This research is focused on determining whether or not advertising within video games can determine, or positively affect the success of product sales. We will combine a literature review of the topic and the results of a direct survey I conducted. The results of the survey will be compared with the literature review to try and determine if there is any correlation between the two types of data.
The methodology will be described in respect to distribution of the surveys. There will also be a critical analysis of the research data which emanates from the survey findings.
This researcher recognizes that within the scope of this paper, this review will be somewhat brief. Yet, it is hoped that there will be some correlation between the information contained in this review and the data gleaned from the surveys. In either case, it will provide a useful analysis of advertising within video games.
The first and most notable information that is contained within the research is the value that advertisers see in using video games as an advertising venue. Video games are increasingly popular as they are connected not only to X Box Games and other unique gaming possibilities, but also popular movies and television shows, like Pirates of the Caribbean and the popular show, ‘24’. One of the clear goals of advertising anywhere is ‘brand recall’. An advertisement cannot be considered effective if people do not recall the brand or product being sold. This is no different in video games. One of the key elements in determining the success of a video game is whether or not there is a high level of brand recall. Another important feature of advertising is whether or not it is deemed to be intrusive. For example, in today’s movie theatres, there is always a series of commercials prior to the movie previews. This is rather recent practice. However, it would be interesting to determine whether or not theatre goers consider this intrusive. Again, it is the same with video gamers. According to one research study with video gamers, there were few negative responses to product placement in video games.
“The first research question concerned players’ attitudes toward product placement. Attitudes were measured according to responses to three questions on the above-referenced seven-point Likert scales. In addition to mean scores on each of these queries, an overall mean attitude score was computed (mean = 5.71; alpha = .62). The results show that players in this study were generally positive toward product placement. They did not consider the practice deceptive (mean = 5.47) nor did they think it impaired or interrupted the game-playing experience (mean = 6.2)” (Nelson 2002, p. 88).
The practice of using advertising in video games is part of a strategy that the industry calls ‘integrated advertising’. It is part of an overall strategy to increase product placement wherever there is a large-scale market for the product. For example, young people use video games and they also drink pop, like Pepsi or Coke. Therefore, it seems logical that placing pop advertisements within video games would be an effective strategy. “The practice of product (or brand) placement has grown significantly during the past 20 years; marketers now frequently use placements as the basis for multimillion dollar integrated promotional campaigns” (Karrh, McKee and Pardun 2003, p. 138). The fact that advertisers feel it’s worth their time and money to place advertisements in video games is an important statement in and of itself. Advertising is, after all, about strategy and recall. These are the two keys to selling products.
“[…] test effectiveness, based on the premise that effectiveness measures should conform to the goals of the advertiser” (Nelson 2002, p. 2).
Joseph Plummer (2005, p. 1) notes that using the media for product placements is one of the biggest movements in advertising.
“The technology of media has undergone amazing change from the growth of the internet and satellite radio, to the emergence of wireless and video games as an advertising channel, and the continuing segmentation of traditional media like television, magazines, and newspapers”.
Researcher Michelle Nelson (2002, p.1) studied the effects of placing brands in computer and video racing games. “Open-ended comments revealed that players’ attitudes, however, depended upon the game genre and how and where the brand appeared”. Nelson opines that one of the reasons advertising within video games can be considered effective is because of its interactive nature. That is, video gamers are actively involved in the game and the products appear as part of the background scenario. As long as they don’t interfere with the game, they will likely be considered simply ‘a part of the game’. One of the key facts about advertising in video games are the sheer numbers. “Playing games has become computer-owning America’s favorite pasttime, over watching TV, going to movies, or reading books, according to the Interactive Digital Software Association [IDSA] (2000). The potential reach for advertisers is enormous, with an estimated 145 million Americans admitting to playing games” (p. 4). With these kinds of numbers at stake, it’s no wonder that the advertising industry sees a valuable market in product placement within video games. Another fact is the fact that video games are becoming increasingly sophisticated. With 3D environments, sounds and sometimes even smells emanating from their speakers, it’s an easy thing to become highly addicted to. The environments created by the gaming industry are far more realistic than in the past and thus it’s easy for young people to spend hours of their time involved with their games. Once again, according to Nelson’s research (2002, p. 11):
“It appears that players thought product placements could enhance the realism of the game depending on the particular game genre and scenery. If the advertisements were poorly placed or did not match reality–then the advertisements actually deterred from the game experience; however, if the advertisements were placed in scenes that matched real life, then the brands actually enhanced the experience.”
