Branding in the electronic gaming industry.

Recently I attended the E3 exhibition in LA; E3 is an industry focused electronic gaming convention with the big players being Sony Playstation, Microsoft X-Box and Nintendo and tons of other software “title” developers like Konami, EA Sports and Capcom. This was the premier event in this industry and attendance hit 50,000 people with 270 exhibitors.

Off to this new event and armed with little prior info, I had a set of fresh eyes to evaluate the marketing, product and brand-scape. The first thing to note is the visual impact of this show — huge, rich and punchy (and overwhelming at times) graphical impact with complex detailed graphics banners and adverts that adorned wall and surfaces from the floor to the ceiling. One couldn’t to help but think this intensity fueled the passion of the crowds, especially since 80% of these graphics were of the “shoot them up” style, with action, explosions and bodies.

Software or hardware?

After some time spent at the show, market rationalizations started to form between the type of product offered and it’s interaction with other brands and exhibitors. There are hardware manufacturers like PSX, X-Box and Nintendo, who offer game consoles / systems; as well as companies houses like EA Sports, Capcom and Konami who are only software developers.

The relationship between the hardware and software is closely tied as far as marketing funding and software title success is concerned. Examples being when Sony take exclusive rights to a software title and successfully markets and drives the success of the software sales. Another determining factor with existing hardware owners is the success of a software title on a specific platform, which is especially important when you consider market share and installed base. Nintendo is the only case where this mix is slightly different as they are both a software developer and they manufacture hardware.

Standard think marketing.

When thinking of consumer brand interactions within this space, there is definitely loyalty towards certain platforms. There are hardcore X-box and Playstation fans who live and die for the platform, and in general, these two platforms leverage large 3rd party software titles for success; a great example being Halo, it’s only available on X-box and has a huge following. This, I consider as standard think marketing — exclusivity.

But here lies an interesting spin. Nintendo is unique in the fact that they manufacture a hardware platform and they develop software titles in-house. These titles have a definite character of their own and have spawned massive amounts of brand fans for Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and Toad being some iconic characters. What is Nintendo up to? And, is it more successful?

Participatory design ruled.

At E3 I saw many participatory events where the exhibitor had set up an interactive area where an attendee played a role or took part in a physical enactment of software. Nintendo’s stage stet up was colorful and engaging asking attendees to reenact a game move with oversized blocks - this was captured and sent to the attendee. Capcom’s Streetfighter was doing this with an onstage event and slow motion cameras.

Game Playoff at capcom’s Streetfighter

Photo opportunities died with the polaroid

While a few of these still existed, the traditional photo opportunity against a cardboard cut out or a dressed up figure seems to be diminishing; maybe because users are tired, or because brands have found better ways to connect, which I suspect is the case with the advent of increased technology and participatory events.

Shoot ‘em ups are not everything

Outside of the shoot them up / zombie games, there were a few brands that are bringing to life different software titles, which address a different market with story lines based on popular films like Disney’s Cars on X-Box or Disney Infinity. It was welcoming to see LEGO stepping into the market with a Lego game coining on the iconic LEGO brand and Marvel super heros.

Conclusion

Hardware or software, it doesn’t matter. To make a real impact, you have to tug on the consumer’s heart strings any way you can. The video gaming industry is prime with content. Realize you have fans, who are fans of your brand, and are not just platform or software advocates. By harnessing the deep passion and excitement in the brand fans that already exists, your brand will shine.

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