Video Games Can Be Music to a Marketer’s Ears

As top advertisers leverage video games as an effective marketing medium, the most successful promotions, in terms of the games, tend to occur when a brand or product adds realism to the game experience.

Rockstar Games’ recently released “Midnight Club: Los Angeles” would not be as much fun or even believable if you didn’t see all the real-world advertising and vehicles throughout the virtual LA. What would Hollywood be without all of the out-of-home advertising?

In the past, sports games have been among the more popular genres for integrating brands, given their popularity with gamers and available real estate for organic ads. They have historically been the second most played genre on consoles, following action titles.

All of this could be changing, according to market research firm Odyssey’s Homefront study. While action games remain the top genre, the study reports that music games have passed sports for the second position. The study shows that 58 percent of console gamers are playing music simulations versus 50 percent playing sports games, which could be music to every marketer’s ears.

“The phenomenal success of the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises in the past year has reshaped the landscape of the console game market,” said Nick Donatiello, Odyssey’s president and CEO. If 2007 was the breakout year for music-based games, 2008 was year music games staked their claim as regular contenders in the industry. In addition to the latest releases of “Guitar Hero World Tour” and “Rock Band 2,” games such as “Wii Music,” “Rock Revolution, “SingStar Vol. 2,” and “Ultimate Band” are projected to help music games account for one third of the industry’s growth this year. It appears the music-game momentum will continue into 2009 and beyond, as additional titles such as “Scratch: The Ultimate DJ” and “DJ Hero” have been announced as in development. Who knew so many people wanted to use fake instruments to make virtual music?

Also included in the Homefront study, females make up 53 percent of those playing these music video games on the console. As Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony work to expand the reach of their consoles outside of the typical male, 18-34 demographic, it would make sense to leverage the growing popularity of music games with extended audiences. Because of this, we can expect to see publishers creating games with broader reach to receive more support from the console providers, which in turn increases the awareness and likelihood of those games’ success.

Marketers should take note of this trend for the following reasons:

  • Popular games make for successful campaigns. Obviously, the more consumers interested in the title you partner with, the more eyeballs that will see and hopefully interact with your program. The top music games are competing with franchises like Madden, Halo, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto. Brands partnering with highly anticipated titles should also look to benefit from the word-of-mouth buzz generated for the game, such as partnering with launch events or co-marketing activations.
  • Music games are made to bring people together. Brands looking to reach multiple or broad demographics can leverage the mass appeal of music games. For instance, a product targeted at kids and moms would be able to reach both thanks to games’ social nature. Not to mention music games always fall at or below teen rating, which avoids potential conflicts with adult material found in mature video games.
  • No league affiliations are needed. Unlike bestselling sports titles with built-in league associations, most brands are able to integrate within music titles without needed league or sponsorship affiliations. Depending on the campaign specifics, music licensing fees may be required but don’t prohibit brands and products.
  • You can take advantage of existing game content. The majority of music titles offer incremental content for download to keep the game experience fresh over time. Content typically includes additional music or custom avatars or venues. As game publishers collect these enormous libraries of content, brands can influence what content is available and potentially underwrite the associated cost. For example, Chevy has utilized iconic songs throughout the history of its advertising. The brand could offer downloadable packages of those songs free of charge to “Rock Band” gamers in an attempt to strike the nostalgia associated with past commercials.

We’ve only scratched the surface of music-based video games’ potential. The same could definitely be said for the advertising opportunities in partnership with these titles. As consumers continue to raise the wave of popularity with these games, advertisers have the chance to tag along for the ride, which will no doubt continue to grow well into next year and beyond. Will you be hanging 10?

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