According to Seth Grossman (2005, p. 227), the new term for advertising in video games has been coined as ‘advergames’. Grossman also notes that some of the companies that see great potential in advergames are cookies, fast food, soda pop, candies and cereal companies. But, researcher Kathy Prentice (2006) notes that it’s not only about product placement within games that’s the issue. She suggests that products are actually an integral part of the game. This is quite a different notion than traditional advertising. Video games offer companies a completely new way of displaying and selling their products. For example, a key figure in the game can be drinking Pepsi as part of one segment in the game. Or, they can go into a McDonald’s and it all seems perfectly natural. Gamers accept these product placements as part of the overall environment of the game itself. Prentice (2006) quotes Nicholas Longano, chief marketing officer for Massive, “In a sporting game there could be branded blimps over a stadium. A character could be wearing a t-shirt with a logo emblazoned on it.”
The question is whether or not this is an effective strategy. According to a study conducted by Nielsen Interactive Entertainment in 2005, product placement in video games is turning into big business. “A study last October by Nielsen Interactive Entertainment found that in-game advertising resulted in a 60 percent increase in awareness for a new product and that animated 3-D ads achieved twice the recall of static billboards” (Prentice 2006). Again, according to Prentice (2006) the proof is not only in the numbers of companies that advertise in video games but who advertises. She lists some of the prominent companies as the Sci-Fi Channel, Nabisco, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Honda, NBC, Nokia, Panasonic, T-Mobile, Verizon DSL, Warner Bros., XM Radio, Panasonic and the U.S. Navy.
Patrick Caldwell (2006) is one who is interested in the effect that advertising has on the psyche of those who play video games. His concern is that there is not only overt advertising but covert, or subliminal advertising; a fact of which he feels could possibly have a negative effect on those who play. He notes that another strategy within advertising is not only to make products seem appealing (appealing = worth buying) but to create an emotional resonance with the potential buyer. In other words, it’s more than just product placement and product appeal, but product importance in our lives. Companies want the public to feel good about their products and who they are. As he states, “We do not buy something if we distrust the company.”
Even media giants such as Viacom are interested in the potential of advertising within video games. And, according to one article, the interest goes both ways as the video gaming industry wants to attract big advertisers. “Indeed, the video game industry has been eager to court advertisers. In April, Activision Inc. struck an alliance with Nielsen Entertainment, a division of Dutch media group VNU, to provide advertisers with better information on the effectiveness of advertising in games” (Viacom Eyes Ads). Research conducted by CBS News (Vitka and Chamberlain 2005) indicates that large companies such as Massive and IGN are not only interested in advertising within video games but are paying big money to find out exactly how to do this in the most effective way possible. Their research confirms the opinions of Kathy Prentice (2006). Product placement within the video game can only be effective if it’s done in a matter that makes it seem natural as in the photograph in Appendix 1.
There is no doubt that one particular and very obvious fact drives the advertising business — profit. If there is no profit to be made in an advertising venue (or strategy), then it is highly doubtful they’re going to use it, unless it’s a brand new strategy in the infancy stage. Mike Shields (2006), advertising within video games is about to reach the $2 billion mark. Therefore, the strategy has proven to be effective at least in so far as helping to drive profits up for companies that advertise within video games. He also reports that some of the world’s biggest companies are coming on board with advertising in video games; companies like Gillette, Coca-Cola, Subway, Honda and others. Shields points out that one of the reasons advertising in video games is an effective strategy is because of the demographics. He reports that the medium is dominated by men 18-34 and apparently they are considered to be a demographic with a lot of buying power.
Not everyone agrees that the $2 billion mark has been reached, but other estimates are still very high for the potential of advertising within video games. “Researchers at The Yankee Group predict that the market for in-game advertising is set for substantial growth, and will jump by 500% to $732 million in revenue by 2010” (Brandweek 2006).
