Video games used to fit neatly into a box with some very well-defined parameters.
Gamers were generally young and male; games were physical goods to be purchased; and playing them was largely limited to console action. And while many of those elements still exist and remain lucrative, they no longer define the segment in the era of mobile, Blackhawk Network Global Head of Gaming Scott Aird told PYMNTS.
Gamers, or “gaming market participants” as they are known in some circles, are now consumers of all ages. Some play games themselves while others prefer to watch their favorite players on livestreams like Twitch, and consoles and physical games are no longer a requirement in the segment. In fact, Aird said, many consumers don’t want or need all that physical hardware and equipment anymore.
“I think users expect more — [Netflix is a great example of this],” he said. “People want to access content in the same ways across the board, and they want to do so instantly. [The expansion and improvements of internet and mobile technology has] absolutely driven the adoption of mobile gamers. But I think the real key thing is everything is instant now.”
That’s why Blackhawk launched Boost Gaming last fall, he said. The move aims to support consumers’ quickly shifting needs in a gaming marketplace where the focus is on immediacy and the ability to deliver it to gamers by making it easier for them to access what they want, when they want it, and with the payment methods they are most comfortable with.
Gift Cards Add Payment Diversity To The Segment
Gift card use is very high in the gaming segment, Aird said, with some 20 percent of gaming customers leveraging gift cards as their preferred payment tool and nearly 60 percent of gamers using gift cards for self-use to buy games, top-ups, subscriptions or in-game rewards and season passes.
“What we’ve seen is an opportunity to be able to offer a one-stop shop in Boost Gaming, where product is coming directly from source,” he said. “And ultimately, we want it to give the consumer a trusted place where they can come and consume and pick up the gaming credit and gift cards they need.”
As for the “why” of that emerging preference set among the majority of gamers, he said, a lot of it is budgeting and keeping control of what they spend. Security is also an equally critical consideration weighing on consumers, particularly in the face of fraud on the web. Consumers view self-use payment methods, such as gift cards, as better protection from fraudsters looking to prey on their bank accounts.
That also applies to Blackhawk’s efforts to extend more alternative payment options through its platform, like QR codes. For Blackhawk, Aird said, the driver was the idea that with the emerging class of content creators within the space, alternative payments methods were the expansion they needed to be able to monetize their streams more efficiently and effectively.
The Evolving Market Space
At the end of the day, Aird told PYMNTS, technology advances are driving the market in tandem with consumer desires and expectations that are fairly new to it.
The idea of a clunky payments experience and a fantastic user journey are fundamentally incompatible, he said.
“We want [the experience to be seamless for] people, [moving increasingly toward a] one-click experience,” he said. “There’s also quite an interesting model allowing users to access content on a monthly basis for a low fee. I see that being quite a key driver going forward. I do think we should be mindful of the fact that gaming has moved from this physical box-type product to a digital one.”
The goal, he said, isn’t to find the “just right” solution for every player, but to offer multitudes of them so that every player can find their just right solution — whenever and wherever they want to play.