In-Game Advertising : The Potential

Social gaming is all set to make its place among theĀ  most important developments in the history of the Internet. Today, FarmVille is one of the most popular game applications on Facebook. It has 82.4 million active users and over 23.9 million Facebook application fans in May 2010. That’s effectively over 1% of the population of the world. Note, this from an application that considers itself a Beta product (also, a product that has been rated by Time Magazine as one of the 50 worst inventions ever)

Now, I, personally am not a fan of games like Farmville which require you to perform inane tasks like watering your crops. However, FarmVille is but an example of the growing Gamer community. No longer is gaming restricted to hardcore geeks who spend hours behind the computer. With the advent of Social Networking sites and Social Gaming, we’re all gamers.

According to DFC Intelligence, the video gaming industry has posted $57 billion in revenue. Of course, this includes all gaming, inclduing those on your mobile phone, the X-box, the Wii etc. While core gaming still has biggies like EA and Activision, companies that specialise in casual games (that don’t have a steep learning curve) like Playfish, Zynga and others are fast finding their foothold.

Few statistics relevant to the Gaming Industry.

1) 68 per cent of US households play video games.
2) Over 82 per cent of tweens and teens consider themselves gamers
3) Over 25 per cent of US adults over 50 play games.

Source : Indiantelevision.com

Overall, gamers spend an average of eight hours a week playing online games (potentially addressable by dynamic advertising).

Though the percentages are not similar for other nations, it’s clear that gaming is a major activity online. From an Indian perspective however, I doubt these statistics are relevant.

For one, I’d be really surprised if there were a lot of people over the age of 50 playing games (with the exception of, say FarmVille or similar games on Facebook). Also, in India, not all households have an X-Box or a Wii or other consoles.

Now, imagine the potential to advertisers. You’ve probably seen how a lot of movies nowadays (both Hollywood and Bollywood) promote brands subtly. Whether it’s the fact that the protagonist uses an Apple product or that your Bollywood “Hero” munches on Lays, these brand promotions are extremely popular.

Similarly, if you’re involved in a role-playing game, keep on the lookout for billboards advertising Pepsi, or your character wearing apparel from certain brands. However, now, advertising has shifted to a more dynamic focus during gameplay.

Let’s understand the various ways brands can engage with the user using games as a medium

  1. Static advertising : Preplanned content presented, like a banner, or branding on objects relevant to gameplay
  2. Dynamic advertising : Changes with gameplay, has lower exposure but higher engagement

Though traditionally, several roleplaying games have adopted the first path, as games find their way online, social gaming or via the Internet through the console, dynamic advertising is fast gaining focus.

In-game ads, especially those that engage with the player might not seem irrelevant or irritating depending on the relevance to gameplay.

Depending on how well you can place your product, advertising stops being a hindrance.

(From Bizreport.com)
FarmVille, for example, is the perfect place for food-related brands to get in front of a social gaming audience that stands in the tens of millions. Israeli chocolate brand, Elite Taami Nutz, did just that. Saatchi & Saatchi BBR Tel Aviv and its digital subsidiary, Saatchi Interactive, developed an campaign in which FarmVille players were able to buy and grow Nutz branded peanuts.

Non-profit brands are also finding success with in-game product placement. Water.org raised $13,000 in under a week through FishVille players purchasing a specially designed fish. Not only that, traffic to their website increased ten-fold during the campaign.

What can you infer from the above examples? Awareness campaigns when involved with games can prove to be effective.

A few statistics from Microsoft’s Massive, an in-game ad serving company can be found here.

In-game advertising has huge potentials, even in a country like India. Engaging with your favourite brands, especially those that you recognize and use on a day-to-day basis. Take, say, a game that has you as the detective, where you hunt for clues across the city. (Please excuse the lameness of the example). The potential, in such a scenario can have the user engaging with brands from a wide spectrum, each of which can be very relevant and very essential to the plotline of the game.

Though location is not as huge in India (yet), the potential of in-game advertising will only increase. Foursquare, (which now has over 1 million checkins a day) has user interacting with their favourite locations and sharing where they are currently (of course, Foursquare also features on the list of Time’s 50 Worst Inventions). Imagine the potential for an actual game which is location based and (possibly) realtime. At least from my perspective, advertising in these cases actually contributes majorly to the reality-factor of the game.

Add mobile gaming to the above scenario, with gaming no longer restricted to your PC, and the dawn of The Era of Social Gaming is here. We’d blogged earlier about how Aircel and ibibo were tying up to bring social games to their users. This is probably one of many tie-ups we shall see eventually.

As a person who plays games occasionally, I personally find that it’s extremely frustrating to have an ad served to you while the game loads or in-between levels. It’s extremely annoying when you get messages like “Earn 50 points just by participating in simple survey”. However, in-game ads are rarely annoying.

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