Jo Twist (2004) has reported on this for the BBC News. Her take on the issue is that in one year, one company in the UK has reported that through advertisements in video games, they have reached over 4 million people. This is a significant difference from television or magazine advertisements, unless a program is consistently watched by a high number of people on a regular basis. In addition, television ad placement is extremely expensive. Again, according to Twist, the fact is that young people are watching less television, both in the US and the UK. “Adverts in games have been happening for some time with the realisation that 18 to 35 year-olds are watching less TV. A quarter of US gamers have cut the time spent watching TV and a fifth more intended to, according to a recent survey.” She also notes that advertisements in video games is not exactly new and reports that it actually goes back as far as the 1980’s. In addition, it is her opinion that brand recall for product placement is extremely high. “Studies suggest that 30% of in-game adverts are recalled in the short-term and 15% are recalled after five months, a figure unheard of in advertising.”
Clayton Collins (2006), quotes a source from a company known as Engage In-Game Advertising as claiming that a survey of online game players recorded 94% recall of products in the games immediately after playing the game. Julie Tamaki is another researcher (2005, Los Angeles Times) who agrees that young men are watching far less television and paying far more attention to their game consoles. This could possibly mean billions of dollars for companies in the near and distant future.
“With growing numbers of young men spending their spare time playing video games instead of watching television, some advertising companies have begun specializing in infiltrating digital entertainment. They are pioneering the use of in-game billboards and product placement, which some experts say could increase significantly in coming years.”
Sociologically speaking, product placement in video games actually makes perfect sense. The fact is that young people today have been raised within the social context of using technology as an integral part of their lives. This is the first generation to actually grow up with computers as a natural part of their lives. Computers are everywhere now — in schools, libraries, cafes, homes and everyone’s workplace. Thus, there is nothing unusual about seeing advertisements within the framework of a technology which is very much a part of their socialization process. Gaming to young people today is like playing in the park was to kids a couple of generations ago. They use these video games just as children in previous generations would play on swings or use other forms of entertainment.
Again, according to Nelson (2002, p. 82):
“…research has shown that viewers like product placements (unless there are too many) because they enhance realism, aid in character development, create historical subtext, and provide a sense of familiarity. For marketers, product placement offers a captive audience with a greater reach than traditional advertisements and a way to show the brand in its natural environment.”
Nelson is one of those who believes that although there is money to be made by creating a ‘marriage’ between technology and advertising, it is brand recall that is the ultimate test as to whether or not this is an effective advertising strategy. She suggests that there is a strong need for addition research to determine whether or not there is long-term recall of product placement within video games. It is her assertion that those who develop the next generation of games may be very close to creating “…a virtual or augmented reality environment” (Nelson 2002, p. 84). Whether this prediction is true or not, the fact remains that video games are becoming increasingly realistic. The advertising strategies must keep up with the ever-increasing sophistication of the games they advertise in. For video gamers to recall products placed within the games, the ads themselves might have to become as sophisticated and intriguing as the games. But, they can’t be allowed to usurp the game or take the gamer away from their focus — the game itself. They must continue to be strategically placed so that they are an integral aspect of the game’s environment, but do not in any way detract from the game itself.
According to Julie Tamaki (2005), one of the great challenges for those who seek to advertise in video games is the type of video games being developed. One of the more popular genres is science fiction, but in a universe set decades or even centuries into the future, will we still expect to see advertisements for McDonald’s or Nike? Those companies who produce science fiction games such as Anarchy Online which is set thousands of years into the future have some concern about advertisements showing up in their games. In one way, it breaks the fantasy that the game is about. After all, entering the world of the video game is not about reality, it is about creating an alternate world in which one can purely engage in fun and entertainment. Some who produce these games are concerned that the rush of companies who want to advertise in games may deter customers from buying specific games.
“Other video game makers, however, are concerned that adding advertisements to their creations will alienate customers used to escaping into science-fictional and Tolkien-esque digital worlds far from the reach of Madison Avenue. We’re not going to paint a Nike swoosh on the side of the castle of Qeynos, said Chris Kramer, a spokesman for Sony Online Entertainment Inc., the publisher of EverQuest, an Internet-based game set in a swords-and-sorcery fantasy world. “That’s the sort of thing that would really turn off the player” (Tamaki 2005).
Like anything, when advertising gets involved the entire feeling of the environment is altered. As the beginning of this essay stated, there was a time when one could go to the movies and not see any commercials whatsoever. That has completed changed. Now, commercials are an integral part of the movie experience, whether we, as movie goers like it or not. It is the same now with video games. There may be those who don’t want to see advertisements for Nike shoes in the middle of their fantasy of fighting monsters in a dark castle somewhere on a world far away from planet Earth. To them, it takes away from the mental and emotional fantasy they wish to create by being inside the game in the first place. Those who design the games and those who play the games actually have the same concern.
