Media & Entertainment


SXSW Recap: How to Entertain and Retain Gamers in 2022

Team Braze By Team Braze Mar 21, 2022

For the first time in three years, the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival returned in person this year to Austin, Texas. Taking place from March 11–20, 2022, SXSW is one of Austin’s biggest events, featuring exhibits from tech industry leaders, film, gaming, and musical acts, and bringing together diverse topics and people from all over the world.

This year at SXSW, Braze Cofounder and CEO Bill Magnuson took to the stage alongside Andrea Cutright, Head of Global Marketing at Amazon Prime Gaming, Bernard Kim, President of Publishing at Zynga, and moderator Shannon Liao, Video Games Reporter for the Washington Post, for the panel “How to Entertain and Retain Gamers in 2022.” The panel focused on strategies and tactics that gaming brands can use to create memorable experiences that keep players entertained and coming back for more.

Engagement Is Key to Retention

There is no denying that the game industry’s growth has accelerated tremendously in recent years—notably, global sales rose 20% during the pandemic. Today’s gamers have more choices when it comes to content, which can be overwhelming for consumers and challenging for brands. In 2021 alone, the industry saw its base of players grow to more than 3 billion, an increase of 5.3% year over year. And last year, gaming brands saw a 48% spike in subscription rates, a major jump that’s even more impressive given how challenging it can be to retain players in today’s highly competitive market. That means, it’s more important than ever for gaming brands to create strong relationships with players so they become fans for life.

“We think about engagement every single day,” said Bernard Kim. “That is our main objective—to get players to keep showing up in our games. What we’ve found in our secret sauce is that creating brand new, creative, and fun things to do with that relationship between the game and the player keeps them more engaged with the game. Players will speak with their engagement and their wallets. Players want something that is long term and builds community.”

“It’s so important to really listen to your customers and pay attention to what they want and how they want it,” said Andrea Cutright. “We recently launched Lost Ark to Western audiences and it’s been a great success—we have more than 10 million players right now and 10% are using Prime Gaming benefits to create a richer game experience. We prioritize listening to our players and understanding what makes them want to extend their game play. And oftentimes, this comes from putting the right message in front of gamers at the right time to enhance that experience.”

“In the early days of mobile gaming, a lot of game brands were focused on short-term acquisition strategies instead of long-term engagement,” said Bill Magnuson. “We’ve seen this shift over the years as brands now recognize that engagement is essential for retention. In order to understand what your gamers want out of their experience, you simply need to observe and create personalized experiences that provide them value. More than ever, brands must focus on leveraging valuable first-party data and tools to more deeply understand gamers’ preferences in order to develop stronger, long-term relationships with them.”

The Growth of Gaming and the Attention Economy

With so much rapid growth within the industry, game brands are now constantly competing for consumers’ time and attention alongside entertainment and streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max. In fact, research shows that consumption of streaming and gaming content increased by 22% in 2020, compared with 2019. And as more gamers choose to spend their time streaming content on Twitch and participating in online gaming communities, the stakes are even higher for game brands seeking to win the attention and time of gamers by delivering rich, memorable experiences.

“I really believe that the bigger trend is around how engaged we can make our consumers,” said Andrea Cutright. “Consumers find it just as entertaining to participate in the gameplay themselves as they do watching their favorite streamer. In fact, the game industry has taught streaming brands a lot about how to listen to your audience and create an experience that provides value. At Amazon, we can entertain and retain our gamers using our own Prime Gaming benefits and also help develop communities with players and streamers on Twitch.”

“As gaming brands think about how to compete with other forms of entertainment, it’s critical to also think about the quality of the entire experience and not just how long you can keep them tuned in,” said Bill Magnuson. “For example, think about how someone feels about how they engage with your brand or how you can make your game a part of someone’s life and create a sense of community and fandom. Companies should think about what’s in it for the gamer in the long term because it’s the quality of time that consumers spend with your games that really moves the needle in building loyalty.”

“The marketplace is super competitive—gaming is competing with every form of entertainment,” said Bernard Kim. “You can play a game for 10 years of your life but you are only going to do that if it’s offering you a valuable experience. If you look at today’s world, it almost seems as if everything has been gamified between scrolling on social media or consuming content on a streaming platform. There is an enjoyment factor in everything that you do and the gaming experience needs to spark moments of joy in order to keep players returning.”

Final Thoughts

Gamers today have more choice than ever before when it comes to how they’d like to spend their time and attention. In order for gaming brands to develop long-lasting relationships with gamers, they need to create meaningful and personalized experiences that surprise, delight, and retain players for years to come.

Ready to take your player retention strategies to the next level? For more information on how companies can drive transformation through focusing on seamless customer experiences, check out Braze.com. To learn more about Amazon Prime Gaming, visit gaming.amazon.com


Team Braze

Team Braze

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