Marketing in Computer Games
Written by Daniel Westerstal   
Friday, 09 September 2005

Companies are constantly looking for new channels to market their products and services. They started out with billboards, moved to newspapers and TV and now it’s the computer games turn. Will we see more marketing and advertisements in computer games? In what forms will the marketing be? Read more to find out.

Computer Games has become a dominant medium and we will probably in the future see more companies being interested in marketing themselves in games. It’s a great way to reach teens and younger adults.

Currently there are not much marketing and branding in computer games compared to other media. Sport Games has a history of much more advertisements than other games, mainly because it’s easy to plant commercial messages in the game without affecting the game play.

EA use their sports games for marketing in a number of ways. Not only the pure commercial messages are visible but also artists get to perform their new songs in the games. For example we could all hear the tracks of Bon Jovi, Good Charlotte and POD in Madden 2003.

It’s probably a good way for the artists to reach out with their productions, and cheaper than doing regular marketing campaigns. I think we will see artists in soundtracks a lot more in the future and it will probably increase in action and strategy games.

Another way of marketing in games is planting products in them. It’s easy for a car manufacturer to sneak in a couple of new models in a racing game. We’ve seen it in the Midtown Madness series and the Need for Speed series. In Midtown Madness Volkswagen and Ford made promotions for their vehicles and Need for Speed is littered with sports cars like Ferrari and Lamborghini. Not only does it provide great brand communication, but the games also give the players a virtual chance to test-drive the expensive sports cars.

Some companies have made whole games based on their product or company. Usually they sell the games cheap or give them away for free, they are often very simple. The whole purposes of the games are for Sales Promotion and they are often given away in connection with offers or campaigns. A good example on this is the game Americas Army that is a 3D shooter aimed at recruitment for the US Army. We will see more of these kind of promotional games.

What new forms will we see?

There will probably be both good and bad forms of marketing in games. Bad attempts include planting a product in for example an RPG. So if you go to the bar in the medieval town they will serve you with Pepsi or whatever. I think it’s important for advertisers to see the context of the games and not destroy them with pathetic attempts of marketing.

A good form of marketing might be planting advertisements in games like Sim City. So when the player view his or hers city he will be able to see brands and logos on the streets just as you do in regular cities. Or having advertisements on the taxis and delivery cars driving around in the city.

Another fairly obvious but discreet form of marketing in games might be planting company names. Say for example that you are to use a phone or PDA in a game you could just make an exact copy of say a Motorola phone or an Ipaq PDA. The advertisement would not be distracting or annoying for the player since it is an integrated part of the game.

What are the downsides of marketing in computer games?

There are several downsides of marketing in computer games. The threat is that the commercials in the games annoy players, or that they interfere with the game play. Advertisers have to be discreet and insert their commercials in a suitable context and with care, if they do not it will backlash against them.

Another downside is that the society as a whole is constantly bombarded with advertisements, at least according to some. Advertising in games is still used scarcely and if it increases a lot of people will probably protest or feel overwhelmed with commercials.

Upsides

The upsides are also many with marketing in computer games. One of them is that the industry will earn money on the commercial space that they sell. The profits can be used to develop computer gaming and the industry further and to develop new better games and technologies. The better games and technologies will in return benefit the player.

Computer games will grow as a medium when more advertisers join. This means that the industry will gain recognition and power. Marketing in computer games is a fairly hot subject. Many oppose it and many are in favor of it, whatever it may be the future will be interesting.

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