The way consumers are able to create, distribute, discover, and access digital content has become faster and more efficient over the past 15 years. With these innovations, new types of social entertainment have emerged. One of the most notable examples in gaming has occurred through the rapid growth of “clipping”. For those that are unfamiliar, clipping is when you record a short video clip of your gameplay and then share it with your community on any number of platforms (here is a great example of clipping).
Content has taken many different forms over the last few decades. From linear radio, to linear television, to on-demand, to VODs and streaming services, and now to short form on-demand content (Instagram, Tik Tok). As of Q3 2020, every age group besides 65+ was watching less linear television compared to the prior year. The magnitude of this shift is not inconsequential, with the 12-17 age group and 18-34 age group watching 21% and 23.4% less linear television, respectively. (Marketing Charts)
While traditional television consumption is shrinking, video-based social media platforms are continuing to grow. YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok have all seen an increase in usage over the last 3 years, with YouTube actually becoming more popular than Facebook. (Pew Research). For people aged 18-29, 95% use YouTube, 71% use Instagram, 65% use Snapchat, and 48% use TikTok (Pew Research).
Our view is that consumers want more on-demand short form content, and the research supports this. As much as we may not like it, people’s attention spans are only getting shorter. According to Wistia, “Engagement is steady up to 2 minutes, meaning that a 90-second video will hold a viewer’s attention as much as a 30-second video.” (Wistia) After those two minutes, engagement starts to steadily decrease. TikTok’s format is the perfect example of a platform that provides a steady stream of short form content (traditionally 7-30 second videos, but allows for 60s, 3m, 10m videos). TikTok users are on the app more times a day than any other social media platform (Ape App Lab). The average Twitter user opens the Twitter app ~15 times a day while TikTok activation is about double that - TikTok users open the app 38 to 55 times a day (OmniCore Agency).
The Gaming Thesis:
Gaming traction on video-first platforms shows a lot of signals that there is demand for gaming-focused content. For YouTube in 2021, two of the top five most subscribed to channels are gaming-related, and there were 800 billion gaming-related video views and 250 million gaming videos uploaded. On TikTok, global viewership hours for the top 100 most popular gaming topics grew +533% from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021.
Gaming is one of the few verticals that can support its own social network. While this may sound like a bold claim, it is well supported by the audience size (3b+ people), time spent (1-6 hrs per day), and network effects (people invite their friends to play together). We see many of the existing large-scale multiplayer gaming platforms like Roblox or Fortnite as simply the latest social network platforms. Their engagement, social interactivity, and network effects all mirror the growth of traditional social platforms.
Given the short form content trends and network effects in gaming environments, we believe clipping has the potential to be the basis for a new form of social media for gamers. Game clips are easy to consume, easy to create, and easy to distribute. These innovations offer a great opportunity for clipping to be the primary form of social media for the gaming industry’s participants.
1) Consumption: Game clips are perfect for short form consumption and engagement. Unlike TikTok or Snapchat where “trends'' are repeated constantly, game clips are almost guaranteed to always be unique as they capture gameplay that can have hundreds of different variables, including the performance of other players. Similar to sports highlights, they are also best consumed in bite sized portions (rather than watching entire games). TikTok has over 1 billion MAUs with the average TikTok video being 47 seconds (ListenFirst), offering a perfect duration for game clips. There is also clear consumer demand for this type of content based on how much gaming content is consumed across platforms like Twitch and YouTube. People want to see more gaming clips.
2) Creation: Ease of creation has blurred the line between what it means to be a creator and a consumer of content. What started with basic Instagram filters has turned into complete editing software in the palm of your hand. This often comes at no cost to the consumer. Gaming has moved in this direction as well. Not only do consoles and PCs have the ability to quickly capture content, but many platforms (Medal, Powder, etc) also offer AI-based autonomous capturing and full editing software that includes AI-powered camera movement, slow motion, loops, gifs, annotations, and even DMCA-free music. Creating gaming clips is extremely easy.
3) Distribution: Arguably the most important aspect of any social platform is distribution. Clipping platforms offer a very similar distribution method to other popular social platforms. Game clips are the perfect medium for continuous scrolling and with layers of game and creator data it is easy to recommend content based on game, genre, and creators. Instead of the consumer finding content, they can be served new content relevant to their interests.
Differentiation: While gaming is already an activity that consumers socialize around (Twitch) and the trends support clipping as a compelling format for social media, the big problem is establishing and nurturing the social element. The obvious idea would be to reskin TikTok or Instagram Reels with gaming content, but that does not make the platform itself viable. Social platforms centered around content consumption rely on users creating and sharing to foster virality. Just posting clips and watching is not going to create a social layer that’s needed for it to be seen as a social platform. As Pim de Witte, CEO of Medal says, clipping’s social benefit is to “create memories when you’re apart” which is something that is not easy to do with other social platforms where content creation is not grounded in virtual environments. (VentureBeat) Clipping platforms should focus on this differentiated strength.
Nurturing community: Clipping is a great place to start but the future of these platforms will need to be the social web that brings people together and creates relationships between gamers. Clipping platforms will struggle if they rely merely on status (showing off) than nurturing relationships and communities. This will be a challenge because Discord, a staple for most gamers, is already an established platform that prioritizes the latter. Based on the state of clipping platforms today, these companies will need to invest heavily in their social features if they want to have any chance at being the next big social media platform.
UGC competition: The competitive risk of existing social media platforms for clipping platforms is important today, but the future risk of user generated content (UGC) games will be an equally difficult threat to contend with. As UGC games incorporate more no-code features and improve the creator to player ratio over time, and improve web distribution, they will look more like social media platforms over time, with users consuming, creating, and sharing at faster clips. The incumbent social media platforms ground us in the notion of sharing video content today, but UGC platforms built with game engines will enable sharing more dynamic and engaging content (game executables) that others could even play, modify, or immerse themselves in.
Takeaway: Game clipping is potentially walking into a perfect storm of consumer trends and accessible technologies. Clipping may seem like a niche product on the surface, but when combined with the market adoption of gaming, viewership trends, and the sharable nature of bite-sized clips, clipping is in a great position to build the next social platform. The main hurdle for these platforms will be extending the social nature of gaming to a true social media destination. However, we believe that there is a meaningful opportunity in this space.