How to build a successful gaming and esports community in 2022: The definitive guide
Gaming and esports communities are rapidly growing in popularity among the seemingly “unreachable” digital natives. Needless to say, this creates an opportunity for brands to genuinely connect and engage with this audience. In this guide, we’ll show you how to build, grow and monetize an esports & gaming community and how the right gaming tournament software can make your life way easier.
Why should you care about esports and gaming? What are the demographics? And above all, how do you engage with an audience that is advertising-repellant? Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Why build a community of gamers? (and the advantages of doing so)
- Understanding the gaming and esports community
- What you need to set-up a gaming community
- 6 tools to keep gaming communities engaged
- Top tactics to bring gamers on your platform
- Tactics to keep gamers engaged on your platform
- Ideas to monetize your gaming community
- 6 KPIs for your esports and gaming community
- 3 common pitfalls to avoid in gaming & esports communities
Why build a community of gamers? (and the advantages of doing so)
Online gaming & esports communities provide a uniquely beneficial experience for users. According to studies, gaming & esports communities provide social and health benefits like improved self-esteem and a greater sense of well-being! As a result, these positive feelings turn gamers into highly engaged users. That’s where you as an endemic business come in!
If you can harness the power of gaming communities, you will gain a super engaged and loyal userbase.
- Gamers are more likely to purchase a product online;
- 40% of gamers based their purchasing decision on influencer advice.
And there’s no time to waste — it’s 2022 and gaming isn’t just something you do anymore. It’s something you watch, and esports is booming!
- In 2020, esports raised a record $2 billion — a 116% increase from 2019;
- The European esports market has had a strong annual growth rate of 24% since 2016;
- Nearly 1 in 5 Europeans have made esports-related purchases!
Understanding the gaming and esports community
Building your own gaming community takes a lot of work. At the end of the day, you are building a relationship. And, as in any relationship, it takes two to tango! So how do you get the partnership started?
The challenge with engaging gamers today
Besides ad blockers and skipping content, attention is decentralized across various digital platforms and online media. This, combined with the lack of owned data makes it difficult to engage gamers, and even more so to keep them engaged.
What are the typical demographics of gamers?
Right now, the esports and gaming audience is dominated by Millennials and Gen X who form 63% of the market. However, Gen Z is not far behind. Gamers aged 16–25 are also forecasted to grow in size and purchasing power. Besides, Gen Z spends twice as much time interacting online and tends to spend more money in the gaming space. This makes them a particularly valuable market.
In more detail, gamers tend to identify as 45% women and 55% men. Following the trend in Asia and the US, Europe’s esports & gaming audience is also growing, with the highest penetration rates in Poland, Italy, and Spain. In these countries, nearly half of all consumers have watched esports at least once!
The different types of gamers that make up gaming & esports communities
Esports & gaming communities consist of more than your stereotypical gamer profile. In fact, the esports & gaming audience is very diverse. Besides hardcore and casual gamers, esports data company Newzoo identifies 9 personas:
- Ultimate Gamers. The most hardcore of consumers.
- All-Round Enthusiasts. Like Ultimate Gamers, but less obsessively engaged.
- Time Fillers. Casual gamers who engage in their spare time or at social events.
- Bargain Buyers. They enjoy games but go for free-to-play & discounted buys.
- Community Gamers. These gamers live for the community-created content.
- Hardware Enthusiasts. All about tech trends and the best gaming experience!
- Popcorn Gamers. Gaming rarely, this group prefers to watch other gamers.
- Backseat Viewers. Previous gamers who still find the time to engage.
- Lapsed Gamers. These past gamers have since moved on to other interests.
Each type has different preferences and reasons to join the community. Ranging from the type of game they play, all the way up to how they engage with communities, hardware, and content. What does your audience mix look like?
