In an age of information overload and overexposure, advertisers are constantly trying to find ways to connect and reach out to its target consumers. The accessibility and volume of information available to the general public allow advertisers to flood consumers with advertisements at any given time and place. In additional to advertisements in traditional media like television and print, advertisers have gravitated towards advertising in other mediums.
In 2008, the highly anticipated video game Grand Theft Auto IV grabbed the world’s attention when it broke the record for the most successful entertainment release in history. Within 24 hours, Grand Theft Auto IV grossed $310 million dollars worldwide. In comparison, the most successful book release, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, grossed $220 million and the most successful film, Spider-Man 3, grossed $117 million within the same time. In fact, the video game industry has been growing at an alarming rate in the past few years. In the past five years, the video game industry has been growing 28% annually, while the movie and music industry lags behind with 1.8% and -10.0% growth rates respectfully. As of 2009, the video game industry is estimated to be worth $10.5 billion dollars in revenue. The video game industry was an untapped goldmine, and was simply too large and profitable for advertisers to ignore.
Advertisers now have developed several ways to communicate their marketing messages in video games. Product placement is a widespread method advertisers often use to advertise their products. For example, Metal Gear Solid 4 features various Apple products such as laptops and desktop computers, as well as an in-game iPod. In addition, all the cars in the video game Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 are manufactured by Dodge. Another way for advertisers to subtly insert advertisements into video games is virtual billboards. In the video game Second Life, the billboards in the virtual city includes virtual billboards for Sony BMG. In fact, prior to the presidential election in 2008, the Barack Obama campaign paid for in-game virtual billboards in another video game Burnout Paradise. In-game sponsorships are extremely popular in sports games. Emulating sponsorships in real sports, advertisers often use brands to sponsor certain events in video games, like the “Sprite Slam Cam” in NBA 2K11.
Advertisers are constantly trying to explore options to find out how to embed their messages in video games without letting the consumers realize that they are being sold to. In traditional advertising mediums like television, the consumers are comfortable with and accept commercials as a part of the viewing experience. However, it’s different for video games. Console games usually cost around 45 dollars, and gamers may not feel comfortable for having obvious commercials in their purchased products. The exception may be games like sport games, in which the sponsorships in-game emulate that of real life presentation on television and on street. Although the video game industry is large and growing, advertisers have to be careful about how they advertise their products and brands.