Gam·ers | ˈgā-mərs (noun): a subcategory of the species Homo sapiens that sits upon gaming chairs of varying colors and sizes. They are known for playing games for hours on end, often into the dead of night. Due to this, gamers are often deficient in vital vitamins and minerals needed so desperately by the body. Hence the need for gaming supplements.
GamerSupps and G FUEL understood that unless someone intervened, the entire gaming race would die out. This would render $300 billion dollar video game industry obsolete. Thus, they concocted the ultimate drink for gamers to guzzle down.
This is a marketing case study, not an endorsement. We’re fascinated by how GamerSupps and G FUEL built their businesses, but we advise you to do a lot of research before taking any kind of supplements. When in doubt, ask your doctor, not randos on the internet.
Sound ridiculous? Of course it is!
Yet GamerSupps and G FUEL have managed to merge the $151.9 billion dietary supplements industry with the $300 billion video game industry and have seen great success doing so. Why is that?
The answer is, as it often is on our blog, really good marketing. In fact, G FUEL and GamerSupps took a note out of the Fortnite playbook and really leaned into brand collaborations. But more on that in a minute.
What are GamerSupps and G FUEL & how are they even profitable?
As you have likely already gathered, both GamerSupps and G FUEL are popular gaming supplement companies. Both sell their own versions of magic potions which purport to help gamers focus, react quickly, and stay alert.
To see what I mean, read these snippets from their respective websites.
At Gamer Supps [sic], our goal is to offer esports athletes and gamers the most effective and healthy energy choice to help them perform at the highest potential. GG® is keto friendly, zero calories, and sugar free.GamerSupps, Home Page
In 2012, we had a vision: To create the healthiest, most effective Energy Formula for gamers. And with what started as just 3 Tub flavors – Blue Ice, Fruit Punch and Lemon Lime – Quickly evolved into something much more…A movement. A culture. A Community…
Whether you’re a casual gamer, a content creator, an everyday Joe, or an esports pro, G FUEL’s sugar-free, antioxidant and vitamin-fortified, focus-enhancing, and high-performance energy products will give you the edge you need to fuel your grind.GFuel, Our Story
As you can see, both companies have similar pitches and similar target audiences. While there are a staggering 3.24 billion gamers in the world, less than 10% of them – 234 million – are esports enthusiasts. This audience is small enough to be a specific niche and big enough to be very profitable.
Case in point, these gaming supplements have an excellent product-market fit because they address very clear problems (focus, energy, etc.) for a very clear market (esports enthusiasts and athletes). Or, to put it another way, selling gaming supplements to gamers is equivalent to selling essential oils to a middle-aged white woman – wildly profitable.
Just how profitable? It’s hard to say as both companies are private. However, SimilarWeb estimates that GamerSupps could be making up to $5 million revenue per year and G FUEL has made the Inc. 5000 for five years in a row. At a minimum, we know these companies are able to generate a ton of revenue making something that would confuse your middle class fancy parents.
What on earth is an esports athlete?
If you’re not a hardcore gamer, you might be wonder what esports are and why GamerSupps calls video gamers “athletes.” Normally, you would associate the word athlete with sports, as in, “a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.”
But esports players are not to be taken lightly. They are professional video gamers who live and breathe the game they play, putting in 8-12 hour days of training, with a heavy focus on skills and teamwork. They then go across the world to compete in gaming leagues with the ultimate goal of winning a large cash prize.
Esports athletes build brands and have their own fans, just like a football team might. They can earn millions of dollars by playing video games. They can even experience physical ailments like muscle weakness, tendinopathy, nerve compression, and lower back pain.
Esports athletes can hold a following as well as a more traditional athletes such as, say, a Formula 1 driver. And any fan of Formula 1 knows that drivers and their cars become billboards for brands. Now apply that logic to esports athletes and gaming supplements, and suddenly, you can see how star power can propel companies like Gamer Supps and G FUEL to financial success.
Gaming supplements are as controversial as any other kind of supplement
The global dietary supplement industry is gigantic, and it’s propped up by a vast quantity of questionable substances that people ingest for various purposes. Weight loss. Hair gain. Smart drugs and muscle builders. You name it, there’s a pill that claims to do it.