How to set up your own gaming community
As mentioned before, reaching the gaming audience comes with a challenge. The divided attention and general lack of insights make it difficult to attract new gamers & keep them engaged. Today’s gamers expect two things: to be challenged through competition and to have social interaction. So, what can you do?
Put simply, a gaming tournament platform brings everything into one place. Besides organizing tournaments, you get to build a community on your own platform. That means access to first-party data, and the opportunity to create branded experiences along with sponsors and advertisers.
Never underestimate the power of an engaged audience! Here are 6 tools to help you get started:
6 tools to keep gaming communities engaged
#1 Discord is the essential hang-out spot for gamers
Discord is the heart of most gaming communities. With their platform, you can create channels for announcements, voice chats, and more. Players can also create channels according to rank or specialties. In 2021, Discord boasted an impressive 140 million monthly active users!
While Discord is great for building a community, it has its limitations. Besides fracturing the experience even further, it’s also hard to stand out enough to profitably monetize your audience.
#2 StriveCloud’s Gaming Tournament Software fuels community engagement
Online tournaments are where esports & gaming communities thrive! Whether you’re an esports agency, a sports brand, or just happened to build your own esports & gaming community, hosting tournaments will attract, engage and keep gamers on your platform.
Besides the fun of competition and entertainment, it’s also a great way for gamers to connect and socialize. In fact, the majority of gamers in 2022 also enjoy watching game-related content, interacting in communities, and attending in-game events!
StriveCloud’s gaming tournament software allows you to connect gamers, organize tournaments & promote brands all from one platform.
Build your community by organizing fully automated tournaments at scale. No need for a moderator. Our platform allows for all popular games ranging from FIFA to CS:GO. Gamers can sign-up with 1 simple link & you’ll get direct access to all behavioral insights!
Keep up engagement with fun gamification features like leaderboards, weekly challenges, and hotzones! Then, reward participation through various rewards like badges, virtual currencies, and online shop items!
Once you’ve built a thriving gaming & esports community, we know that sponsorship is crucial for monetizing it. That’s why we’ve made it easy to generate sponsor visibility through brand pages, shop items, and even branded tournaments.
Sounds good? Discover how our gaming tournament software can help you connect, engage & monetize gamers!
#3 Cooldown is the home of esports viewing parties
Cooldown connects esports fans with events and gaming communities. By using Cooldown, you can drive eyes to your tournaments and win new fans. Cooldown viewership parties are both free and easy to organize. Just connect with a local esports bar and get started!
#4 YouTube is great for live & user-generated content
YouTube is the top-rated streaming channel in the world, ahead of Twitch and Facebook. Although Twitch has the highest usage intensity, YouTube’s audience reach is unparalleled. The platform is ideal for hosting live content, mid-form videos, as well as reacting to user-generated content to build the cohesion of your gaming community!
Top tip: To help gamers navigate your YouTube channel, (and to hold their attention for longer), create playlists for each game or topic you cover.
#5 Subreddits are a social space for the whole community
Discord is great for the here and now — but creating your own subreddit ensures that what your gaming & esports community creates will stick around! Another advantage of Reddit is that your subreddit can be discovered easily by others. From there, new users can quickly start talking with engaged members of your esports & gaming community!
#6 Built-in chat features enhance the community experience
Chat features are also a great way to build community over time. Users get to instantly connect over chat to share stories and experiences, and make new friends! And best of all? It boosts community engagement! Furthermore, adding a chat feature to your platform keeps gamers from moving to other platforms like Discord or Messenger.
Top tactics to bring gamers to your esports & gaming platform
Partnerships & sponsorships leverage the power of existing brands
In many ways, traditional advertising methods have become unwanted clutter in our lives. But that isn’t the case for brand partnerships. Among gaming & esports communities, reports show that gamers see brand partnerships positively. In short, partnering with influencers, professional esports players and content creators can:
- Bolster your finances. Partnerships are by far the biggest source of income in esports.
- Shape your own brand identity within the esports community.
- Expose your brand to a wider audience.
