Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Opinion: 3D will alter games marketing forever

The marketing of video games is set to receive a big shake-up with visually-unfriendly new mediums of entertainment entering the market, and a big in effective advertising techniques towards online-based platforms.

THQ’s VP of core games, Danny Bilson’s, claim that television’s viability as an advertising medium for games was on the way down is a well-grounded one.

Quoted in gamesindustry.biz, Bilson said "One of the bigger questions we have to ask ourselves is how important is television? How important is television to a core gamer on a non-television brand? So I think television has some relevance on WWE and UFC because I consider those TV brands. But our other stuff, I question it severely.

"It’s incredibly expensive, and what I can do with two million dollars, which will buy a few TV spots on a big sporting event, what I can do in outdoor, or on the web, or direct-to-consumer is way more exciting.

"You know where I want to market? I want to market on Xbox Live. I want to market on PSN... Television is a big question mark for me."

The same report cited EA allegedly spending over $2 million for a 30-second superbowl advertisement for Dante’s Inferno as an example of just how expensive game advertising can be.

With that kind of money at stake, the return on investment needs to be clear, from a marketing point of view. With television, it isn’t.

The Internet, with its tools to track click-through rates on placed advertising, is a far more useful raw medium for advertisers. Social networking, too, plays a big role in the ‘friend referrals’ which EA has been quoted as creating a greater number of game sales that TV advertising.

And then there’s 3D. 3D consoles and technologies – such as the Nintendo 3DS system, or the PlayStation 3’s 3D capabilities, renders many visual forms of advertising nearly-useless.

Like everyone else, I was wowed on the potential of the 3DS when I saw it at E3. What I wasn’t wowed by was how terrible the images transferred to 2D mediums, like the computer screen I was viewing E3 through. All I saw was grainy, messy footage, and my only consolidation was the many reports that in the flesh what looks horrible looks incredible.

I envision that 3D is frightening to traditional marketers, but when you consider the positive response to the 3DS on online forums, Facebook, and Twitter, it is clear where the future of game advertising is. It’s in stroking the flames of viral publicity that a good product develops for itself.

Before the advent of the Internet, there was a good example of this at work. The microbudget horror film, Halloween, became a mega success with almost no advertising budget. It was a strictly press review and word-of-mouth snowball, and is now a historical film.

The 3DS will essentially force game marketing to come full circle. With no high definition videos to rely on, the focus will instead be on making sure the people who would be interested in a game know of its existence, and then making sure their entire social network also know, and so on.

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