Video Games Add Complexity to an Already Diverse Omnichannel Approach
New research showcases how brands can use gaming to reach large audiences
Our audience may be wondering why Keypoint Intelligence is suddenly interested in the video game space. Sure, we’ve covered gamification at length in our blogs, but not really video games as entertainment. Truth is, video games are not just pleasure—they are a strong and growing communication channel that certain brands are already leveraging to connect with an incredibly large and diverse audience of gamers.
The video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on the Nintendo Switch on March 20, 2020, roughly the same time that most of the world entered the COVID-19 pandemic. In the year following, it would go on to sell at least 32.6 million copies and would be the third highest selling game that year. The video game industry, as a whole, is projected to have grown by 27% during 2020, buoyed by a robust e-commerce infrastructure and billions of people suddenly looking for a distraction.
And it’s not a fluke. While no one is predicting this incredible growth to continue through 2021, the video game market itself is only expected to stabilize—not shrink back—to its pre-COVID days. Research puts the number of gamers on the planet at around 2 billion, and steadily increasing.
How Brands Can Communicate Through Video Games
For certain brands, video games as a communication channel is nothing new. As part of the 2008 presidential campaign, the Obama campaign purchased advertising space in 18 games utilizing Microsoft’s Xbox Live service. In 2010, corn chip manufacturer Doritos purchased a 3D side-scroller called Avatar Crash Course, rebranded it Doritos Crash Course, and released it on multiple Microsoft consoles and Windows. Before the Walt Disney Company and Lucasfilm released 2019’s Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, they placed a message from the resurrected antagonist, Emperor Palpatine, in a Fortnite campaign.
Whether it is a traditional advertisement, a game sponsorship, or an extravagant multimedia tie-in, businesses of all kinds are using video games to bolster their marketing efforts. Oftentimes, the brand tie-in is not explicitly linked to the gameplay. For instance, the Doritos game features very little in the way of corn chips (players are trying to get through an obstacle course, instead), but still…every loading screen and every title card provides an opportunity for the brand to promote itself.
|Fashion company Gucci created an entire island that players could visit in
Animal Crossing: New Horizons to promote an upcoming #ForeverGuilty campaign
(Source: Marketing Initiative).
The Importance of Satisfying Customer Preference
Keypoint Intelligence’s research has consistently shown that customers want to control how brands communicate with them. Those who are comfortable with paper, for instance, wish to keep paper-based communications going—and are even willing to pay a premium for them. This same desire extends into the world of gaming and is more complex than some may realize.
The issue starts with the word “gamer,” which is just as informative as the word “man” when it comes to marketing. There is no single type of gamer. Recent studies from Newzoo identified nine distinct gamer personality types, and the gaming research company noted that the market was fairly divided between them. Without diving fully into this breakdown, let us put it another way: A 56-year-old married mother of two playing Bejeweled on her smartphone is as much a gamer as the 23-year-old college student with their new PlayStation 5. Understanding this diversity of gamers is key to effectively communicating with them.
Much has been made of commerce evolving from simple transaction to branded experience. It is how retail chains like IKEA remain competitive in an increasingly digital world. Brands—even those in the print industry—can help redefine themselves and expand their product audiences by using games as yet another communication channel (one with more participants than Netflix or the NFL).
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