When picturing the average gamer, you wouldn’t be blamed if that image depicts a geeky college-aged male with the latest gaming console and the greatest mobile gadgets – loaded with every imaginable app – all but surgically attached.
That image, though classic, would be inaccurate.
Today, according to the Entertainment Software Association, the average gamer – 68% of gamers are adults; 47% are women – is 30 years old and has been playing for 12 years. The profile of the average social-network gamer shows, again, a 30-year-old with a college degree who plays on his or her smartphone and earns over $50,000 a year.
The buying power of gamers is evident in the $24.7 billion they spent on gaming software and equipment in 2011, which makes this demographic a particularly attractive target for marketers. And many of today’s marketers are following these consumers into the mobile space where they spend so much of their time.
As video games have made their journey from arcades to TV-and-console combos to desktop computers to mobile devices, brands have been there every step of the way. What began in 1978 with one developer working a plug for his next title into the game Adventureland morphed into product placements, advergames, billboards hawking real brands in virtual worlds – and now mobile email, SMS and push notifications for gamers in the mobile space.
Mobile Ads: More Isn’t Always Better
Though the handheld device holds more potential for brand engagement than any previous innovation, today’s gamers are bombarded from all sides by so much irrelevant ad content they can’t be blamed for becoming enraged and tuning out.
In-game ads are tricky to navigate as studies find users have an almost love-hate relationship with them. Most – 61% – prefer in-app advertising in exchange for a free app download, versus 39% who would rather pay to dodge ad annoyance. But that’s not the whole story. 72% of gamers favor immersive ads or push notifications over banner ads, which are more like miniature billboards screaming random offers.
That’s why it’s not enough for marketers to send out push notifications and wait for gamers’ responses. Mobile marketers must carefully ration and tailor their messages – through data such as device type, location and buying habits – for maximum relevance at moments of maximum influence, retargeting messages that aren’t getting the desired conversions or levels of engagement.
Ari Brandt, CEO of social branding company MediaBrix, gave an excellent example of this during an interview with VentureBeat:“Imagine you’re playing a game, and you need a power-up. So a message pops up and says: ‘John, your power is low. Interact with this Coca-Cola ad and receive five free power-ups.’”
The Push Notification Potential
The level of relevance in Brandt’s example brings up the importance of push notifications. First launched as the Blackberry Email Solution concurrent with RIM’s 950 model, “push” began as a service designed to continuously update wireless email inboxes. In the years since, billions of pushes have been sent, received and acted on. One company, Push IO, boasted a 25% push growth rate recently and now reports over 6 billion push notifications served to date.
With this volume of push notifications being sent, it’s safe to say that gamers are expecting them. But for marketers to effectively engage this tech-savvy audience their messaging needs to be distributed in an altogether timely, relevant and unobtrusive manner. Today’s graphic-rich and immersive-experience video game environment all but demands it.
Avoiding the Reset Button: Keeping Gamers’ Attention
Marketers and game developers must create messaging that provides value, and is delivered at the right time and in the right format. Real-time analysis of what works and doesn’t work is a must. Through techniques such as targeting, retargeting and A/B split testing – sending out different versions of a message to see which elicits the better response – brands can secure a valuable foothold in gamers’ minds.
Video games are often about earning points and gaining extra lives. At other times they’re about creating an endless virtual world that users can explore. But in the very real-world game of engaging consumers and nudging them toward new purchases, effective mobile messaging that engages, not enrages, may be that “special weapon” that gives marketers the “invincibility” they seek.