“Incidental” and “dynamic” marketing in video games

In-game marketing is a form of advertising that has been around for a decade, but a series of new advertising and public relations techniques have recently popped up on the scene.

This past summer my roommates and I became slightly obsessed with Rock Band 2. The music-based game, which features a set list of popular songs and a variety of instruments to play, is instantly addicting.

The game includes a variety of sponsors. Guitar and microphone manufacturers, such as Fender and Sennheiser, advertise by “selling” virtual instruments at the Rock Band Music Store. Another set of not-so-noticeable advertisements can be seen in billboards that are featured on the virtual stage your band plays on.

While playing Rock Band 2 with my roommates, I was surprised to see an advertisement for Verizon on a billboard in the back. A few days later, the billboard had changed to a advertisement for Tropic Thunder. In-game advertising is nothing new; it has been around since the early 90’s. What IS new are the dynamic and ingenious ways that companies are finding to utilize in-game advertising and public relations.

The billboards found in the background of digital concerts is not the only new technique being implemented by companies in Rock Band 2. Companies have also been utilizing the “leader boards,” digital boards on XBox Live where people from around the world can compete to have the best scores on Rock Band 2. According to an article on Game-ism, two specific companies, Geppetto’s Secret (phone number only) and Destoyer Pedals, gained the spots of 2 and 11 when the game first came out. To attain the scores, the company must have done one of two things: They either spent an obscene amount of hours practicing and perfecting their Rock Band skills, or they hired a Rock Band expert to acheive the score for them. Either way, it shows that companies will do almost anything to get their names known.

There are also the number of companies that get lucky and achieve “incidental” credit. A number of games that take place in our current society add anything to make a game more realistic. For games like Fifa International Soccer and Grand Theft Auto, this includes adding billboards with real-life companies to make the game more lifelike. Even though the gaming companies receive permission to use big-name brands (like Lamborghini and EA Sports), their symbolism is meant to increase the realism of the video game, and not to increase brand knowledge. Because of this, the big-name companies do not have to pay the video game companies, and thus pick up “incidental” and free recognition in these games. This can be seen as a very useful public relation tool.

The gaming industry is constantly changing, and advertising and public relations are going along with it. The recent techniques I have talked about today are just a handful of new media tools in the virtual world today.  If you have any questions, or would like to request any specific tools to be talked about, feel free to comment and let me know!

UPDATE:  For some reason my last two blog posts were not published on the dates they were supposed to be.  I want to apologize to my readers for the inconvenience, I will make sure it does not happen again.

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