Brand Power

At last! Games are catching up! As the videogame becomes an increasingly important form of expression, it also becomes an increasingly important form to exploit. According to Kotaku, a study by IGA, an agency devoted solely to advertising in videogames, in association with Nielsen (yes, that Nielsen), has determined that people are okay with a little corporate sponsorship in their games.Written in the PR-friendly, what-we’re-doing-is-dynamic-and-good-for-you style, the press release is slightly infuriating. Two essential pieces of information can be gleaned from this release, one, advertising in videogames is a new and successful way of selling products, and two, game players don’t really mind the intrusion. According to the release:

[M]ost consumers reacted positively to in-game ads: 82 percent felt games were just as enjoyable with ads as without.

Of course, like it or not, advertising is here to stay. Anyone born after 1945 has practically been raised on a diet of advertising. Advertising has been a driving force behind newspapers, radio, television, and the Internet. It seems natural that videogames would follow in this progression. It could also be said that advertising in games is a way of making game worlds more realistic and more like the real world.But what is the difference between creating a game that mirrors the real world (ads included), and creating a game with the main purpose of pushing products?An obvious example of product pushing in gameplay is life simulation The Sims and all of its spin-offs. A gamer can purchase accessory packs featuring clothing from H&M and furniture from Ikea, or perhaps he or she might want to download a Ford Escape Hybrid SUV. The Sims games could be perhaps looked upon as satires of consumer culture—part of the charm of playing is discovering the objects that parody brands in real life. Perhaps, though, for some players, the fun is lost when the game becomes less a satirical social comedy and more an idealized (and idolized) depiction of reality. Is it about play anymore if a game tries to sell things the player?It’s certainly something to think about, especially with the uncertain economic outlook. If the Nielsen Company is to be believed, all is not quite so rosy, and advertising is just as uncertain as everything else.

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