Kinect could change the advertising game

Kinect: 1 million sets sold so far

Microsoft’s Kinect gaming platform provides new opportunities for advertisers to speak to a family audience, not just the 18- to 34-year-old Call of Duty-playing male normally associated with the Xbox.

Launched in the UK last week, Kinect allows XBox 360 gamers to use their voice and body as the controls.

A reported £300m marketing campaign is backing the launch and 1 million units have already been sold since it launched worldwide on 4 November. Microsoft forecasts that it will sell 5 million before the end of the year.

Because Kinect’s voice, motion and infrared sensors are able to distinguish between different members of the household, there could be opportunities – as well as concerns – with targeted marketing.

Gamers have criticised in-game advertising on the XBox and rival PlayStation devices; they see it as “spyware”. But both brands are likely to explore gesture-based advertising in the future.

Invitation only
Jeff Pabst, Microsoft head of international ad planning and strategy and interactive entertainment business, says in-game advertising is thriving, but Microsoft is nevertheless keen to get it right, and is taking an “invite, don’t interrupt” approach to commercial partnerships.

In children’s game Kinectimals, the player chooses a virtual animal to “pet” and go on adventures with. Microsoft has already given out Kinectimal soft toys with Burger King meals and at promotional events. The toys include a coded tag that releases extra content within the game.

Pabst says Microsoft is keen to explore more of these integrated on and offline experiences, linking Kinect content with commercial partners, but only where it enhances the user experience.

Dan Machen, senior creative planner at agency Billington Cartmell, which works with several gaming clients, says successful in-game advertising needs to offer a “value exchange” between consumers and brands.

Machen believes that such opportunities, and the launch of new technologies like Kinect, bring the platform properly into the advertising mix, where it once was an afterthought.

Beyond gaming, Kinect certainly offers an exciting development in how consumers interact with technology, and therefore potentially with brands. The launch of Kinect is just the start of what will no doubt be seen as a “game changer” in the development of consumer interaction.

Kinect and the in-game ad market

  • 1 million Kinect units were sold in the first ten days of its release.
  • £300m has been reportedly spent on advertising Kinect, more than the launch of Xbox in 2001.
  • Advertisers at its launch include Samsung, T-Mobile and car producer Chevrolet, which is offering virtual test drives of its new vehicles.
  • Xbox 360 ads have a 4% click-through rate.
  • The in-game ad market is expected to reach $1bn (£62m) by 2014.
  • Gaming platforms like Wii, Kinect and PlayStation Move are targeted more at families.

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