Hello there. What is marketing? A strange question, especially for the twenty-first century. After all, marketing is now everywhere.
On television, in the newspaper, in all social media channels. Where consumption takes place, the unsuspecting user usually finds marketing. However, this also applies to an area that is still being researched and needs to be researched: the video game industry. So the real question is: How does marketing in video games work?
Banner ads with Mario?!
Before we go any further into this question, a short explanation is needed. Depending on who hears “Video Game”, sometimes you think of fundamentally different things. Modern games can be very different from the hits of the eighties like Pac Man, Galaga or Donkey Kong. Sure, there are still a lot of simple smartphone games that only need a few steps to be played successfully.
But as technology continued to advance, so did the games. Around the turn of the millennium, so-called Massively Multi Player Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) became increasingly popular. Examples are Tibia (average 9,300 players daily), EVE Online (30,000 players daily), the industry giant World of Warcraft (over five million users) or Second Life. In these the player dives into a new world (which nowadays is usually programmed in 3D graphics). By means of a digital avatar he takes his place in the reality of video games and plays there.
The “second life”
However, Second Life has a very special place in the MMORPG ranks. Because although it is in fact a game, it is also a simulation of life – a second life for its players, as the name implies. Second Life was already released in 2003, 16 years ago (!). Although the game has long passed its peak, it could, according to GameStar, still attract more than 600,000 players in winter 2017. In fact, Second Life has managed like no other game to build a culture of its own.
Sandbox on the Internet
This is partly due to the fact that there are no “objectives” – that is, internal game objectives. From endless grinding (repeating actions within the game that usually give an advantage) to level 120, from deadly bosses or a slippery princess, players are spared. In Second Life, players set their own goals. They can meet and chat with other players’ avatars, participate in activities or trade. With the Linden Dollars (named after the manufacturing company Linden Lab), there is even a separate in-game currency that players can exchange for real money. This ensured that the real existing economy soon interfered and overflowed into the game. In spring 2007, French President Sarkozy even ran his election campaign in Second Life, reports Der Spiegel.
Marketing in games
In the noughties, numerous corporations tried their hand at it, for example IBM, Cisco and American Apparel. This is what the entrepreneur reported. Among the new ideas were 3D community rooms that users could rent or virtual marketing tools. Marketing campaigns in Second Life have to adapt to new rules to be successful. A principle that also applies to future projects on this scale. According to Internetworld, the best marketing strategies are based on fresh and innovative ideas. For example, companies designed virtual puzzles, treasure hunts or offers that stimulated the creativity of users. Important here: In Second Life, neither page impressions nor clicks are the currency that matters, but the interaction time with the content provided.
Tips from the founder
Linden Labs has even provided the brands and companies represented on Second Life with a few tips to help them successfully gain a foothold in “Second Life”. The official site has now been deleted, but Horizont ONLINE provides a summary.
- Marketing at eye level: Companies can present themselves in the same environment as their target group
- How do we sell ourselves: Companies should decide within digital worlds whether they simply want to build a virtual marketing presence or a community
- Customization: Customization is standard within digital worlds. This means that users can design their own game figures, houses or other elements of the game environment themselves
- Feedback: As the social networks show, feedback on the Internet is never far away – marketers profit from opinions where the user does not mince his words
- Set clear goals: If you want to explore a digital world, you should be aware.
Criticism and crash
However, the case followed all too quickly. According to the world, the game was heavily criticized only a few years after its launch. The accusations ranged from too frequent server crashes (where money literally disappeared) to the lack of game objectives and rampant paedophilia. According to the SRF, many of the servers used to bring the game online are now completely extinct. The case of Second Life nevertheless shows how companies can succeed in marketing video games. Freely based on the motto: Why wait for the target group when the company can get to the target group?