With StriveCloud’s white-label gaming tournament software, you can easily organize streamer tournaments and branded leagues to attract new community members.
Host influencer tournaments to win eyeballs
How can you engage your esports and gaming community? Easy! Simply follow the eyeballs and work with influencers whose fanbase fit your target audience. Samsung Benelux for instance created a game-off competition between Belgium and the Netherlands. Both sides had 2 popular gaming influencers competing for their country!
Additionally, Belgian telecom company Proximus organized a League with Youtuber Average Rob where fans could compete against him in a Fortnite battle. As a result, users played almost 1500 matches in just 4 hours!
Video content is the best way to build an initial relationship with your audience
Gaming communities are all about building relationships — so let your users peek behind the curtain with a series of content. You can use live streaming content for clips on social media, but what gamers love is seeing behind the scenes. This content is seen as authentic storytelling and creates a relationship between the viewer and talent.
Tactics to keep gamers engaged on your platform
Run competitions to incentivize engagement
Competitions help gamify the UX and make it more engaging — and what audience is better suited for this than gaming communities? Let users compete to win prizes such as merchandise, experiences, or even just bragging rights on the leaderboard! Essentially, competitions incentivize users to engage, and show that being a member of your esports community can be both rewarding and fun!
We can attest to the success of great competitions. After implementing our gaming tournament software, the esports platform Kazyr benefited from a 60% rise in daily active users!
Promote & reward your top creators
There is no doubt that gamers expect to be both creators and consumers. In fact, esports & gaming communities love to create! So show your audience that their contribution is appreciated by rewarding them. You can, for instance, create a sense of social status through community badges, leaderboards, and leveling systems. In turn, you will inspire others to create as well!
Exclusive events bring back lapsed gamers
Games may come and go — but holidays can help keep your gaming community fresh. Needless to say, holidays are predictable so it is easy to develop a great event that boosts fan engagement. For example, look at Valorant, one of the world’s top esports games.
At Christmas, they release a Snowball Fight feature for a very limited time and this scarcity gets even lapsed users excited to come back again!
Live events are a huge factor in long-term engagement
It’s undeniable that live esports events are exciting. But did you know this excitement can set off a positive feedback loop? To illustrate, research from consultancy firm Deloitte shows that participating in live events makes users want to attend more live events!
How to monetize your esports & gaming community
Of course, what you really want to know when planning your esports & gaming community is how to monetize it! And that subject brings us to the benefits of StriveCloud’s gaming tournament software, which empowers you to build a valuable audience on an owned platform.
Buy-in tournaments are scalable & profitable
A buy-in tournament crowdfunds its prize pool from participants. Essentially users pay an entry fee which also serves as the prize pool. A part of that fee goes to “the house”, or in your case to you. Online buy-in tournaments can get prize pools up to $ 1,000 and more! You’d be surprised how successful this can be.
Create immersive advertising & sponsor experiences
Gaming and esports communities don’t like in-your-face advertising or anything that disrupts their experience. And fairly so! However, the esports & gaming community does not dislike brands. They know brands support the ecosystem and allow their favorite games, influencers, and sometimes even products to expand.
Furthermore, the gaming community is one of the most brand-loyal and engaged audiences out there. Mastercard has been a global partner of the League of Legends community for years now. Since then they’ve built a connection with the 11 million gamers through in-game experiences like loot boxes and influencer partnerships.
“We didn’t want to overcommercialize it because it was about [building] trust with these fans.” Brian Lancey, VP and global head of sponsorships @ Mastercard
With StriveCloud’s gaming tournament software you get everything you need to connect brands with your audience. From company pages to branded tournaments, you can even run segmented campaigns.
In-game currencies reward success and show off status
In-game currencies give users something to strive for, as well as provide meaning to their wins. For instance, Twitch lets users bet on the outcome of esports matches. Winners are rewarded with points, which can be redeemed for rewards from streamers.