“Some avid gamers also are growing concerned that arrangements between publishers and advertisers are changing their beloved hobby. They worry that the pursuit of advertising dollars could ultimately influence the decisions on which games are developed, forcing game makers to set more titles in the present instead of the type of surreal worlds for which the industry has become famous” (Tamaki 2005).
However, Twist (2004) reports there may be one negative factor that could affect this whole wonderful relationship between people and technology — cost. The cost of producing games is high.
“Because it is so expensive to develop a game there are lots of issues with publishers unable to fund the game which is why you have seen lots of high profile sequels or film games… if we can actually get more interesting games concepts to the market by bringing in more ads, we see it as beneficial to the gamer.”
However, the cost of games may actually be part of the point here. One of the reasons that video game companies have allowed advertising is because it’s been beneficial to them too. It helps to defray some of the costs in producing the games themselves. Yet, it may start to become a double-edged sword for the gaming and advertising industries. While gaming continues to be popular, the only reason it is, is because of its constantly changing nature. Much like the Internet which has become far more interactive than when it first appeared, so have video games. But, gamers will eventually want more and that will be expensive.
“Executives at Ubisoft, publisher of the popular Splinter Cell action games based on the work of writer Tom Clancy, say they have poured ad revenue into developing titles rather than bolstering profit. It’s expensive when you try to make the game longer, more exciting and introduce new technologies,” said Jeffrey Dickstein, strategic sales and licensing manager for Ubisoft. But we need to do it to stay competitive” (Tamaki 2005).
However, no one doubts that there is money to be made in the video game industry. According to a five year comparative study conducted by the Yankee Group, the following chart shows the increase in video gamer users and money spent on video games between 2003 and 2008.
VIDEO GAME INDUSTRY IN THE US: 2003-2008
|Year||Number of Gamers (Ages 13+) In Millions||Video Game Spending (In Billions)|
Another concern that arises as a result of advertising within video games is the age of the person playing the game. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that even though some games are intended for a specific audience, individuals younger than the intended audience can get a hold of the games too. Thus, young viewers may not only see inappropriate game content but inappropriate advertising as well. “Though many games are targeted to older teens, members of the age 12-to-17 set are most likely to play, according to one 2004 study” (Collins 2006). Not only is age a concern but advertising within video games is already at the next level of consumerism. Again, according to Collins (2006), users of one particular game can not only see Pizza Hut in their game, they can order it. “Then, early last year, Sony Online Entertainment formed an alliance with Pizza Hut centered on the fantasy role-playing game Everquest. A player can type “pizza” to open a browser window and order home delivery.” While it’s true that the key point to advertising is to encourage consumers to buy products, this could potentially have harmful effects especially if subliminal advertising were to take place. However, most people in the gaming industry feel certain that there are specific reasons why the use of the Pizza Hut strategy might actually be an anomaly as opposed to a new trend in advertising.
“Some observers, including Mr. Greenfield, do not yet see clear evidence that in-game ads will cause youths to buy more. Greenfield also maintains that too much ad clutter could actually annoy gamers and even trigger retaliatory hacking. “This is a rebellious group,” he says. Already the Pizza Hut order option has been derided on some websites, says Steve Mounsey, a 20-something gamer who manages a GameStop store in Beverly, Mass. “A lot of people make fun of that” (Collins 2006).
Yet, Collins (2006) notes that not everyone agrees that this type of advertising can’t and won’t work. Video games which are increasingly more complicated will demand that the advertising be more interesting too. “…Claire Rosenzweig, executive director of the Promotion Marketing Association (PMA), a nonprofit research and educational organization. What you see is an incredible rise in experiential marketing, and ‘advergaming’ can be included in that branded experience.”
However, since using video games is largely a personal experience, the fact is there is little to no control over what takes place within the gaming environment. Not only might advertisers be concerned about what they’re connected to but parents have begun to be concerned as well. If companies are advertising to kids within their video games, there is a question as to what kind of effect it has on them. Are they pushing to buy for the products they tend to see in their video games, or are these advertisements simply part of the background? “It’s virtually impossible to know what kids are doing,” especially as gaming goes mobile on hand-held devices, many with wireless Internet connections, says Susan Linn, cofounder of the coalition Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood” (Collins 2006).
