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Marketing Lessons From Gaming Trends

  |  September 22, 2008   |  Comments

A recent trend allows gamers to customize the game to their liking. Advertisers should take note of the impact it may have on consumer behavior.

It seems the video-game-playing audience continues to grow each month, thanks to new systems and games that consumers can't seem to put down. From hardcore PC titles such as "Galactic Civilizations II" to more casual games like "Rock Band 2," gamers spend numerous hours playing through countless levels, downloadable content, and expansion packs.

Video-game development traditionally has been reserved for a select group of individuals. It didn't matter if you felt the power-up box in "Super Mario Bros 3" should have been placed earlier in the level. You were required to play through as it was designed.

But now gamers are being given the opportunity to customize games to their liking. Advertisers should take note of the impact it may have on consumer behavior.

This month saw the release of "Spore," one of the year's most highly anticipated titles from Electronic Arts. Will Wright, acclaimed creator of top-selling games "The Sims" and "Sim City," has given gamers complete control over their experience in his latest project. Players are challenged to create a species from scratch that can eventually become a civilization that vies for world (or universe for that matter), or which simply interacts with other players' creations (for more casual players).

The game combines many elements from other popular genres, such as role-playing and massive multiplayer online games, which expands the potential audience. The individual player's decisions will create a completely unique game environment such that no two players will have the same experience. Take that, power-up boxes!

Another title that hopes to continue the trend of individual player customization is Sony Computer Entertainment America's "Little Big Planet," scheduled for release in October. As with "Spore," players can customize the game experience to their preferences. But instead of creating fake organisms, they design the actual levels that avatars will traverse to accomplish all-important in-game objectives.

While gamers will be able to try their hand at around 50 preloaded levels on the game disk, the real fun begins when they connect with other players online to compete in player-created levels. Players will even be able to create custom in-game prizes for completing their levels in a certain amount of time. Again, take that, power-up boxes!

Why should advertisers care about games that are obviously based in fantasy worlds with limited to no opportunities to integrate real-world products?

For starters, the appropriate brand could effectively leverage the excitement and popularity of the titles through an innovative marketing partnership. But that remains a short list given the game content. However, all brands can look at the trend taking place in games and apply those same insights to their marketing programs in game advertising and outside of it.

The following are a few key takeaways:

  • Consumers want to play God. By no means is this a new insight, but it shouldn't be glossed over as a simple CGM (define) trend. Video games are the perfect platform for consumers to live out this fantasy by delivering complete control of the content. While other digital media put you in the role of the conductor, games are now able to make you the actual engineer who creates the trains and tracks.

  • They want their name in lights. As much as we all hope to win the lottery one day, many consumers are fine with being recognized for their actions. The endless opportunity of these games relies on players' custom creations. The top creations are featured in online communities, raising the profile of the masterminds behind them.

  • Freedom drives motivation. The limitless options made available through these games will increase the amount of gamer interaction time with the game and other gamers. Unlike typical games that follow a structured plot with few open-ended choices, this new game play changes with each encounter, which motivates gamers to see how many paths they can create.

  • Nothing is impossible. Most ideas are limited, based on preconceived notions or self-imposed restrictions. Game developers will now be able to learn from their fan base, which could lead to innovative features for future iterations.

As you can see, gamers have some exciting titles to look forward to this fall. Depending on the success of games like "Spore" and "Little Big Planet," we should expect to see new intellectual property in this genre of user-customized game play and maybe even recognized franchises looking to add similar features to already established blockbuster titles.

We marketers should pay close attention and try to apply the best practices to all marketing programs. Besides, who likes doing the same old power-up boxes?

Join us for a new Webcast, High-Touch Personalization, The Successful Marketer's Secret Ingredient, September 29 at 2 p.m. EDT.

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Matt Story

Matt Story is director of Play, a division of Denuo. He oversees the West Coast operation, maintaining key publishing and gaming industry contacts for the agency. With expertise and perspective from both the client and the agency side, he brings to bear dual strengths: interactive and videogame advertising and how they can transcend and evolve a client brand.

Matt and his team develop unique gaming integration programs on behalf of General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Miller, and others. In March 2007, he played an integral role in the 2007 Pontiac Virtual NCAA Final 4 tournament, powered by videogame "College Hoops 2K7."

Before joining Play, Matt was interactive marketing manager across P&G's antiperspirants/deodorants category. During his four-year tenure, he managed the creation of the first P&G blog, which supported the launch of Secret Sparkle Body Spray. He also led innovative development with the Old Spice brand's in-game integrations in multiple key videogame titles. To hear more from Matt and the various creative minds at Denuo, visit Denuology for their unfiltered perspective on the world at large.

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