Supplements of any kind are a toss-up. Some will help and some are dangerous snake oil. The entire industry runs on the principle of caveat emptor. Gaming supplements are no different.
Both GamerSupps and G FUEL are nootropics, or supplements that enhance your cognitive functions. As GamerSupps and G FUEL would say, they help gamers think more clearly and play better games. But, of course, there’s not a lot of scientific proof behind these claims. As with many other nootropics, people get the idea to buy it from an ad, a friend, someone online, or a celebrity. But without clear evidence showing that it works, the only way that they’ll know for sure is to try it out.
Suffice it to say, if you run a supplement business, building trust is going to be a key part of the process. So first I’m going to talk about some underlying trust problems that GamerSupps and G FUEL are dealing with, and ways that their businesses have overcome them (at least in terms of revenue).
GamerSupps: Opaque ingredients and accusations of theft
With many supplements, you end up consuming a proprietary blend. That means you don’t know how much of each ingredient you will be consuming per scoop. Many supplement takers frown upon this, because their concern is their health, and they want to know what they’re consuming. GamerSupps tells people what’s in the blend, but not how much is in the blend. This might sound like a nitpicky point, but let’s not forget that “the dose makes the poison.”
Of course, trust can also be eroded in other ways. In 2021, when the OG GamerSupps leader, EricFrayman, decided to work with IceRocker. She sent them designs and they made digital mock-ups. Next, the person she was working with left, and communication broke down.
Not too long after that, GamerSupps went ahead and made a slightly modified version of the design she made them. Then they released it without any announcement of payment agreed. The backlash was ferocious.
One year later, we still don’t know the full story. But we do know that the new owner, Johnathan Schlatt, has proven to be better. He’s been working with the podcast team at Trash Taste to make the new anime-inspired design, Waifu Cups to capitalize on another lucrative market, anime fans.
Things seem better now for the company, but those PR moments can cause long-term damage. GamerSupps needs to at least appear trustworthy and respectful of the gaming community to survive. This is because they need celebrity sponsors to push their supplements – more on that in the section after the next.
G FUEL: Complex complexes and questions of effectiveness
G FUEL is doing better than GamerSupps in terms of trust, but it’s still a mixed bag. In particular, while G FUEL has specified the dose of some ingredients in their supplements, they heavily rely on complexes. Complexes are blends of different substances, which allows the brand to tell you how much of the complex is in the drink, but not the individual ingredients. And it’s the ingredients that actually matter here!
Here’s what I’m talking about. This label says there is 140 mg of caffeine in this 1.79 g blend. But what about the remaining 1.65 g? How much of that is taurine? L-Citrulline Malate? Glucuronolactone? N-Acetyl-L-Carnitine HCl?
None of these ingredients are magic. Their mere presence doesn’t make the supplement effective. You need the right dose. That’s why YouTubers like DuncanCan’tDie are taking the time to break down these complexes and talk about whether the ingredients need to be there and whether the dose is high enough to work.
Now at this point, you could argue that G FUEL doesn’t want to make their entire formula public because it would take away their competitive advantage. Perhaps so. (To their credit, G FUEL has recently started becoming more transparent about their ingredients).
But it’s also worth noting that supplements don’t have to go through FDA approval. They’re not classified as food or drugs. Therefore, the closest thing available to most people to suggest a supplement’s true quality is a clear ingredient label.
There’s also some concern online that G FUEL has very small doses of lead in it. While the dose is so low that it’s not considered dangerous, this is something that gives a lot of consumers pause. You don’t see that on the label!
Now personally, I think that neither GamerSupps nor G FUEL are likely to cause real damage to you. But they should be seen as what they are – highly caffeinated, sweet drinks made to make you feel stimulated. In my view, these are not health products – they are gamer-branded Diet Coca-Cola. If the drinks were pitched this way with clear ingredient labels, then most of the ethical problems would go away.
Twitch & YouTube are gaming powerhouses
There is an insane amount of gaming content online. But how insane, you ask?
In 2020, people watched approximately 100 billion hours of gaming content on YouTube. That is absolutely jaw-dropping – the equivalent of every human being on the planet watching a full day of someone else playing video games.
