We’ve all had time stolen from us courtesy of a session of button pressing and video game joy passing quicker than expected. Such is the addiction of video games, the scourge of many a productive pastime and university revision program – yes, Championship Manager 2003/4, I’m looking at you.
But before you mark video games down as a pointless past time, consider the affect social media has had on the industry.
In this contemporary, socially networked era online gaming is huge, to the extent that Facebook gaming has become a genre in its own right.
Recent updates from Facebook put its worldwide user numbers at 400 million, of which a staggering 31 million use popular game Farmville on a daily basis, that is close to 70 million per month. Most telling of all is the statistic, from allfacebook.com, that “out of the 200 million users who log in to Facebook every day, 15 percent are playing Farmville.”
The sheer volume of gamers playing Farmville alone is staggering, and it is only set to rise as producer Zynga has agreed deals with Microsoft and its Windows Live and MSN platforms – both hugely popular across Southeast Asia.
Social networking is taking online gaming to the next level.
Gaming is one of the primary reasons that Facebook membership in Thailand has risen from around 200,000 in January 2009 to 2 million today. Many of the first Facebook adopters in Thailand joined the site to play games like Farmville in which users can interact with their friends online. This viral element saw more users sign-up to Facebook to join the games, causing critical mass to emerge on the network.
Once users had identified their friends on Facebook they began using other Facebook services, inviting yet more friends to join.
Online gaming remains a huge part of social networking culture in Thailand and across Southeast Asia. So much so that US video game market intelligence firms DFC Intelligence and Nico Partners have joined forces to form DFC-Nico Emerging Markets, a service offering business data around the video game industry in 10 emerging markets including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The DFC-Nico Emerging Markets project emphases the potential the games industry has for business as Dr Ian Fenwick explains in more details in a Bangkok Post column.
“The digital gaming industry globally is thought to have exceeded US$50 billion in 2009. Some sources place more than a quarter of all game hardware and software sales as being in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Though before you assume that most players are from a typical young demographic consider that “males under 17 years are now only 18% of gamers.” This indicates that online gaming has broadened its horizons with titles like Farmville, Mafia Wars, Restaurant City and others appealing to casual and hardened gamers alike.
With a cross section of society, and close to 80 million gamers per month using Facebook alone there is huge potential for business as Dr Fenwick explains concisely.
Games are a marketer’s dream. They are one of the few media where users welcome marketers, particularly for sports-oriented games, players like to see ads around the virtual soccer fields and race tracks. It makes them look more realistic.
Second, games are extremely absorbing and immersive. You may watch a TV commercial out of a corner of an eye while talking on the phone, reading a magazine and eating a snack. But games command 100% attention. If you don’t pay attention you lose.
Third, marketing opportunities abound. Whether it’s wrapping your brand around a simple mobile game, ensuring that your branding gets consumers’ rapt attention for minutes on end (unlike that corner of an eye for a 15-second television commercial), or designing a billboard at the virtual arena that is actually clickable so the gamer can pause the game and perhaps order your pizza without ever leaving the action.
These thoughts are without even consider the potential of mobile. Smartphones like the iPhone already boast sophisticated games which rival that of recent video consoles. When you add mobile-specific elements like augmented reality, GPS and location gaming has the potential to be yet further compelling.
So the next time you consider gaming to be a waste of time, consider the huge audience, branding and commercial opportunities, and then think again.
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**The upcoming March-April 2010 issue of Director includes a digital marketing article addressing how to get the most out of social networkings featuring comment from Dr Ian Fenwick amongst others. The new issue is available from 1 March 2010.