Culture evolves, customer expectation shifts.
Someone is already rethinking your category.
Enter the Play Arena
Play is the beating heart of a cultural revolution.
In sports, gaming and entertainment the only real constraint is time.
At the nexus of this cultural and commercial revolution is an insatiable desire to play, made possible by faster tech, deeper experiences and a diminishing reliance on proximity.
With consumers’ attention the must-win battle, competition now comes from any business or category that can command it. Attention might be easily won – but it’s getting harder and harder to hold.
In Play, we explore what’s next in this arena by considering the human truths at the heart of play, hunting for weak signals, and looking to the peripheries for opportunity in change.
The biggest cultural shift in 580 years is happening in your living room.
The decade of possibility is rapidly spawning new ways to connect, socialise, learn, create, watch, listen to music, experience art, spend and more.
Within this, the biggest shift is in the spaces we occupy, the places we spend and the ways we engage. Physical presence and mental presence are no longer one and the same.
Think about it: When your kids are sitting there on the sofa, are they in the room with you – or are they hanging out with their friends in Battle Royale?
Where is the primacy of their attention? Where are they really living? Moreover, where are they spending? How many Robux is it for a gallon of milk these days?*
*1 gallon of milk is equivalent to 350 Robux which will buy you one Doge Hat, your passport to internet culture.
Remember when it was cool
to hang out at the mall?
Consumer culture is changing right before our eyes. Increasingly the malls, cinemas, sports fields and fast-food chains that once characterized youth culture lack relevance.
That’s a $600 billon dollar problem.
Because as the focus of youth culture shifts, so does the focus of spending power.
Now, just 40% of US teens think the mall is a cool place to hang out, yet 50% say they use Fortnite primarily to socialize with friends.
Which matters because Generation Z is one of the most powerful consumer forces in the market today. Their buying power is $44 billion, (or $600 billion if you factor in the influence they have on their parents’ spending).
Dropped the ball?
A single American generation has seen a 24% decline in sports fans.
Today, just 53% of American Gen Z consider themselves sports fans (vs 67% millennials).
The 2021 Super Bowl saw its lowest ever audience in 15 years. There’s been a 12.5% decline in NFL ratings over seven years and youth participation in Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Soccer has now decreased every year for 15 years.
Does the data point to a terminal decline?
Participation is shifting: 67% of American under 16s play Roblox every day – an increase of 85% in 12 months.
While the company expects some post-pandemic normalization of subscriptions, Roblox’ underlying trends are what investors called “phenomenal”. The basis of this loss-making business’ successful IPO? It’s bet on the ‘metaverse’.
Total money spent on Robux in 2020.
Attended Travis Scott’s five concerts on Fortnite (2020)
Attended Beyonce’s record-breaking, 49-concert, world-tour “Formation” (2019)
Customer expectation is moving faster than ever before.
Someone is already rethinking your category.
An Insight into Play:
My Most Me
By Allyson Chapman; Ashley Guillaume and Bill Alberti
A handful of ordinary, extraordinary consumers helped us uncover the human desires that drive people to play. Here’s what we heard.
Play helps us connect. To my self. To others. To ground us in who we really are. And lift us up to where we can go, together. While we can, of course, connect in lots of different ways, we can’t Play without connecting…to our imagination; with others; to the physical objects around us; with something bigger than ourselves. Connection helps explain why gaming has taken off…and a lack of connection helps explain why baseball is falling further into a time past. Connection is the need that could be better met.
Ultimately, Play is all about Freedom. The freedom for people to see and be their real and best selves. The people we were as kids. The people we still are as adults…but who have let the stressors and the expectations and the worries get in the way. The people we are in moments of play – where we connect to our most-me-selves and to others who let us be them – are who we are at our most free.
Brands can help people feel free through play. Not to aspire to unrealistic versions of someone else, but the freedom to see and be the best version of me.
Play is the freedom to be yourself, to do your favorite things while having a full heart and happy mindset.”
It’s the fun part in my life where I don’t have to worry about my responsibilities.”
It slows my heart beat down because there is no stress when playing. Adrenaline pumping.”
A pause in the normal stress of life. Keeps my mind occupied so I don’t think of all the shit the world sends us.”
After working 40 hours a week in a highly stressful environment my social time is for me to be free and be me.”
I am me and I don’t have to pretend.”
Industry Leaders on the Implications
Netflix’s Turbulence Upstream?
“Netflix has struggled to catalyze a more intimate experience through its platform.
The weak signals picked up in our 2020 customer benchmark were reflected in Netflix’s 2021 first-quarter results, when the company reported its biggest miss on subscriber growth in nearly two years.”
Jessica DeVlieger, Global CEO
Christina Stahlkopf, Associate Director, Research & Analytics
A conversation with Michael Aragon, Chief Content Officer, Twitch
“We think of ourselves as the future of entertainment, bringing a fully interactive experience to a society and culture more and more invested in real connection and engagement.
In sports it’s all about community. But on Twitch, fans aren’t watching the game, they’re watching somebody watch the game, and participating in that conversation as well.”
e-Sports’ Global Tipping Point with Jason Lake, CEO of Complexity Gaming
“The lions share of our revenue has been sponsorship and licensing deals but we’re at a pivot where profitability can be derived from new technologies.
I consider NFTs to be a huge source of future revenue – interestingly enough, each time one of these NFTs is sold, the creator gets a share so it’s creating a new democratised economy.”
The Gaming Giant Making Culture with Elle McCarthy, VP, Brand at Electronic Arts
“We compete with any company that activates global culture.”
The Fragmented World of Formula One, with Ellie Norman, CMO
Data helps us deepen engagement with our purest fans by creating deeper experiences. For a more casual fan, the level at which we become relevant to them is through Netflix’s Drive to Survive.”
“Our ability to fragment actually allows us to meet audiences on their level in their needs.”
C Space Arenas
Customer Inspired Futures.
In partnership with