Video Games Attempt to Go Mainstream in the United States and Europe

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In a market where many advertisers are slashing their budgets, the video game industry is taking just the opposite approach.The industry has unleashed a billion-dollar bombardment of IMC communications designed to make Mario the plumber and Munch the Gabit household names as common as Harry Potter or Britney Spears.

The objective of the marketing blitz is to transform the video game from a niche market to as common an activity as watching television or going to the movies. Sony (PlayStation2), Nintendo (GameCube), and Microsoft (Xbox) have all recently redesigned their video games in an attempt to penetrate as many living rooms as possible while ushering in the next generation of digital entertainment.

While the immediate objective is to sell units, the industry's long-term goal is to change the image of the products from a teenage game to family entertainment. The products have become much more sophisticated and have the added capabilities of playing DVD movies and CDs and connecting to the Internet. And, while growing the market is one goal, Sony and Nintendo are also attempting to protect their market shares in the $20 billion market from newcomer Microsoft.

The IMC programs will be as innovative as the products themselves. Traditional advertising media will play a minimal role, while ad messages on soda bottles, in

fast-food restaurants, and on college campuses will be commonplace. High-tech trucks and vans equipped with games will tour the United States to allow trial. Nintendo will host Gamecube parties throughout the country, while Sony will employ Britney Spears and Snoop Dog at its events. Not to be outdone, Microsoft is taking its rigs on the road to 40 cities to throw "Xbox Bashes." In all, the companies will use multiple print ads, street marketing teams, college marketing teams, events, sponsorships,TV ads,and the Internet.

The budgets are outrageous as well! Consider that Microsoft ($500 million worldwide) and Nintendo and Sony ($250 million each in North America, and Nintendo at total of $475 million worldwide) will spend five times as much in 2002 as Coke did in 2001 to advertise Coke and Diet Coke. Sega spent over $10 million in the first quarter alone!

Meanwhile, the blitz is hitting Europe as well. The first advertising by Microsoft broke during the Olympic Games, followed by a larger TV campaign with the product launch date in March. A direct-marketing campaign followed, using a database supported by the website (fondly referred to as the company's "brand experience" website) as well as 7,000 prelaunch demo units in department stores. Additional brand advertising will also follow the introduction of individual game releases.

The battle for brand share will be intense—maybe more intense than the games themselves. For example, Microsoft has already dubbed its positioning as "positive and inclusive," as opposed to what it calls PlaySta-tion2's "dark and exclusive" strategy. Then again, maybe PlayStation knows something. As noted by one industry observer, "The industry has more casualties than successes."

Sources: Ravi Chandiramani,"Microsoft Xbox Adopts 'Positive' Brand Position ing," Marketing, Jan. 24,2002, p. 1; Kenneth Hein, "Videogame Manufacturers See 0 Ceiling on Selling Season," Brandweek, Mar. 18, 2002, p. 13; Alex Pham and Greg Johnson,"Console Industry Taking the Game to a Different Level—Mainstream," Los Angeles Times, Sept.10, 2001, p. Cl.

have as their marketing objectives expanding distribution and sales of their product in certain market areas. Companies often have secondary marketing objectives that are related to actions they must take to solve specific problems and thus achieve their primary objectives. IMC International Perspective 7-1 provides an example of how companies invest to pursue multiple objectives.

Once the marketing communications manager has reviewed the marketing plan, he or she should understand where the company hopes to go with its marketing program, 197

Belch: Advertising and I IV. Objectives and I 7. Establishing Objectives I I © The McGraw-Hill

Promotion, Sixth Edition Budgeting for Integrated and Budgeting for the Companies, 2003

Marketing Promotional Program Communications Programs

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