In-game advertising

It’s hard to speak only French when you enter the world of video games. We will adapt and translate for you.

You may think that theentertainment industry is movies or music. Big mistake: these two sectors generated 2019 revenues of only $40.5 and $20.2 billion. In contrast, video games brought in $145 billion in revenue. And, in 2020, the confined gamers (gamers) jumped the figure by 14% to $165 billion. Such a market could only make brands salivate. Their use of video games is increasingly frequent and can be divided into two practices: theadvergame which is the fact of promoting the brand by creating a dedicated game (Ikea, H&M) and thein-game that integrates the brand into the game universe, the equivalent of product placement in movies or TV series.

It would be wrong to believe that video games are only played by nerds (pimply teenagers with a passion for computers spending their days behind their screens)(1). 48% of players are women, the average age of regular players is 40 years old and the practice is largely done on smartphones. First appearing in 1972 on arcades (furniture equipped with a coin-operated machine placed in public places such as shopping malls, bars or specialized establishments), the games gradually moved to consoles, then to PCs and finally to mobiles. These last ones occupy today nearly 50% of the market (without counting the purchase of the mobile).

Contrary to what one might imagine, the revenues do not come from the purchase of machines or even programs, but from the purchase of onlineitems . Let’s explain. The most popular games are battles : a hundred or so gamers are dropped on a map (a map of a terrain, usually an island) and the goal is to eliminate the others and remain the last survivor. But to be that one you have to get weapons, shields and other skins (change of appearance). All this can be ordered online (or traded with other players, a market that was studied in the early 2010s by an economist, a certain Yanis Varoufakis) and, according to some, these purchases represent 80% of the revenue (in the heat of the moment, in order not to die, one is ready to spend a little crazy…).

Advertising finds here a favourable ground, with an audience with a solid purchasing power, but it must be done with skill: the ad must not interrupt the experience, it must not interfere with the gameplay. The brand has to fit into the game world and not be out of step with the user profile. The brand must be staged and become content in its own right so that the advertising dimension fades away and the message is not bludgeoned. The brand and its products must be an integral part of the game.

A head of digital of an advertising agency pleads:  » A captive audience, deserting other media, a sector little preempted by competitors, with unlimited creative opportunities. Unfortunately, the advertising market and advertisers remain surprisingly prejudiced « . However, we can be sure that this will not last: YouTube has accumulated 100 billion hours of video game content viewed in 2020. That’s a lot of opportunity to place advertising messages, especially since gamers are not yet saturated: one study estimated that 82% of gamers reacted positively to in-game advertising and, in 2018, an Ifop study(2) said that the in-game purchases had convinced 20% of the French…

Luxury brands (Vuiton) offer gamers the opportunity to equip their virtual avatars with jewelry and other accessories (before buying them), and ready-to-wear brands are rushing in:  » Are the physical stores closed? Let’s open a store in this video game! « . Some games interrupt the game to announce fashion shows, sports events or the launch of movies with themes close to the game’s scenario…

As McLuhan said,  » the medium is the message  » and so using a seemingly new and innovative medium is a message in its own right that gives the brand a modern dimension.

Alain Adriaens

Notes et références
  1. On dénombre toutefois 0,5% à 4% des 2,5 milliards de joueurs qui souffrent de graves addictions aux jeux, avec de lourds symptômes.

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