Think back to when cryptocurrency was merely an idea by a few renegades online, or the myth that Artificial Intelligence meant that killer robots were coming to take our jobs; these concepts are now coming to quickly shape the way that we operate. We can apply this same sentiment to world of gaming, which is anticipated to have a tsunami-like changes for our day-to-day lives.
The number of online video game players has seen a constant increase in growth year-on-year. By the end of 2021, there were an estimated 3.2 billion gamers worldwide, reaching across demographics and geographies. The average age of a gamer is 33 years old. And on average, female gamers are on the rise, with women accounting for 45% of the gaming population globally. This is a medium that is becoming a fundamental part of our life.
The current landscape and scale of gaming already presents massive opportunities. The rise of subscription gaming services and cloud gaming has opened income opportunities beyond the sales of game titles. People are earning an income playing games, and not just in the obvious ways. Beyond e-sports, competitions and tournaments, there are independent game developers who can develop and launch their games without the need for a publishing company - all of which provides opportunities to reach potential consumers.
So this poses the question, how can gaming platforms give brands the best entry into the metaverse?
Imagine you’re playing an online game and on the side of a building your avatar comes across an advert for Nike. Perhaps a character in a game is wearing the latest drop from Fendi. Or maybe you take a moment in the midst of an in-game mission to order real-life Ben & Jerry’s from a virtual store.
This film-style product placement in video games is still in its infancy but has the potential to become commonplace in the near future. Video game platforms are a way of accessing customers enjoying themselves and being entertained, while at the same time providing brands with a way to create targeted and immersive brand experiences. In the past 10 years, games have massively advanced the visual effects and the physical immersion; essentially, the front end of games. But behind the scenes, the actual experiential reality of the game world has remained woefully limited. This is all changing due to recent advancements in technology and we’re seeing promises of increased portability in the metaverse, whereby gamers could have ownership of assets.
We are already seeing brands engaging with gamers in a number of ways:
- Moschino: The luxury fashion brand partnered with EA Games to create in-game packs that would unlock virtual Moschino garments and new fashion-themed career paths and options in the Sims universe. For the campaign, models dressed in signature Moschino outfits in to bring about new consumer experiences. Other clothing brands such as Highsnobiety and Valentino have launched official clothing lines in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, to yield the networking and audience engagement capability in games.
- Gillette: Also on the Animal Crossing platform, P&G’s Gillette Venus launched a Skinclusive Summer Line where women could enjoy the sensations of summer virtually in Animal Crossing with characters that represent skin diversity. This included avatars with common skin realities like freckles, acne, hair, cellulite, scars and stretch marks, and under-represented skin like vitiligo, tattoos, psoriasis, and differently abled bodies.
- Guerlain: Some brands even created their own games; this includes French cosmetics brand Guerlain which developed a gamification WeChat campaign. Players completed multiple levels of difficulty of a lipstick themed Tetris game to chance to win a lipstick as long as they score over 5,000 points. Within 10 days of its launch, game had attracted 18,582 page views and 10,000 players.
- PepsiCo: Over the last decade, esports has gone from a more niche interest into a resilient business with huge growth potential that rivals the revenue of traditional sports. Just like traditional sports, esports have generated a wide range of brands sponsoring players, teams and tournaments in an attempt to reconnect with their audience. PepsiCo’s sponsorships for esports include sponsorships under specific brands such as Mountain Dew including esports teams and sponsoring the Mountain Dew League and other major events.
While brands are encouraged to make smart moves into the metaverse, and connect with the gaming population in clever, engaging ways, it’s important to note that online spaces need to be safe, inclusive, and regulated. Key considerations and potential risks are still being determined, given that the emerging technology associated with many games is still being tested. Therefore, the accountability currently lies with brands to define innovative briefs that remain responsible.