In-game currencies not only trigger engagement but also rewards it! They can also serve as a progression metric. In other words, the more “coins” you collect, the higher your level or number of achievements will be. With StriveCloud’s gaming tournament software gamers can exchange coins for in-shop items or even enter a raffle!
How do you engage & monetize a gaming community? Book a demo & find out how our tournament platform can help you!
Offer premium packages
It’s true — premium packages are motivating for both the upgraded user and the unpaid user! This psychological phenomenon is called a constraint. Basically, it’s a technique commonly used in games where you can’t access certain areas of the game. Think of grayed-out achievements and levels for example. You can’t help but feel that you are missing out.
For gaming communities, premium packages could include season passes to live events as well as priority booking. Not to mention streams without advertisements or even enhanced viewing experiences with VR in-game viewing mode!
6 KPIs for your esports & gaming community
After you set up your esports community and have a monetization model in place, the next step is to gauge your success. This means tracking the right KPIs! These 6 KPIs can be used to ensure your continued success:
1. Total sign-ups
Crudely, how many sign-ups has your gaming & esports platform generated? Is the number growing week over week? What attributes to these sign-ups? Tracking this helps you indicate the rate of acquisition and top-of-line growth.
2. Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
CAC = Total marketing costs / total gamers acquired
How much does it cost you to acquire each user? The lower it is, the more effective your user acquisition strategy.
3. Tournament participation
Number of tournament players / Total userbase
What percentage of your community actively engages in tournaments? These gamers are the backbone of any engagement, as they drive community content and interaction.
4. Community interaction
Number of engaged community members / Total userbase
How active are your users? You can measure this by the number of tournaments played and average it out. Additionally, you can track which users contribute content or other means of value to the community.
5. Average session length
Total time spent across sessions / total number of sessions
How often is your audience engaging? And for how long? In general, the longer gamers spend on your platform, the better value you provide!
6. Churn rate
Churned users / total users at start of time period x 100
When do people churn? How long does it take them? What can you do to stop it? Try to collect as much insight on these gamers as possible, so you can step in or even prevent the next user from churning!
3 common pitfalls to avoid in gaming & esports communities
A free-for-all in tournament rules can feel unfair
This one is often overlooked. Essentially, your gaming tournament software should set the parameters for each match. The “virtual coin flip”. When gamers feel that the tournament is organized unfairly, they will churn! According to Bayes Esports, the maps, sides, and heroes chosen can give one team an advantage as high as 7%.
Bayes Esports — “Your tournament rules should define how the team’s sides are picked. A good idea, for instance, is to have the team that picks heroes (or maps) then pick the side it plays on in the first map.”
Missing out on scalability
When Kazyr first approached StriveCloud, they had a dedicated competition moderator. But after using our gaming tournament software, they found the task was no longer necessary. On top of that, we introduced a gamified loyalty program that scales on intrinsic motivation instead of monetary reward. So not only did they free up a team member, Kazyr’s competitions suddenly became future-proof and scalable!
Neglecting to invite teams early to your platform
The ultimate pitfall in any esports & gaming community is having nobody to play with! This is an example of the Network Effect, where a product becomes more useful the more users are on it. Make sure to avoid this by having teams of gamers ready to play on Day 1.
Why build a community of gamers?
Studies show that gaming communities provide a beneficial experience for users, resulting in improved self-esteem and a greater sense of wellbeing! For an endemic brand, that signals an opportunity to foster an engaged and loyal userbase.
How to get the gaming audience?
Developing your own gaming community is challenging. At the end of the day, it’s all about building a genuine relationship. But that first means you must understand who they are — and respond to the needs of this traditionally “unreachable” segment.
What are the typical demographics of gamers?
The esports audience is dominated by Millennials and Gen X who form 63% of the market. But Gen Z is not far behind. Gamers aged 16–25 are forecasted to grow in size and purchasing power, and are over-represented among hardcore consumers!