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Advergaming is the practice of using video games to advertise a product, organization or viewpoint. The term "advergames" was coined in January 2000 by Anthony Giallourakis, and later mentioned by Wired's "Jargon Watch" column in 2001. It has been applied to various free online games commissioned by major companies.

With the growth of the internet, advergames have proliferated, often becoming the most visited aspect of brand websites and becoming an integrated part of brand media planning in an increasingly fractured media environment. Advergames theoretically promote repeated traffic to websites and reinforce brands. Users choosing to register to be eligible for prizes can help marketers collect customer data. Gamers may also invite their friends to participate, which could assist promotion by word of mouth, or "viral marketing".


[edit] Categories

Advergaming normally falls into one of three categories:

[edit] ATL (Above the Line) Advergaming

Chex Quest was the first CD-ROM advergame bundled for free with boxes of Chex cereal in 1996.

Examples of ATL advergames include promotional software.

In employing ATL advergaming, a company typically provides interactive games on its website in the hope that potential customers will be drawn to the game and spend more time on the website, or simply become more product aware. The games themselves usually feature the company's products prominently. These games may consist of reworked arcade classics or original programming, and they are usually designed for Adobe Flash or similar multimedia software.

The earliest custom video games featuring integrated brand messages where developed in the era before substantial penetration of the World Wide Web and were distributed on floppy disk. These games were typically of a higher quality than the modern flash games and were distributed for free, often bundled with other products from the company advertised for. The first floppy disk advergames were developed to serve dual purposes — as promotional incentives that drive response and as media that deliver awareness. American Home Foods Chef Boyardee, Coca-Cola, and Samsung brands issued the first-ever floppy-disk advergames[1]. Other early brands to use the format were Reebok, General Mills, GAP and Taco Bell which distributed games as "kids' premiums"[1]. The first in-box CD-ROM cereal box advergames were General Mills' Chex Quest (promoting the Chex brand) and General Mills' All-Star baseball (starring Trix Rabbit and his friends playing baseball against Major League teams and stars).

With the spread of broadband internet, ATL advergames have become more in-depth than the simple arcade style flash games and larger games that were confined to being distributed on disc only. A number of technologically advanced advergames have been released online for free through the sponsorship of companies such as Schick. Kuma Reality Games, for instance, has developed the advergame, The DinoHunters, as a full first person shooter based on the Source Engine. The DinoHunters is released for free through Schick's sponsorship and consequently Schick's products feature prominently in game. Accompanying machinima episodes have also been created alongside The DinoHunters to help advertise the products.

[edit] BTL (Below the Line) Advergaming

An Adidas billboard is displayed in the foreground of the 1994 computer game FIFA International Soccer (also, the electronic board that appears with every goal scored sometimes reads "Panasonic").

Examples of BTL advergames include militainment, recruitment tools, edutainment, and traditional in-game advertising.

In utilizing BTL advergaming, games are published in the usual way and cause players to investigate further. The subjects advertised for may be commercial, political, or educational in nature. Commercial examples are numerous and include advergames funded by Pepsi, 7 Up, NFL, Formula One, and most recently Burger King. Political/Military examples of BTL advergames include recruitment tools like America's Army, intended to boost recruitment for the United States Army, and Special Force, intended to promote Muslim resistance to the state of Israel. Educational advergaming is closely related to the Serious games initiative and falls under either Edumarket gaming or edutainment. Examples include Food Force (made by the United Nations' World Food Program) and Urban Jungle, an educational traffic simulation.

Another BTL advergame technique consists of advertising within a game itself. Since the intent of in-game advertising is typically commercial rather than political, some consider such advertisements to make up a category of their own. However as with the above-mentioned BTL advergame forms, it is the technique by which the propaganda is purveyed rather than the nature of its intended audience which defines in-game advertising as a subset of BTL advergaming and not its own category. In-game advertising is similar to subtle advertising in films, where the advertising content is within the "world" of the movie. Thus billboards, fliers, sponsored product placement, and the interplay between the player and these elements in the game allow for a great degree of virtual advertisement. Examples include billboards advertising for (and product placement of) Bawls energy drink in Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, and billboards for Adidas sportswear in FIFA International Soccer.

In-game BTL advertisement can be a way to combat costs that the game makers encounter and reduce the cost of the game to the consumer (especially games with monthly fees) while providing an outlet to advertise products. It also currently helps many people sustain free online games. This method of advertising in offline games is somewhat controversial, however, as players may feel the advertisements cast an unsavory commercial/avaricious pall over gameplay without substantial reduction in game price.

[edit] TTL (Through the Line) Advergaming

I Love Bees makes use of "link-chasing" and is designed to foster viral marketing.

Examples of TTL advergames include "link-chases", ARGs, and viral marketing.

A rare form of advergaming, TTL advergames involve the use of URL hyperlinks within the game designed to induce the player to visit a webpage which then contains BTL advertisements. The technique used to tempt the player into visiting the intended URL varies from game to game. In games like Pikmin 2 the player is given a cryptic message with an accompanying URL designed to pique the curiosity of the player. In games such as Enter the Matrix, Year Zero, I Love Bees, and Lost Experience, URLs make up a part of the background of the game such that certain plot details can only be learned by following the link given in the game. The knowledge of such plot details are typically not required to complete the game, but make for a fuller story for fans. Websites of this nature often lead players on to other links which again lead to further links, thus earning these games the label "link-chases." The tradeoff for TTL advertisers is that though use of the internet to find out extra things about a game might be enjoyable, gamers will not enjoy being given too much of a run-around with too obtrusive advertising to obtain important details about the game.

[edit] Future of advergaming

As long as the game delivers a fun pay off, consumers consider it a relevant and valid cultural experience. In recent brand-impact studies, associating a brand with the fun of gaming is known to lift brand metrics such as brand awareness, message association and purchase intent. After playing a game, consumers are more likely to remember not just the brand or product itself, but to associate specific brand attributes with it.

The advergame industry is expected to generate $312.2 million by 2009, up from $83.6 million in 2004, according to Boston research firm Yankee Group.

[edit] Advergame industry statistics

  • 50% of recipients play the advergame, for an average of 25 minutes.[citation needed]
  • 90% of players who receive a challenge from a friend play the game and respond back with their score or statistics.[citation needed]
  • According to the Entertainment Software Assn., 42% of gamers say they play online games one or more hours per week. [2]

[edit] Notable Examples

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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