Survey research has changed dramatically in the last ten years. We have automated telephone surveys that use random dialing methods. There are computerized kiosks in public places that allows people to ask for input. A whole new variation of group interview has evolved as focus group methodology. Survey research is the method of gathering data from respondents thought to be representative of some population, using an instrument composed of closed structure or open-ended items (questions). This is perhaps the dominant form of data collection in the social sciences, providing for efficient collection of data over broad populations, amenable to administration in person, by telephone, and over the Internet. It is worth noting that there are those who criticize the use of surveys and closed-ended surveys in particular. There is a concern by some that these kinds of questions do not elicit truly meaningful responses. Questions written in this manner do not allow for respondents to truly formulate opinions or ideas. Rather, they are simply answering from a list of possibilities but their ‘true’ response might not be on the list. Therefore, they are forced to answer within the framework of possibilities given to them. In the end, some researchers will suggest that this is not a ‘real response’ but rather a forced one. However, as this researcher notes, there are advantages and disadvantages to almost any form of research and thus one method had to be chosen over another.
The primary means of researching this topic was to produce a survey which would elicit responses from ‘gamers’, that is, people who regularly play video games. It was this researcher’s intent to make the survey easy to understand and the questions easy to answer. The questions were designed to be elicit valuable information but not disrespectful or threatening in any way. In addition, there were considerations about length as there was a concern that if the survey was too long, it might deter people from filling it out. Ultimately, this researcher designed an eight-page survey with thirty-two closed-ended questions. In terms of the question, they were designed to be as practical as possible and avoided using too much ‘jargon’ so as not to confuse respondents. The questions were also brief so that respondents could move through the survey quickly and easily. It was thought that this would be an effective survey design since the gamers were actually in the arcade to play video games and not spend time filling out surveys.
Sixty-five surveys were dropped off at Extraball CafÃ©, located in Rome, at Piazza Pio XI and left for approximately twenty days. This particular location was chosen as it’s the largest and most well known video arcade in Rome. After twenty days, I picked up the surveys and forty people had filled them out. Therefore, with respect to the number of surveys dropped off and the number of surveys filled out, I achieved a 62.5% response rate.
This particular arcade in Rome was chosen because it is well-known and extremely popular. It receives high traffic of gamers on a regular basis. As such, I felt it would be an effective way of having the surveys filled out on an anonymous basis. I utilized a closed-ended questionnaire. Closed-ended surveys implies they were self-administered. Another method could have been to interview people individually. However, that is extremely time-consuming and I felt that this would be the most effective and the fastest way of finding survey respondents. In terms of survey research it is generally considered that closed-ended versus open-ended survey questions requires somewhat of a trade-off. Open-ended surveys generally result in a higher response rate and a higher quality of data. However, they also require a great deal of time and if the researcher cannot be involved, then someone must be paid and trained to do so. Another point to consider is that in-person interviews can make some people uncomfortable. As this was a survey about playing video games, this researcher had to consider the population of respondents and which method they would be more comfortable with. Therefore, the survey was created with the ‘sub-culture of gaming’ in mind when this survey was created. This researcher wanted it to be accessible, easy to understand/answer and something that would not take up too much of the gamers’ time.
Some other factors to consider are that if open-ended questions are used and they are analyzed quantitatively, the qualitative information is reduced to coding and answers tend to lose some of their initial meaning. Because of the simplicity of closed-ended questions, this kind of loss is not a problem. Closed-ended questions can be more specific, thus more likely to communicate similar meanings. Because open-ended questions allow respondents to use their own words, it is difficult to compare the meanings of the responses.
I developed the questions on my own and felt they were the most effective way of eliciting responses concerning advertisements within video games. I realize that every survey has both its advantages and disadvantages. The questionnaire was developed to test a theory that advertising within videogames can bring more appeal to the latter and therefore determine an increase in their success.
The advantages of this particular survey were that it could be answered quickly and anonymously. The questions could be answered in such a way as to elicit good information without having to be personally involved, which leaves me, more time as the researcher. It is also more effective for the respondents. They can fill out the survey at any time; there is no rush and they can do it within the comfort of their own home, or any place they choose. The final advantage was that there was no interviewer present to influence their responses or intimidate them in any way.
