Selling more games. That, you would imagine, would be the main thrust of the recent Games Marketing Forum at the Cumberland Hotel.
But it was about a lot more than that. Gaming's cultural resonance, legal advice on prize promotions, how to make an emotional impact, proximity marketing, working out a creative brief and the new age of social media were all touched upon in a varied day of speakers and debate.
Kicking off proceedings were Dr James Newman and Iain Simons, academics with a passionate belief in the value of gaming's past – and how fan fiction, cosplay and walkthroughs can help to enrich games publishers' brands – all without marketing spend.
Next up it was the turn of Osbourne Clarke's Nick Johnson, who provided some fascinating and useful insights into the 'dos and don'ts‘ when it comes to viral marketing and prize promotion-related marketing. So before you send out that hilarious viral of someone brutally murdering an orphan and eating its remains in order to ‘make an impact', remember that there are laws involved. And penalties include fines and even jail time.
And a recent change in gambling law has meant that games marketers now need to tread carefully with competitions and giveaways too. With a recent change in gambling law, there's no need for the usual ‘no purchase necessary' caveat – but ramping up the price of a title because it's attached to a giveaway can land a publisher in trouble. Most intruigingly, the definition of online ‘gaming' has now changed, placing all kinds of online gaming at risk – an issue still under review by the Gambling Commission.
And finally, new rules against ‘falsely representing oneself as a consumer' are set to come into effect by April – meaning that cynical marketeers looking to boost a title's perception by posing as a forumite could land it in hot water.
Advertising agency MindShare UK was next. Its call for games marketing to provoke a greater emotional response was well encapsulated by a quote from ad guru Bill Bernbach, who said in 1960: Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.”
Building on this idea, MindShare UK business director Dan Coleman went on to speak about where TV sits in today's hugely frangmented landscape – observing that TV isn't dead; it's just different.” Indeed, in stressing that TV remains the most important medium for MindShare and its clients, Coleman did add that it is becoming increasingly difficult to make an immediate impact.
The way forward, he suggested, was to look at the TV successes of the moment and draw inspiration from those. That oh-so-notorious buzzword user-generated content wasn't actually mentioned, but it seems that, said Coleman, was the future, alongside audience participation and ‘ads as TV'.
Coleman also pointed out that the rise of digital marketing isn't as prevalent as you might think – The Sun, on a good day, still gets read by ten millon; while current media darling Facebook can only boast 5.5 million users in a whole week.
And so on to Hypertag's Elliot Messenger, who offered the marketers in attendence a new way of looking at ‘experiential' marketing – using Bluetooth and other phone-based technology to offer people free content. With 80 per cent of all handsets now Bluetooth enabled, Messenger stressed that the youth market is really picking up on the technology's potential and are driving its uptake.
Offering both poster-based and the use of promotional staff with the technology on their person, Messenger emphasised that while it could not compete with the sheer number of people exposed to a traditional marketing campaign, the quality of personal experience drawn from this style of promotion is invaluable – linking into what MindShare's Dan Coleman was so passionate about previously.
Threatening to show his audience a picture of himself naked, Sean Dromgoole of Some Research proved to be perhaps the most entertaining and informative talk of the day – giving marketing types a way of coming up with a creative brief based on market research. A useful step-by-step demonstration of how to build a clear picture of the size of the market, who's in it, what drives them to purchase, the competition and its strengths and weaknesses was all laid out before the delagates in attendance, with some extremely interesting facts and figures thown in, too.
The UK, France, Netherlands, Spain and Italy combined now has 68 million ‘active gamers', based on the number of people who had bought a game or had a game bought for them in the last year, said Dromgoole. And since spring 2005, the gaming audience has changed dramatically – male gamers have increased by 165 per cent, but the real phenomenon has been the female gaming market – up a whopping 196 per cent.
A surprising one third of Xbox gamers are female, according to Some Research, with the modal average age of a 360 owner between 20 and 24. On DS, the stats suggest more than half the ownership is female, with a modal age of six to nine, while PC owners are 3/5 male and aged ten to 14.
Rounding off the day was New Media Age editor-in-chief Michael Nutley, who elaborated on MindShare's own call to think differently about advertising by offering much more than just a one-dimensional sales message – the consumer experience, said Nutley, should be longer term and offer added value – almost as if the advertiser were a service provider.
Most importantly, Nutley added that the new age of ‘social' internet use means that word of mouth – positive or negative – can spread quicker than ever before. A decent product, no matter how much marketing spend publishers put behind a title, will gain its own hype through good user experience.
It was a good note to end on after a day of marketing talk – though marketeers might think otherwise, it is clear that good brand perception, in the end, comes from good product – and how marketeers harness that is where they really earn their cash.