Gaming has transformed from a relatively niche entertainment market to a massive global industry in the last 20 years, with recent titles outselling the biggest blockbusters and albums by staggering amounts. With the increase of the gaming audience comes new potential for advertisement and marketing. Not only from the game developers themselves, who have begun to use large scale ad campaigns and marketing techniques, but also from many other companies eager to reach a new audience using new and innovative advertising campaigns.
Like many new mediums, gaming has seen it’s fair share of controversy, with ratings being introduced for more violent or adult content. Some games, in particular Rockstar’s infamous GTA series, has often been at the forefront of media assaults claiming that they encourage violent behaviour in children. Interestingly, in the cited source, it is the children themselves who believe this, despite research that seems to suggest the link is minor at best, and greatly exaggerated. In fact, there have been recent studies that highlight the many positive effects gaming can have on mental health in particular, increasing critical thinking and problem solving. Such research is slowly dismantling general negative opinions about gaming, and as the industry continues to grow and becomes more accepted, advertisers have begun looking into how they might market products to a gaming audience. Europe in fact, has the second largest consumer base for games, ahead of the US and behind Asia, with the average gamer age at around 26 in Spain, and around 33 for the rest of Europe.
The idea of placing adverts in games is not a new one, with some already having adverts integrated
into loading screens or on billboards in the game environment. With the upcoming release of the next generation consoles, and boom of the free to play online gaming market, things could be set to change drastically. Rather than simply using product placement or images in the game environment, the technology and development of new platforms is beginning to lead towards interactive advertising as a way to engage the gaming community. The use of targeted advertising is already present on consoles, and this can be further expanded upon with the next generation of home entertainment products, which are geared towards meeting all home entertaiment needs in one device.
Sony began exploring these ideas last year, coming up with a number of advertising solutions that can be interacted with as games and entertainment themselves. This may well be an effective way of reaching the gaming audience too. Despite the success of current in game advertising methods, something more interactive that requires input from users could be implemented into games, even becoming a part of them, meaning the user will not just be passively encountering it, but actively interacting and engaging with possibilities of products through the advert, and so on.
Using various methods from integration to interactive games, the future looks very interesting for marketing and advertising in the games industry. As we can see, the gaming market is likely to converge with most other forms of home entertainment, and this cross over will present new opportunities for products to reach a wider, more targeted audience.
Some methods already in use are likely to become more common place, such as product placement directly into a game world, but the success of ‘advergames’ , especially in the case of the Burgerking games in 2006, which paved the way in many repects, has also shown that products can be developed into fully fledged games themselves. While this kind of investment does take time, potential popularity and users reached can be huge. In addition, advergames have the advantage of being viewed as game first, and advert second.
Recent studies suggest that not only are in game adverts beginning to reap benefits, but that gamers are becoming more open to the idea, finding they actually enhance their experience. Of course, this is dependent on making sure the adverts fit the game. Tony Hawks Underground 2, for example, had huge success in integrating advertising due to it’s modern day ‘real’ setting.
With this as a starting point, the future looks to hold many exciting and innovative advertising solutions for the gaming and home entertainment markets.