Gaming – the big draw for online engagement

The time that UK consumers spend on gaming sites has risen by a fifth in the past year, according to new research. Casual gaming is a trend showing no signs of receding, and is an untapped source of consumer insights.

Michael

The third annual UK Gamers Survey, commissioned by gaming site GameHouse and conducted by research company NewZoo, found that UK gamers are spending 19% more of their free time playing online than 12 months ago. It also discovered that 9% more people are playing and that the uptake of mobile gaming has risen by 18%.

The popularity of casual online gaming is not a new story – it is well known that Zynga games such as FarmVille are responsible for 12% of Facebook’s revenue, for example. But the fact that gaming continues to grow more popular is remarkable.

Individual games can seem like fads, suddenly exploding before getting old just as quickly. Zynga-owned Draw Something is a shining example: downloaded 50 million times in 50 days, logins via Facebook have now halved from a high of 14.5 million per day. But the growing overall usage of online games shows that this is an enduring medium.

And brands have hardly explored the possibilities within games, both for earning exposure and for learning about the people who play. Sceptics would say that gamers engage with games, not advertising but plenty of examples exist to suggest otherwise. And anyway, display advertising is by no means the only option here.

Unlike most other online media, games have actually succeeded in monetising their content. Not only that, they are getting people to pay for goods that aren’t even real, but are instead in-game incentives.

Therein lies huge possibility for brands to create or sponsor all manner of virtual products and content. Some advertisers might worry about interrupting the gaming experience, but sensitively done, it can appeal to the player by making the game world seem more like the real world, where brands surround them.

Even more valuable than the exposure is the potential for gathering insights, if they find the right gaming platform to do it. Brands could see how one virtual product stacks up against another, measure the status that each confers onto a consumer, gauge the reactions to design variations and measure the impact of cross-promotional campaigns that link with other sites.

And then all these insights could be applied – within reason – to the real world. An online game could become a kind of virtual focus group, and consumers seem more and more interested in participating.

Learn more about how data and insight can help your brand gain a competitive edge at Marketing Week Live. The event is being held on June 27 and 28 at London Olympia and is free to all registrants. Find out more here.

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