There's been a lot excitement from advertisers about the video games business. Many large brand advertisers are salivating over the opportunities to reach the elusive youth gamer who, research shows, has abandoned TV for the internet. The big question is who these people are, how to reach them in critical mass and what tools to use. Recently McDonald's, Nintendo and Wayport announced their solution -- free wireless access for Nintendo DS users in over 6,000 McDonalds restaurants using Wayport's wireless broadband connection.
I had the opportunity, together with GameDAILY Senior Editor Justin Davis, to speak with Senior PR Director Beth Llewelyn this week about the deal, Nintendo's vision of gaming's future and trends that will surely impact today's savvy marketers. (We contacted McDonald's but were unable to get their response by our deadline.)
So what does this deal mean for an online marketer or advertisers? As I see it, there are several major trends now being broadly endorsed by the marketplace:
- Young people who play games matter. They are often taste makers, tech savvy influencers who have moved from the basement to the cultural mainstream as "tipping pointers." Think of them as the hip-hop fans of a few years ago. They get it, their trends will be adopted and move clearly into the mainstream. That's why you must keep your finger on their pulse.
- The big guys, in this case Nintendo and McDonald's, understand their core audience is on the move and hungry for an entertainment experience on their terms. They want control. Sitting on the couch waiting to see TRL isn't cool anymore.
- Bring the youth entertainment to where they go instead of waiting for them to go to usual outlets like TV or magazines. Young people are destination oriented. Think about this for a moment -- a website, blog, IM, cell phone or McDonald's are now equals as destinations.
First a quick background. Nintendo has been a global leader in both gaming hardware and software since the beginning of the industry well over 25 years ago when it released "Donkey Kong." Nintendo has dominated the handheld gaming market since the launch of their Game Boy line of hardware which was updated last year with the new DS (Dual Screen) line. This year they announced the DS would be Wi-Fi enabled. They are soon coming out with a radical new gaming machine and controller called the Revolution. (If you want more info visit www.nintendo.com or http://biz.gamedaily.com and search for Nintendo) I don't think McDonald's needs an intro.
The press release outlined the service as follows:
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection creates a community where gamers can log on wirelessly and begin playing games like Mario Kart DS and Activision's Tony Hawk's American SK8Land, and future titles such as Animal Crossing: Wild World and Metroid Prime Hunters. Game play will be free, and users will be able to connect easily to Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection in a variety of ways.
When a user brings a Nintendo DS unit and a Wi-Fi-enabled game into a Wayport-enabled McDonald's, the user simply launches the game in Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection mode. No setup is required.
In our discussion, Ms. Lweleyn made several interesting points. When asked why Nintendo did the deal she said, "We want to be as accessible as possible. Wayport's access to over 6,000 McDonald's restaurants gave us broad reach and access. That's very appealing." When asked about the trends they are seeing, she mentioned the broadening of Nintendo's audience beyond its traditional base of teen males. A key element was Nintendo's original title "Nintendogs" that was a huge hit, especially with people new to gaming. "The demographic for our DS is getting broader. We're starting to see the hardware sales numbers that show many adults and a strong female skew now buying the DS."
As with most things in the game industry, hardware adoption is driven by content. And Nintendo has a lot of original game content coming out that is currently doing well in Japan. "Our products are targeted more broadly that ever before," said Lweleyn. "Our core gamer audience will continue to embrace games like Metroid Prime Hunters and RPGs. We are expanding to the more mainstream gamer with upcoming products such as our new aquatic/musical game Electroplankton and brain training games that are soon coming to the United States."
So when one of the world's most successful and profitable entertainment companies teams up with the world's largest restaurant chain, the opportunities are enormous. When asked if she saw cross-promotion of food and games coming soon, she coyly said, "We'll see about that in the future."
So what can you do as a brand advertiser or agency to take advantage of this trend now? Here are some simple suggestions:
- Contact Nintendo or McDonalds to see how you can ride whatever future promotions they have planned. My guess: that would be a rather large scale opportunity with broad reach.
- Try to align yourself with this new, hip and unwired gamer. The quickest, least expensive way to do this is finding websites that reach this audience.
- What about in-game advertising? Currently (to my knowledge at least) it's not yet offered in Nintendo games. But that may change.
- Start talking with your team, gather research and find out if year customer base is interested in gaming.
If they are young and male, the answer is "of course." And if they are over 35 you may have an audience of willing men and women open to your message via gaming that you may have overlooked. So get on the phone, email, blogs and websites and check it out!
Mark Friedler is CEO and co-founder of GameDAILY. If you have any comments or questions please email him at [email protected]
GameDAILY is a leading video game media company that reaches over 23 million mainstream gamers each month through its destination site, www.gamedaily.com, and a network of over 130 affiliated sites and portals. Its free business-to-business newsletter, GameDAILY BIZ, is the leading video game trade publication.
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