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The Attention Economy: In the age of the cyberspace and its connection to advertising.

During the 21st century, the cyberspace concept of a globally connected network of information in which the internet resides has become extremely important in the practice of advertising as the number of humans connected to the internet has risen to 59% of the global population in 2020. As viewership of online content rising, while Traditional TV has experienced a decline, advertisers have started adopting the cyberspace as a new medium for targeting a more diverse demographic. With the abundance of information progressively becoming more freely accessible in the cyberspace, a scarcity of available attention is developed creating the concept of the Attention Economy developed further by Michael Goldhaber, in which, attention is now the sought-after currency.

Advertising through technology development

Advertising and the Attention Economy have been interconnected since its very conception as advertisers have paid handsomely for the best positioning of their advertisements in newspapers since 1704 or having their commercials during a prime time event like the super bowl since the first TV Commercial in 1941. Advertisers have always aimed at gaining the most attention when it came to producing advertising campaigns throughout the different periods of technological breakthroughs. With the progressive development of technology, the entry barrier for advertising a product or service has drastically dropped, but in turn, has raised the price for prime placements on traditional media channels. As a result, the cyberspace with its plethora of tools like algorithms, tracking cookies, other data collection has allowed for personally targeted advertising giving even the smallest business and individuals the opportunity to secure their portion of the Attention Economy.


The Attention Economy in today’s video game advertising

During the past 5 years, the game industry has conducted a major shift in its positioning, which can be directly associated with The Attention Economy and its connection with the advertising strategies surrounding the release and longevity of a video game’s life cycle. Fortnite, Call of Duty Warzone, and Apex Legends have all adopted a free-to-play game model, allowing users to access the entire game at no cost, rather all profits are made over a longer period from in-game advertising of its other products, cosmetic item purchases, or season passes which includes early access to new characters, items, and cosmetics. This structure has proven successful with 5 out of the 10 tops games on Steam (by concurrent players) being free-to-play titles. (Excluding titles like Fortnite, Call of Duty Warzone, League of Legends, and Valorant) By removing the $60 USD entry fee, it provides the game industry the ability to grab the attention of a demographic which may not have the disposable income to support an upfront payment. You will find that users will spend more on cosmetics due to the low price over an extended period of time, therefore, if your game has a creative, enjoyable, while competitive gameplay loop you will find that by pushing seasonal updates, your audience will return without fail.


Streaming platforms like Twitch, Youtube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming, have curated influencers ranging from micro to mega, which have been pivotal to the longevity of many different game titles, and this has been demonstrated well in the case of Apex Legends released in early 2019, by Respawn Entertainment. Apex Legends was announced hours before it was publicly released, which was drastically different from any games similar to it, However, Respawn did hold a streamer-only private gameplay session prior to launch to encourage these influencers to co-stream the release announcement and play it as soon as it became available, this worked extremely well with the likes of Shroud, Ninja, xQcOW, and DrDisrespect all contributing to Apex Legend’s 1.6 Million viewership hours in the first 24 hours of its launch, followed by 63.7 Million hours in the first 10 days of launch, this proved to not only be successful in terms of viewership but actually gaining the attention users downloading and engaging with the game title with 21% of all PC players in the US were playing apex legends between February 6th and 10th.


Comparing Respawn’s release of Apex Legends to its previous title Titanfall 2, which failed to meet sales expectations for many reasons, one most commented on being its release timeframe being stuck between Battlefield One, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. This provides us with insight into a situation of oversaturation of a game market leading to scarce attention, the audience of this genre picked both Titanfall 2’s competitors for their notoriety leaving Titanfall 2 to be forgotten to the ages, being a prime example of longtails.


The Attention Economy’s future implications

An interesting post by The Verge explores the idea that the Attention Economy is slowly dying, as engagement is hitting its peak limit and explores Fortnite’s ability to maintain its growth and hold of the Attention Economy. As we explore how advertising campaigns are slowly changing we are seeing a major push in collaborations. Fortnite has worked with Disney with the release of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, Marvel’s Infinity War, and Endgame Films, and Microsoft’s Halo Franchise just to name a few. By working together in an advertising sense it allows for two companies to engage and stay relevant and active in other areas of their main audience demographic lives.


This leads to an article, by Forbes which explored the concept of the shift from The Attention Economy to the Creator Economy, As previously mentioned creators, have been vital in the longevity and success of game titles, and through Forbes’ examination they look at the cyberspace and how social media platforms and other platforms namely Patreon, Shopify, and Etsy has boosted the effectiveness of creators in the building of a community. This has allowed individual creators to surpass large companies in the creative space, through the method of direct engagement and community building which allows for a unique bond to be created with the audience which is crucially important in creating an engaging, inclusive experience when creating information in the digital age.


Final Thoughts

As we slowly move towards a cyberpunk-like aesthetic with advertising being a part of every aspect of our life with Shibuya Square, Tokyo, and Times Square, New York City looking like a scene taken out of a blade runner movie. Advertising will continue to drastically change with innovative technology and as the environment surrounding the methods of developing a rapport with the audience changes it will be important for all individuals in the cyberspace who create anything for the public audience. For now, I will be sitting back, enjoying the few shows and games I have the free time for, wishing there were just a few more extra hours in the day to explore the endless list of media I would like to consume!


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