Could games publishers generate more brand equity?

Big games brands are known the world over, but do consumers know the firms behind them?

Harris Interactive research director Lee Langford examines how brand awareness could help publishers…

Many games franchises now easily outgross Hollywood movies so increasing media attention means that even members of the non-gaming fraternity, your author included, have become used to hearing or reading about the likes of World of Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, FIFA, Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty.

So this got me thinking about the games publishers themselves. I speculate that most of us would say we are familiar with big film studios like Universal, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Disney and Warner Bros. We may not know a great deal about them but very clear branding – inescapable when we watch a movie in a cinema for example – has brought them to our attention. Can the same be said about games publishers?

In a word, no.

Recent Harris Interactive research shows that very few non-gaming enthusiasts are familiar with any games publishers with the notable exceptions of Sega and Electronic Arts. 84 per cent have not heard of Activision, rising to 87 per cent for BioShock publisher 2K Games and to 88 per cent for Bethesda, publisher of the hugely successful Elder Scrolls titles. Contrast that with just five per cent of non-gamers who have not heard of Nintendo.

Now games publishers might well say: ‘So what, they’re not gamers, why should we care?’ And that is a fair point. Plus film studios have decades of heritage beyond their gaming counterparts so why should we expect high awareness?

So what about the gaming fraternity or core gamers? Surely they know the main publisher names just as well as a movie buff would know the names of the movie studios. As one gaming colleague said to me when I discussed this with her: You can’t escape the publisher branding at the start of a game and in some cases throughout the game.”

But actually, again, the answer is no. On the whole, familiarity is patchy as highlighted in the table below. Although Sega and EA are very familiar names to a clear majority, only around half of regular gamers have heard of Bethesda and 2K Games and around two-fifths are not familiar with Konami and Activision.

In addition to familiarity, we looked at emotional connection to the publishers and whether they are perceived to have positive momentum. These questions were asked only of regular gamers who are familiar with the names of games publishers.

The emotional connection results are a little more positive, but still there is clearly something lacking for a number of publishers when it comes to connecting with gamers – possibly a missed opportunity. And the lack of perceived momentum for publishers, Activision included, is another indication that regular gamers do not necessarily connect popular franchises with publishers in the positive way we might anticipate.

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