For the Love of the Game


Gaming may well be the best brand medium in history. Games are a most unlikely modern medium -- one where consumers willingly spend huge sums of time, are relaxed, focused and eschew multi-tasking, and one where consumers are open to interacting with brands. Games are magical.

For any marketer who seeks to generate meaningful engagement with their consumers, games now offer a rich, diverse and massive opportunity. In this world, products can metamorphose into popular characters and campaigns into levels, and brands have the ability to freely select modes from "beginner" (simple sponsors) to "expert" (sought-after publishers).

The real question most brands are faced with is not whether to play, but how.

State of play

We've come a long way from the sticky quarters and darkened arcades of our youth. Video games are a social, mass and relatively omnipresent phenomenon. With gaming's platform proliferation from arcades to consoles to handhelds to online to mobile to everywhere, audience proliferation has followed suit. Games are less a platform or a title than they are a mechanic or a behavior.

Gaming as a business has undergone many of the same long-tail tectonic shifts as the Web itself. As the same competitive barriers of distribution, development cost and expertise have crumbled, gaming has gone from being the domain of a few well capitalized professionals to a much broader, more inclusive and pervasive world.

Yes, there are still huge franchise players (Halo, Madden, etc.) that generate huge audiences and revenues (complete with the Hollywood-like investment gambles of $15-25 million per release). But for brands, these mega-titles are a diminishing piece of the puzzle. Gaming has become a spectrum of media apertures that needs to be planned against specific objectives -- meaning it's no longer just a binary "sponsor or not" decision.

Recent trends of social dynamics in gaming (from Xbox Live to Facebook games) have also fused the marketing phenomena of entertainment and viral. Unlocking a brand's place in the world of gaming can now be rewarded with explosive growth in brand popularity and offline sales.

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