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What Is Digital Marketing in a Virtual Gaming World?

Benjamin Hunting
July 24, 2020

3 minute read

Virtual gaming has created an entirely new digital marketing frontier for advertisers to engage with customers. Be they mobile games, homesteading apps, massive multiplayer online roleplaying games, or virtual reality experience, the virtual real estate associated with online worlds keeps expanding. The gaming industry, in fact, generated $120 billion of revenue in 2019, a number that looks to keep rising. Gamification as an overall strategy for interacting with customers is also estimated to grow 30% from its current $7.17 billion valuation over the next five years.

Online communities provide new opportunities for improving the digital marketing customer experience in new and novel ways. Let’s look at 3 ways your company can effectively connect in a virtual space.

Playable ads and ‘advergames’

While banner ads continue to play a strong role in standard digital marketing, moving past 2D images in a gaming environment offers the chance to snag the attention of users with advertisements that actually incorporate game play.

There are numerous ways to execute this particular strategy. Some playable ads serve as fun, tangential distractions from the actual narrative of a game itself and aren’t intended to affect play. Others take a more proactive role by integrating themselves into the virtual world and provide tangible rewards, either in the form of in-world power-ups or bonuses, or redeemable codes for real-world prizes and discounts.

In-depth custom games based around a brand (advergames) can also be incorporated into a playable ad effort. It’s important to understand the audience to encourage users to keep coming back and not sacrifice game play for reach.

Become part of a world’s fabric

Increasingly, real and digital environments are intertwined, whether they be through new technologies such as augmented reality, or the sponsorship of virtual worlds by real-world brands.

Just as in traditional advertising, it’s difficult to get individuals to engage with a digital marketing campaign unless it’s somehow made relevant to their needs or interests. In a virtual realm, there are any number of ways to incorporate your product, service, or brand into the experience being offered by the platform.

One of the more effective options is to replace in-game items with digital recreations of your actual product. “Marketers and advertisers could benefit most by placing an identical brand for in-game and external placement,” found a study published by the Journal of Promotion Management in looking at the efforts of Prince Sports to introduce virtual tennis rackets in a Nintendo Wii game.

Targeted product purchases, subscriptions, services, or ad viewings can also be tied to virtual currencies, points systems, and custom in-game rewards (such as character outfits or power-ups). The inverse is also an option, with luxury brands, such as Louis Vuitton and Tissot selling virtual items for real dollars and then having players display them inside the 8 million-strong League of Legends online universe and the NBA 2K video game franchise, respectively.

esports = ‘real’ sports

Barreling towards the mainstream is the esports juggernaut, a multi-billion-dollar industry that’s beginning to attract the same level of sponsorship attention enjoyed by traditional sports leagues. These include giants such as Mastercard and Intel sponsoring not just individual teams or players, but also becoming title sponsors of entire leagues. They also deploy full-brand integrations into the online worlds that serve as the arena for the next generation of spectator competition.

Digital marketing in the era of virtual worlds provides nearly unlimited creativity for a company seeking to expand and improve on the customer experience it has to offer. With new avenues for exposure and collaboration opening daily, it’s becoming a crucial tool for organizations seeking to innovate in reaching new markets.

Benjamin Hunting
Benjamin Hunting
Benjamin Hunting has covered science, medicine, and technology for a wide range of publications, and has also been published in the Journal of Medical Economics. He coded his first computer program at the age of 8 on a Commodore VIC-20 and still has the audio cassette he saved it on hanging around somewhere in his office.
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