It makes some sense when you realize that 2 out of the top 5 YouTube channels (in terms of subscribers) are gaming related. Take PewDiePie, for example, who reached 110 million subscribers in 2021. That’s a truly massive audience, and it’s not a coincidence that he’s affiliated with G FUEL.
As for Twitch, people watched 5.8 billion hours of gaming content in 2021. That’s much less than YouTube, sure, but they are way more popular as a gaming streaming platform. The most recent statistics show that Twitch streams account for five times as many watch-hours as YouTube Gaming streams. This makes sense, as YouTube was first a video platform and streaming second.
The Power of Content Creators Compels You to Drink!
Content creators are extraordinarily important to the gaming ecosystem. Many gamers have huge followings and huge influence on their audiences. After all, why else would people spend millions of hours watching others play games, if they didn’t feel like there was some sort of relationship?
This is why both GamerSupps and G FUEL have affiliate programs. Influential gamers can sign up, and for each sale they help GamerSupps or G FUEL make, they get a cut of the money. GamerSupps makes agreements on a case-by-case basis, whereas G FUEL simply gives affiliates 10% of each sale.
Regardless of whether these beverages will give you limitless gaming powers, are glorified Gatorade, or literal lead milkshakes, influencers have a strong incentive to pitch them to their audience.
G FUEL has a list of 72 creators listed on their websites with a diverse blend of YouTubers, Twitch streamers, chess players, and esports athletes. Add up all their followings and you will see a number that amounts to millions upon millions of subscribers.
Then there’s the audience. About 72% of teens play video games, 81% of them have access to a gaming console, and a third watch YouTube. This demographic can very easily be swayed by content creators making a sales pitch for a gaming supplement.
I grew up playing video games and watching YouTube and I remember personally being influenced by the absolutely horrendous system of Loot Boxes at a young age, which are still prevalent. Gaming influencers have a funny way of making things seem cool. Case in point, in the video below, 30,000 people watched this YouTuber taste test G FUEL. At least some of those views turned into sales.
So by now, you can see why GamerSupps and G FUEL are doing well. They have made products with good branding, excellent product-market fit, and they both have really strong influencer marketing plans.
Of course, there’s still one big question left unanswered…
WHY WOULD SOMEONE DRINK THIS?
Hear me out.
Gaming supplements and vaping have a lot in common. They’re both sweet things that make you feel some psychoactive effects. With vaping, it’s nicotine. With gaming supplements, it’s caffeine.
Vaping has a certain coolness to it. There are a lot of flavors to choose from, which can be bad news if you start at a young age because you’re enticed by Mango Juuls. And to be clear, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, this is still better than smoking, but it’s still not safe!
G FUEL and GamerSupps also have a certain coolness to them. They lean into the bright colors and anime-inspired design that resonates with gamers. They reach out to esports athletes that young adults and teens look up to. Sure, the supplements may say they’re for people over 16, but when have age limits ever stopped young people from doing something?
G FUEL is able to partner up with other brands like the super-popular teen anime show, Naruto. They can make specific flavors for their content creators that will sell well. This creates a wonderful closed-loop marketing system that allows G FUEL to find out which flavors and brands create the most growth in the business.
Then when your favorite content creators starts drinking a beverage inspired by your favorite anime? Game over, man. This sort of brand crossover appeal mirrors the same strategy used by Fortnite, and it’s stunningly effective. In fact, like Fortnite, G FUEL is even partnering with Marvel to promote the new Thor film with a unique flavor.
GamerSupps and G FUEL have married the massive supplement market to the gaming market, and have seen financial success doing so. They pitch their supplements as health foods, even though this is not their true appeal.
The real appeal is simple: they’re sweet beverages that make gamers feel energized and that reference their favorite brands. They sail on the wings of a new form of celebrity endorsements through streamers and esports athletes.
Is it a scam? Is it a delicious drink? Is it somewhere in between? Different people will say different things.
I personally don’t think gaming supplements are worth it. Deep down, you know you’re going to have to level grind if you want to play competitive esports. You can’t sip your way to success.
But despite my side-eye, I have to grant GamerSupps and G FUEL one big victory. They are fantastic marketers.