When most people picture a gamer they’re likely thinking of a teenaged boy who lives at home with his parents and spends hours every day glued to a game console. Though this stereotype is prevalent in our society, it’s actually a completely inaccurate representation of gamers and gaming culture today.

We’ve come a long way since the heyday of Super Mario and Donkey Kong. Today gaming’s popularity cuts across many demographic groups and offers more marketing opportunities than ever.

The state of modern gaming

67% of Americans play some kind of video game every day, whether it’s on a gaming console, a desktop computer, or a mobile device. That works out to roughly 211 million Americans, each of them accessing a game at least once a day. Gaming accounted for 16% of their leisure time, or about 12 hours per week.

Gaming on mobile devices accounts for a huge segment of this gaming activity. Of the gaming population, 90% play on a mobile device. And 50% of mobile app users in total play games on their devices.

As is clear from the numbers, it’s impossible that the gaming community is made up exclusively of young men in their teens and early twenties. In fact, the biggest population of gamers is the one that grew up with early video game technology: millennials. That’s right, the highly desirable millennial demographic is composed of active gamers.

While we’re myth-busting, we can also dispose of the notion that gaming is male-dominated. In fact, most statistics show that the gender divide between male and female gamers is very close to an even split.

The future of gaming

The gaming market is predicted to grow in coming years, from $152 billion in 2019 to a projected $196 billion and counting by 2022. Mobile is expected to make up nearly half of that market.

One major change that’s expected to contribute to the growth of the gaming industry is the rollout of streaming services. Microsoft and Google are both getting in on the streaming action with Project xCloud and Stadia, respectively. These services will enable users to stream games on their devices, eliminating the need to buy the expensive console equipment that can act as a barrier to entry for many users.

The opportunities gaming presents for marketers

With such a huge audience of gamers out there, you might be wondering how your brand can get out in front of them. The good news is that there are lots of opportunities for marketing and advertising in the gaming space, and these will likely only become more sophisticated in the years to come.

Twitch opportunities - Twitch is the massively popular streaming site where users can watch gamers as they play games (yes, people watching other people play video games). There are a number of methods brands are using getting in front of Twitch’s audience. These include Twitch ads (though campaigns are reportedly quite expensive and begin around a $50,000 commitment), influencer marketing in the form of sponsorship of a popular player or team, or even the creation of branded stream.

In-app advertising - Particularly for mobile, in-app advertising is a popular choice. Depending on the game ads can be video placements, interstitial display ads, or interactive display ads. With many mobile games operating on a freemium model, in-app ads are often the price of admission for free players.

Product placement and in-game advertising - Beyond in-app advertising there’s another way to get your brand in the game environment. Product placement and in-game advertising places ads or products within the context of the game itself. Sports games, for example, are rife with product placement from athletic brands. In-game advertising usually takes the form of an ad that exists in the game world itself. Imagine a billboard that you drive by as you tear down the highway in a stolen car, for example. Even presidential candidates sometimes get in on the action: 2008 players of the game Burnout Paradise may have caught a glimpse of a billboard ad for Barack Obama.

Advergames - Creating an “advergame” -- essentially a branded game created, developed, and managed by a brand -- is no doubt the most expensive way to get in front of the gaming audience. Such games are obviously a tremendous branding opportunity, but they’re also difficult to get off the ground and are by no means a sure thing in terms of ROI.

Appreciating the power of gaming

Hopefully by now we’ve helped set the record straight about who gamers are and how valuable they can be as an audience. The average age of an American gamer in 2019 is 35, and 41% of them are female. Gamers represent an audience many brands are eager to target, and the gaming landscape presents a wide array of opportunities to do so.