As with all marketing, marketers should first start with their intended consumer to determine the best opportunity with gaming. Secondly, marketers have to honestly answer whether or not the program makes sense to gamers or if it interrupts the gaming behavior with unnecessary integration. While most ideas will easily check the marketing and advertising boxes, it is all for naught if the end-consumer is turned off because Brand X just ruined her game experience. Most consumers are open to, and in many cases expect, advertising within games if it adds value.
What kind of reach can I get out of gaming? Who plays the various games?
This question was a lot easier to answer five years ago. We would quickly throw males 18-34 into the console/hardcore gaming bucket. Women 35-plus were considered the casual/online gaming audience. Teens and tweens played across all of the platforms but specialized in hand-helds. Unfortunately, with the introduction of things like the iPhone, social gaming and the Wii, the market is harder to divide and conquer by platform. The upside is that the reach provided through gaming has gone from what could be considered niche (in terms of traditional media) to substantial. Now the majority of consumers can be reached through gaming despite the fact that most would not classify themselves as gamers.
Is gaming an expensive marketing tool?
We definitely get what we pay for with gaming. There are nonexpensive options (e.g., dynamic advertising) that incorporate marketers into the game experience and drive awareness with the gaming audience. Based on the marketer's objectives and strategies, gaming can start in five figures and quickly approach up to seven figures. The investment required increases as the level of engagement and share of voice increase. The limited amount of multitasking in gaming when compared to other media makes CPM to CPM comparisons difficult. Most marketers committing significant resources to the space have done so iteratively through measured programs/pilots and modified based on those results.
Project Natal is slated to debut this year. How are gestural interfaces changing gaming?
These types of innovations have changed gaming in two ways: 1. They make it easier to game. When you have to master a 10-button controller, playing games can quickly feel more like work than fun. On the other hand, if I tell you to drive a car or play a guitar like you would normally, it instantly seems easier and makes you feel awesome in the process. 2. Games are no longer limited to winning and losing. Game mechanics are now being applied to interactive experiences in ways that game companies would never have imagined. The idea of what a game is will continue to evolve and encapsulate general experiences vs. traditional game models.
Many of the consoles seem to be launching their own communities and social-media tools. Is there an opportunity for marketers there?
Nope. Just kidding. There is definitely an opportunity to reach a community of avid fans brought together around a common interest on a console. In order to be well-received, marketers have to understand the audience and their common interest. There is a difference in expectations when talking to a group in Sony PlayStation's Home vs. Microsoft's Xbox Live. The same approach to each would backfire. For example, the fact that consumers pay a subscription fee for access to Xbox Live whereas Home is free to use should be taken into consideration when attempting to reach the respective audiences.
What is the next gaming concept we should be thinking about?
Location-based social games. Again, as the idea of what a game is changes, applications/sites/whatever you want to call them such as Foursquare, Gowalla, MyTown, etc. will begin to steal the time we once spent with traditional games. Yelp recognized this by adding the check-in functionality to its mobile app. Facebook is no doubt looking at how to bring similar features to its site. The idea of "playing" in the real world will continue to morph and bring new opportunities.
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