However, there were also disadvantages to this particular methodology. First of all, there was no guarantee that anyone would respond. By leaving the surveys in a public place, there was also absolutely no control over who actually answered the surveys. This researcher then, cannot prove that all of the respondents who answered the survey were in fact regular gamers. This means there is far less control of the data and the data itself might not be entirely accurate. Another disadvantage is the fact that several gamers could actually fill out the surveys together and this could also taint the data. It might be, in fact, that respondents influenced each other in the answering of these survey questions. The use of closed-ended questions also makes it impossible for any of the respondents to provide me with additional information or insights that they may have wished to offer. This kind of data is more difficult to analyze but sometimes can provide valuable insights into the subject matter. It is also possible that some respondents did not completely understand the questions. However, since no interviewer was present to assist the respondents, some of the answers might not be entirely accurate.
As this paper is largely sociological in nature, the use of the survey is completely appropriate. In fact, surveys are one of the most standardized methodologies in sociological research. The use of survey data is a long-established tradition in this form of research and allows the researcher to gather data from large numbers of people in a highly systematic fashion. However, it is important to remember that when surveys are used, they also represent some difficulties. That is, survey data is only as useful as the information that is provided by the respondents. As already noted in this essay, there may be some difficulties with this particular survey as it was not administered in person but distributed to an anonymous group of possible respondents. The second issue will be the number of respondents. Forty respondents does not really provide us with a wide range of attitudes and perceptions. Therefore, it would ultimately be advantageous to interview a much broader number of people to elicit a number of responses that could be mathematically and sociologically meaningful.
In terms of the survey methodology, this researcher does feel that a broad range of questions were asked in order to elicit valuable information. That is, questions were created to understand a number of specific areas of information. They were: gamer’s perceptions of advertising within video games, gamer’s use of video games (hours per week), ages and gender of video gamer users, participation in online forums for gamers, attendance at video games expos, purchasing patterns, choices in video game purchases, preferences within video games, amount of attention played to advertising within video games and attitudes towards advertising within video games.
It is this researcher’s belief that this broad range of questions has elicited information that is highly appropriate and valuable to this particular topic. In addition, although there may be issues with the distribution method chosen, it proved, in the end to be successful as the return rate was 62%. Indeed, this provides us with at least a good sample of information and a foundation for further research into this topic.
In terms of the data provided by this survey, there is a clear pattern that demonstrates the majority of gamers are young males between the ages of 15 — 25. These young men tend to spend a great deal time playing video games and surfing on the Internet. The majority own their own personal computers and consoles and in several cases, they own multiples of both the above.
There is definitely a connection between the advertising in games and the sense of realism that gamers feel about the game itself. Logos and the presence of brand names provide a context for the action, although there is some difficulty in doing this in the science fiction genre. While the action genre remains strongly popular, the other genres are almost equally so, with the exception of games which offer role playing opportunities. These gamers tend to enjoy games where they can be shooting at targets and simulations of various types. It is not unusual to see this pattern given that it’s likely these same young males are the ones attending action films in the movie theatres.
The data provided leaves no doubt that this demographic is a highly important one for advertisers. By placing ads in games, they literally have a captive audience. Unlike movies, the gamers are highly unlikely to fast forward because when they do so they might miss a quintessential aspect of the game. Therefore, the ads are going to be seen no matter what. In fact, the data also supports the assumption that young people are actually buying games for the purpose of finding other products to purchase. These games therefore provide a context not only for casual fun but also high stakes advertising. Millions of young men are buying these games world wide. In doing so, they provide the advertising industry with one of the biggest possible pay days they’ve had since the invention of the television. It is clear that the advertising industry is going to increase their presence in video games and the gamers have already accepted that. It is, in many ways, a match made in advertising heaven.
One of the more interesting pieces of information is the fact that although the majority of these gamers identified themselves as students, they are clearly not using their computers for their studies, at least not for the most part. To them, computers and consoles are mediums for entertainment and purchasing other products they might want to buy. The advertising industry is absolutely justified in targeting this demographic because they may prove to be one of the most powerful advertising tools the industry has. Young people with disposable income, or parents with disposable income will purchase an ever increasing number of products. The more they do, the more games they will purchase and the more products they become aware of. Thus, a powerful purchasing cycle is created and perpetuated.
In terms of this research project, there is no doubt that the sample size was small. However, the data proved to be consistent. As such therefore, this researcher feels the data provided is reliable and points to the patterns suggested in the data analysis above. There is no doubt that addition research is required on the subject of the connection between video games and advertising.
