The Rise of Social Gaming

With the dramatic growth of games like Angry Birds and the news that Cityville has surpassed Farmville in popularity, I wanted to find what the attraction to these games are and why do advertisers want in?

The answer is actually quite simple. Social gaming may feel like a time waster to those outside of the marketing/advertising industry but to this industry, it's the newest gold mine.

Brands are discovering the opportunity to interact with their consumers in a non-obtrusive manner, which is paying off in big ways. Sure, on television, people tolerate advertisements, but with social games, people choose to hear the messaging by feeding their fish or visiting their island several times per day and in fact, can’t get enough. 

According to Social Network Gaming, the most recent report from leading market research company, The NPD Group, 20 percent of the U.S. population ages 6 and older reports having played a game on a social network in the past three months. This equates to 56.8 million U.S. consumers, which is a significant number for a relatively new gaming activity.

via NPD

In August, Honda teamed up with Car Town to get consumers excited about the release of the CR-Z. The car manufacturer purchased advertising space on virtual billboards, with all the billboards featuring clickable ads. Honda also had a featured garage where users watched promotional videos and bought virtual CR-Z's with virtual money. The promotion ran for two months.

McDonald’s has also recently signed an advertising deal with Farmville. The McDonald’s Farmville special event promotion featured a McDonald’s Farm and the ability for users to consume a virtual McCafe which "…The McCafe Consumable delivers energy to players to move about their farms at twice the speed."

Many big brands are moving their advertising dollars to this emerging technology because it's clearly where the consumers are, with more than $6 billion predicted to be spent on virtual goods by 2013.

via eMarketer

Playfish senior director of global marketing, Robert Tomkinson, says advertisers want “massive reach, target and performance. You can have all of these by forming brand opportunities in the right way.”

Although no results immediate ROI from advertising campaigns were visible online, it is safe to presume that these big brands are having some success with their advertisements since according to eMarketer, marketers will spend up to $298 million in 2011, up from $220 million in 2010.

As of right now, it appears only large brands are participating in social gaming advertisements so it’s hard to say whether or not this emerging technology makes sense for smaller brands but we all know that fads sometimes turn into long-term trends.

Infographic via Penn-Olsen