In my last article, I focused on traditional gaming. That is, the games you buy packaged at the store for the PC or any number of consoles. However, at the end I touched on something that is changing the way a lot of marketers are looking at in-game advertising – the rise of casual gaming and social media platforms that are facilitating those games.
Free games are changing the way advertising works in the video gaming space. Some browser based games, to the annoyance of users, feature ads pasted around the real estate of the game. While these generally have the relevance (and likely the click-through rate) of similarly placed Facebook ads, advertisers are considering ways in which they can exercise successful marketing in this space besides the usual display advertisements.
Freemium casual games are a great way for advertisers to get their brand noticed. In freemium games, players can play the game for free but are also given the option of buying better or distinguishing items for an extra fee. Advertisers can offer branded items by subsidizing the cost themselves or they can buy new items for all players as part of a campaign. If the context is appropriate, this can create a sense of good will between the brand and the gamer and, depending on the game and the item purchased, can also foster an association between the item’s benefits and the brand’s image.
Another option is rebranding a game entirely while keeping the basic premise and gameplay the same. Efforts such as GagaVille, where Zynga’s FarmVille was rebranded for the pop star’s album release, can be an interesting way for users to get engaged with a brand by supplying the entire game rather than a small individual item within the game. Similarly, hosting an in-game event or quest can be a good way to get players interested.
These options work for the social media sphere because they cater to the casual gamer, the people who don’t dedicate themselves to their computer monitor or gaming console every day. But there are also some more innovative ideas. For example, Adventure Quest Worlds, a free to play MMORPG, punishes death with marketing. While it’s certainly an interesting concept, the association between the annoyance of death with a product might not be the best one to be fostering.
EA’s Dave Madden expressed that instead of offering branded in-game items, brands could reward players for watching video advertisements in exchange for in-game currency or items. This move doesn’t disrupt the universe or continuity of the game, and allows full-form traditional advertising to have a place within the gaming world. Another similar idea is that company’s can sponsor games, subsidizing their price tags for players as long as they are willing to watch a few advertisements. This move would work well with console and computer game download platforms such as Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Steam.
As of right now, it seems that the metrics are constantly shifting and the statistics are few and far between in terms of both accuracy and relevance. It’s obvious that gaming is a huge industry and that social media is bringing some new players into the arena. As advertisers, I think that moving marketing into the video game world is an appropriate move but one that must be calculated carefully to avoid upsetting its target audiences. What has your been experience with games in videogames? Do you mind product placement? Do you think it’s cool to see a real-life ad in a virtual world? Let us know in the comments.Marketing Social Media: ads advergames advertising casual gaming digital marketing dynamic advertising freemium online marketing social games social media social media marketing traditional gaming video games