Now a senior in college, and I feel like my life is almost consumed. Everywhere I look it’s video games. Fortnight is almost a constant in my life at this point, I watch streams over kids shoulder in class, my roommates watch streams for hours. This isn’t just me and my friends, but seemingly our whole generation and a more significant portion of later generations. Twitch has established itself as the main game streaming platform, but I agree it seems almost unreasonable that the larger console producers or even social media giants haven’t tried to compete. Social Media and influencers have a grip on this industry right now and the way it’s growing I’m sure the larger game companies are sure to follow, It seems like a big opportunity. Great work!

  4. I really enjoyed the perspective you took. The pro gaming scene has created new careers and connected the world in ways that many never deemed possible. I think that is highlighted by the acquisition of by Amazon for $970M in 2014. Gaming developers have recently identified a new market in their pro scenes. Not only can they reap the profits from game sales, but also from officially sponsored streams through websites such as Twitch and Youtube. This has created new careers for content creators and streamers. Many twitch streamers can make upwards of 2 million dollars a year! Although some of these streamers become popular for their skill, many are actually retired pros or personalities who do not specialize in any one game. Instead, they have cultivated a following, raking in countless subscriber premiums and donations. For example, both my brothers (age 19 and 13) will play various video games, while simultaneously watching these streamers play different games on an iPad or laptop. As you mentioned, the influence of social media, has enabled them to cross the generational divide. I find it particularly interesting to watch these scenes and speculate where they will end up. A few television networks such as ESPN have actually picked up the more popular games and shown them live, and many professional sports teams and players are investing in new esport teams. Who knows, one day, esports might develop and be on the same level as our current leagues. Many Asian countries such as South Korea and China already treat their professional gamers on levels similar to how Americans treat professional athletes.

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