TV commercials are being fast-forwarded thanks to DVRs. Magazines and newspapers have seen their subscription numbers fall, taking down the value of the advertisements within along with it. With more and more users discovering AdBlock and similar services, online advertising may also be facing a roadblock.
But like billboards in the real world, billboards or equivalents in video games are simply unavoidable. This makes them a particularly powerful form of advertising as no technology will be invented that will render them obsolete. There may be pushback from gamers who do not want their favourite titles to be cluttered with product advertisements, but it is unlikely that they would actually forego the purchase of a much anticipated title.
With agencies worldwide spending over US$570 billion on advertising last year, it is puzzling how only less than US$3 billion went into video games advertising, even though statistics show that nearly all American teens and half of all American adults play computer, console or mobile phone games, with possibly similar numbers for the rest of the developed world. Figures for the video games advertising industry has been rising and is predicted to continue upwards, although until now it still only makes up a small fraction of the advertising pie.
In this article, Script Consultants introduces two common forms of video game advertising.
An advergame is an interactive game developed with the specific purpose of advertising a certain product. The product will usually form an integral part of the game background, characters, or be featured heavily during conversations between characters. For example, the United States Army sponsored the extremely popular game “America’s Army” in an effort to increase recruitment.
Other games may be less complex in nature, and may be placed on the business’ website or related sites to keep the user on the site longer. The longer the user is on the website, the longer the company’s message is in front of them.
In-game advertising (IGA) is product placement within a video game. The game is not designed to promote a sole product or business, and would be produced for sale with or without sponsors. IGA can be integrated into the game either through a display in the background, such as an in-game billboard or a commercial during the pause created when a game loads, or highly integrated within the game so that the advertised product can be used to complete part of the game or is featured prominently within cutscenes.
Despite the many benefits of video game advertising, it may continue to be underutilised for a few reasons. One of it may be the suitability of the ad to the genre of the game. While a billboard in modern day NYC in Grand Theft Auto fits right in with the environment, product placement is more difficult on an alien planet in the year 2553 in Halo, or in a fictional medieval world filled with dragons and orcs in Skyrim. Embedding advertisements in violent video games also leads to lower brand recall and negative brand attitudes, suggesting that advertisers should think twice about including ads in such media.
With respect to the above problems, it may seem much easier for marketers to target the mainstream advertising channels, despite the growing number of barriers in place to filter them out. However, there will continue to be a market for video game advertising, and it is up to the advertiser to exploit it in creative ways.