In my youth, I remember playing a Nintendo game called Cool Spot. The game featured the red spot from the 7Up logo running around, jumping over obstacles, and shooting soda bubbles. The entire game was an obvious advertisement for 7Up and I remember renting it from Blockbuster, playing for 5-10 minutes, and never picking it back up. This game was part of a trend at the time that saw commercial characters like Chester Cheetah and the Noid getting their own video games. The idea was to create games whose sole purpose was to advertise a popular brand. I remember there being a lot of hype around these games and its possible that they were effective advertising for their time. However, In today’s gaming industry, brands are having to rethink their strategy.
Ads in Games
Advertising in video games has always been a tricky aspect of the industry. In general, there are two well-known ways in which companies can utilize video games for this purpose. They can use in-game ads like product placement and ad breaks or they can create an advergame like Cool Spot.The public, however, has become numb to most types of advertising in digital media. We have all seen our share of pop up ads, email blasts, and commercials in our daily lives. These types of ads are still effective but for the most part, we have trained ourselves to scroll past them, delete them, or click “skip ad” as soon as possible. Statistics tell us that only 3.6% of people watch ads all the way through and 96% engage in ad-avoiding behavior.
In response to this, some companies are coming up with more creative ways to utilize video games for advertising and at least one company has come up with a method that gamers actually like.
A company called Versus Systems has partnered with HP to create a new way of advertising with-in video games. The platform they created is called OMEN Rewards, available in HP’s OMEN Command Center and it allows players to earn real-world prizes, gift cards, trips, and experiences by completing challenges in their game of choice. Players can select which challenges and what prizes they want to compete for and then immediately start playing to achieve them. This enables all kinds of brands to participate in advertising that players actually enjoy.
A rewards-based method of advertising is able to get a much higher response rate. As it turns out players actually enjoy engaging with the brands on this level. This is a direct contrast to normal methods of advertising within games that actually stand between the player and the game and can be rather frustrating.
According to data collected by Versus, this system can increase the gamer’s playtime, session length, and the number of gaming sessions. A study performed by Versus showed a 34% increase in League of Legends playtime after the introduction of rewards. In addition, about 10% of the players signed up to play the game for the first time in order to earn these rewards.
In another example, Versus gave out coupons to White Castle after players had performed a certain task. These coupons had to be redeemed at a physical location but were still able to reach a 36% redemption rate. For comparison, most in-store coupons have a redemption rate of less than 1%. In other campaigns, the players were given a code that they could use in online stores or e-commerce sites. Those campaigns had a redemption rate of 50-85%.
Most of us get loads of emails with special deals, or other commercial opportunities in them. If you are like me then most of those emails just end up in the trash or in my spam folder. Again that pretty normal, but Versus has seen that emails informing players of rewards are taken more seriously. The graph below uses data from MailChimp to show how often Versus emails get opened compared to other marketing types.
Prizes and Challenges
There are many prizes and challenges available within Versus’ OMEN Commander Center App. Current prizes include downloadable content for games, gift cards for food, subscription services, event tickets, and more.
The challenges that players can participate in have a wide variety. They include things like landing a headshot in PUB-G or winning a match in League of Legends. Some of the challenges can be related to the prizes themselves like “destroy 7 towers and win 7 sliders”. Some challenges simply enter the gamer into a sweepstake to win a larger prize. To show how it works Versus created this short video featuring a streamer by the name of Jericho winning a challenge for a free t-shirt.
It seems like Versus has created something that could revolutionize advertising in video games. So far they have produced some impressive stats and if this trend continues we can expect a rush of other companies to create something similar. Hopefully, this will mean the end of advergames games but you never know.
*Versus trades on the Canadian Securities Exchange with the ticker symbol VS and on the OTCQB as VRSSF