Market Focus: Video Gamers
Don’t dismiss video game play merely as a rite of adolescence. It represents a booming market that is seeing increases in the number of games available, types of systems and number of people playing. Research shows that most players are between the ages of 18 to 34; however, a recent study by Netherlands-based JuniorSeniorResearch suggests that 51 percent of teens under the age of 15 play video games.
Demographics point to a decidedly male market willing to shell out big bucks in pursuit of its hobby. According to the NPD Group, a market research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y., total U.S. consumer spending on PC games reached $1.4 billion in 2005. Of this total, online subscriptions to PC games and gaming Web sites were estimated to account for $344 million. Paid, casual gaming sites that offer unlimited video game play of a variety of games, like Pogo.com or RealOne Arcade, reached sales of $52 million in 2005, with about 1 million paid subscribers.
According to research conducted by Ziff Davis Game Group, a division of Ziff Davis Media, the average gamer spends $300 every three months on gaming. Ziff Davis publishes three gaming magazines—Electronic Gaming Monthly, Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine and Computer Gaming World—in addition to the online gaming site 1UP.com. Its data shows that the average gamer is male, with a median age of 26 and a household income of $50,500.
“The single biggest investment that a gamer has to make is on the console or gaming PC,” says Rey Ledda, vice president of marketing for Ziff Davis’ Game Group. “The next generation of consoles—Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3—will be priced from an unconfirmed $250 for the Wii, to a rumored $600 for the PS3. Xbox 360 games cost an average of $60 each. PS3 games are expected to cost between $59 and $99 each; Nintendo’s Wii games are expected to cost about $49.99 each.”
This adds up to a hefty investment. Ziff Davis’ 2006 Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) Subscriber Study reports 84 percent of readers own four or more consoles; and 74 percent indicate they are likely to purchase a new console in the next 12 months. Additionally, they plan to purchase four games within the first three months after they purchase their new console.
Targeting the Core Gamer
Gamers often are divided into two categories: core and casual. A core gamer typically plays 20 hours per week and has purchased at least four games in the past six months. Casual gamers play half as often as core gamers and purchased less than one game in the past six months.
While core gamers comprise only 25.6 percent of gamers, they account for more than half of the $11 billion spent on gaming in 2005, according to Ziff Davis’ 2006 Digital Gaming in America study.
Gaming sites like Gamepro.com, 1UP.com and Robotube.com attract serious gamers with content that may include news about the gaming industry, profiles on programmers and games, as well as shortcuts to games. Content changes frequently to draw gamers back to the sites, which require registration to play online games and to access some content. Registrants are marketed to on the Web sites, in the games, directly on their cell phones, and through e-mail and mail.
“The most successful campaigns,” says Ledda, “have been those that utilized a multichannel strategy, honing their message to take advantage of the unique environment within each channel. Although most gamers are brand-loyal, and will usually stick with a product that they trust, they are also suspicious of being overtly ‘marketed to.’ Thus, an authentic voice in the proper channels sometimes works better than a shotgun approach.”
Ledda suggests marketers attract gamers with teaser campaigns, then follow up with a combination of print and online ad campaigns supplemented by out-of the box solutions, such as microsites and sponsored clubs, contests, sponsorships on shows, and podcasts.
Original video game developer Robotube designs games for the Internet and mobile electronics, and is changing the way mobile games are delivered. Typically, games on mobile phones are provided by the wireless company, but Robotube creates and delivers games to phones and PDAs. On its Web site, the game developer builds games to attract traffic and then runs promotions for third-party vendors, such as New England Brewing Co. It also creates games to drive traffic to other Web sites, such as Getty Images. For example, Robotube leveraged Getty’s image database to create PictoMatch, a game that can be played on mobile phones to promote Getty Images’ new mobile accessibility.
Robotube also is beginning a new opt-in registered gamers-only playroom on its Web site to build both an e-mail and mobile phone database. “We are trying to collect information to get to know more about our traffic through the registration process. We are reaching out to an audience who already wants to have a relationship with us. It is important to know where the gamer is from, gender and age. It helps develop games so you’re not designing in a vacuum,” explains Robotube Creative Director Jason Cirillo.
Armed with this data, Robotube plans to promote mobile games and be able to deliver third-party marketing efforts to members via its game room and mobile phones.
In-game advertising, says Eva Woo, vice president of marketing for San Francisco-based in-game advertising company Adscape Media, is seen by advertisers as an excellent way to reach the elusive, male 18 to 34 market. Adscape Media offers a proprietary technology called Real World/Virtual World Gateway (RVG), which tracks special tricks or in-game accomplishments and then sends the gamer an e-mail or cell phone text message with a reward or promotion. “We are seeing mass marketing—to build brand awareness—by serving dynamic ads into a game and some very unique approaches for direct marketing and multichannel marketing through the use of our RVG technology,” adds Woo.
She explains that this technology allows marketers to offer promotions without gamers feeling “marketed to” and without interrupting their play. Gamers then are left with the choice of whether or not to opt-in.
Money to Play With
Jason Freidenfelds, public relations director for Ziff Davis’ Game Group, says most readers are influenced by magazine content when it comes to purchase decisions. “Because the readers are reading the magazine to decide which products to buy, they’re highly tuned to messaging about new products. These ads lead to purchases … our EGM 2005 readership survey asked: Which of the following actions have you already taken or plan to take as a result of seeing an ad in Electronic Gaming Monthly?” The answer:
• Visit a store to see and play the game: 55 percent
• Purchase the product: 47 percent
• Ask a friend about the product: 44 percent
“The same applies online. A product-centric social network like 1UP.com is where enthusiasts go to think about making purchases, and it’s there that they talk with their friends. According to a recent 1UP.com user survey, 82 percent of 1UP.com users read other gamers’ reviews/opinions on games, and 54 percent purchased a video game after reading a blog on 1UP.com. That’s a fantastic driver for purchases,” says Freidenfelds.
The good news for many direct marketers, however, is that gamers’ appetites for new products extends beyond games. “We found that gamers are tremendous consumer goods buyers. … In fact, the more they game, the more they spend on consumer goods, too,” says Freidenfelds. Indeed, the Ziff Davis study shows that in the last six months, core video gamers spent $708 each on clothing versus $374 by casual video gamers; $231 on athletic shoes versus $126 by casual gamers; and $117 on DVDs versus $64 by casual video gamers. The same pattern holds true for CDs, online music downloads and consumer electronics.
“Any marketer who wants to reach the sweet spot of 18 to 34 males should absolutely go after this demographic that is defined by their common love of computer and video games,” Ledda adds.
Melissa Sepos is a freelance writer based in Wyncote, Pa.