Some of the questions this researcher has generated are the following:
What controls, if any, should be placed on advertising within video games? Should there be regulations that address the issue of what kinds of products can be advertised to game users of a particular age range?
Research should definitely be conducted on the effects of advertising on young people who use video games and if, in any way, it effects their purchasing patterns? For example, how often do gamers purchase the products they see in the video games they play? What kinds of products do they tend to purchase and why?
Since the pattern that emerged from and other research demonstrates that the majority of gamers are young men, what effects, if any, does advertising have on young women who play these video games? Should there be any consideration given to placing products, brand names, or logos that are clearly products for women placed inside these games? If this was done, would it increase the gaming patterns among young women?
Another interesting pattern that emerged was the connection between extended hours of Internet use and playing video games. Is there a definite connection between playing video games and using the Internet? If so, what does that pattern reveal about young people who play video games?
An additional area of research might be the relationship between extended use of video games and the Internet on young people and education. Do they tend to ignore their homework in favour of playing video games and surfing on the Internet? A study that focuses on the grades of young people who play video games for extended hours is definitely in order to see if there are any negative effects for young people and their educational future.
According to Nelson (2002), there is a need for additional research in the area of the effectiveness of product placement in video games. “Future research might test the relative effectiveness of each of these methods, including the increasing use of sensory cues such as audio in the form of licensed music, sound effects, and announcers and, in the future, look for branded smells. In addition, new versions of games typically offer greater customization features. In the future, it will be very interesting to note whether or not these customization features leads to an increase in the number of people who play these video games.
But this researcher feels that one of the strongest areas of future research is that of the effects of prolonged exposure to these video games on the young people who play them. For example, if they are spending (as this research suggests) at least between 6 — 10 hours a week on these games, plus the time they’re spending on the Internet surfing for other things to do (which were not identified in this research), what effect does this have on these young people? A whole new generation of teenagers are being raised in the age of multimedia technology. In fact, an argument can be made for the fact that many of these teenagers might be more comfortable with their technology than they are with other people.
One of the disturbing facts was that although the majority of users in this survey identified themselves as students, they are clearly not spending a great deal of time on their studies, but preferring to be on their consoles and computers. Thus, it may be that their education is, to at least some degree, coming from these games and not necessarily from the classroom.
Another viable area of research is the effect this might have on these young people and their socialization process. People learn to be with others through the act of socializing with other people. In the past, children would play with one another after school or attend after school programs. Today, they run to the video arcade, or home to their consoles. It is certainly worth looking into whether or not they prefer to engage in playing video games alone or in the company of others. However, even if they’re doing so with others, the game is the primary focus of their interaction, not the other person. Therefore, one might argue, on a sociological basis at least, that this generation of young people may not be learning appropriate behavioural skills such as how to behave in the company of others because of the tremendous amount of time they spend alone with their video games.
Another argument one could put forward is that communication skills of this generation might also not be as well-developed. Their communication skills focus on sending emails to one another via the Internet — an environment where spelling and grammar are not as important as sending a quick message to someone such as; “how r u?” The statement is clear and yet it’s certainly not spelled correctly, nor does it really say very much. Young people are also relying, at least to some degree, on these video games for their personal stimulation. As many of these games are in the action genre, there is certainly a concern as to how much violence they are being exposed to. Again, the issue of controls comes into question. Yet, how can the industry control whether or not a young boy gets a hold of his older brother’s console one day and sees things that a boy of his age shouldn’t be able to see? It’s almost an impossible task to control this industry. Also, now that an entire generation of young people have been exposed to these games, we have yet to see what the effect will actually be.
Although our sample size was small, there is definitely a correlation established between the advertising of brands and products in video games and the purchasing and playing of these video games themselves. Future research should also focus on what kinds of brands these gamers prefer to see in their games. Are there particular products they prefer to see while other products would be considered a nuisance? Extensive research needs to be conducted on this subject because the gaming industry is only going to continue to grow. There is no doubt that the advertising industry realizes they’ve hit ‘pay dirt’ with these games and their captive audience not only loves the games, but sees these advertisements as adding the sense of realism they prefer inside the games themselves.
However, for the future well-being of this generation and future generations to come, the effects of these games must be studied in order to determine how they can be controlled, and if they can be controlled.