The world is constantly in search of escapist ideation, none so much than the arena of gaming. It is no longer strictly the stomping ground of teenagers and 20-somethings, but more and more diverse target groups are becoming entrenched in the gaming world.
Gaming opens up many doors, not just an outlet for the consumers, including the very controversial topic of advertising within the realms of the artificial world created by video games. There is a great number of video games that are extremely realistic and proponents function within a world much like ours with very lifelike graphics. Using this platform, advertisers can benefit from something as simple as product placement or even go so far as dynamic advertising. In simpler terms, the gamer will see billboards advertising specific products, or reach for a particular soft drink out of a vending machine to “power up”. These, almost subliminal, advertisements will not be actively noticed by gamers, but dynamically affect consumerism.
It is estimated that over one billion people play video games every day, so why shouldn’t advertisers capitalize on this susceptible target pool. Not only does it increase revenue for gaming companies, making game development very lucrative, but it opens the portal for selective advertising. By matching products with the target market that the game itself appeals to, mitigates the risk to the advertiser as the target markets for games is usually quite specific.
This technology also takes advantage of our brain’s neurochemistry. It has been proven that gaming increases the capability of the frontal lobe of the brain. This area of the brain is responsible for the decision-making processes, moral judgement and planning. This area is also associated with the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked with the feeling of pleasure. It makes both neurophysiological and fiscal sense to increase the stimulation of this particular area of the brain, as the visualization of products whiles stimulating the release of dopamine leads to association with the product and pleasure.
To add another dimension to this form of virtual advertising, we look into augmented reality. This is simply the integration of digital information into the user’s environment in real time, taking the existing environment and overlaying new information on top of it to create an alternate reality. I'm sure most of you know now that I am about to speak about the recent Pokemon GO crazy that has taken over the world.
I won't lie - I have been glued to my phone for the past few days, aimlessly wandering around the Boston Commons bumping into things trying to catch the elusive creatures. The "pokestops," or areas where trainers (the players) can replenish on "poke balls" (what is used to catch the Pokemon - the creatures), are locations that have some sort of historical value. My own 11 year old brother who was visiting me for the weekend was asking me if we could go back to the statue of Alexander Hamilton "for a walk." People are seeing things and learning about things that they've walked by hundreds of times before, using the augmented reality feature to explore the world around them through their phone's camera.
This already has many commercial applications, ranging from the head’s up display found in car windshields, to healthcare, tourism and public safety. One use that is very much in the ascendant is that of marketing. With this technology, nothing is off limits. While driving in your car, the GPS that is directing you will subtly show you nearby restaurants; a paint color application for your living room proposes appropriate colors, conveniently suggesting a brand as well as a retail link to purchase said product. The applications are limitless - and instead of taking advantage of a parallel universe to reinforce the product, augmented reality integrates the need for the advertised product into daily life and the physical environment thereby fast-tracking the future of advertising significantly. Pokestops could soon magically be located on Amazon's physical stores that have started coming up. Poke Gyms, where trainers battle each other, could soon be located in a public food court...the possibilities are endless.
Gaming purists will contest these pragmatic developments with the argument that gaming should be for pure escapist pleasure and not be exploited for economic gain, but in today’s society, cash is king and most endeavors are fiscally motivated. Augmented reality is very much the future of marketing, marrying technology and consumerism in the rich tapestry created by game developers.
This article was written by Tan Kabra, Founder & CEO of LaunchByte.io. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @tankabra on Twitter.