Marketers want to be part of the games consumers play.
An increasing number of brands is looking at opportunities to interact with the 8 million Indians hooked to online, mobile, or console (such as Playstation 3 and XBox 360) games. Apart from exploring branding opportunities, some marketers are having their brands written as the central characters in games. “Four years ago, we had only one or two brands wanting to use the gaming platform, but today 70% of our games are branded,” says Vishal Gondal, founder and director, Indiagames Ltd,a global mobile content publisher with operations in over 65 countries.
JumpGames Pvt. Ltd, Mobile2Win India Pvt. Ltd, Nazara Technologies Pvt. Ltd and Hungama Network’s Hungama.com are the other gaming companies that have, over the past three years tied up with brands such as Coca Cola, Castrol, Kelloggs, Thums Up, Domino’s Pizza and Nokia.
“Advertisers are hungry for eyeballs and they are looking for opportunities to connect with consumers,” says Rajeev Hiranandani, co-founder and country head, Mobile2Win. “Consumers, on the other hand, are getting hooked to many new forms of media,” he adds.
Last year, Castrol tied up with Mobile2Win to launch a new Formula 1 game. IndiaGames incorporated Pepsi in its action game called ‘Yoddha.’ When the main character in the game was out of energy, he had to drink Pepsi to revive his power. ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company and Media2Win tied up for a game called ‘Retire Rich’ which was available on moneycontrol.com and contests2win.com.
Then, there is the emerging trend of ‘advert-gaming’. “Advert gaming is a bit like in-film placements, where multiple brands will get the opportunity to place their banners in a single game,” says Hiranandani of Mobile2Win. The company is already in talks with several fast moving consumer goods companies and its first advert game will be launched in the next six months.
Gaming companies are upbeat about brands wanting to ride their platform because it provides them with an alternative source of revenue. “The brands pay us anywhere between Rs4 lakh and Rs8 lakh to develop a game,” says Hiranandani. Nitish Mitterain, CEO, Nazara Technologies says branded games help both the brands and the gaming companies. “Games provide a very cost-effective, yet highly efficient way, of consumer engagement,” he says. “While it takes only around a few lakh rupees to develop a game with a brand placed in it, it helps the brand connect with millions of consumers in an extremely non-obtrusive fashion,” he adds A 10-second spot on prime time television, which reaches 30-40 million consumers, could cost anything between Rs75,000 and Rs2 lakh, depending on the profile of the programme and the television channel.
Advertisers are more than willing to try their luck with games. “Gone are the days when you created an advertisement for a brand and expected television or print to do the trick,” says a spokesperson for Coca Cola. “We think digital platforms are more interactive and help bond with consumers in a spontaneous manner,” he adds. Saugata Basu Ray, senior marketing manager, Castrol India Ltd adds that if the content is interesting “the possibility of it connecting with consumers, and at a larger scale, are quite high, giving marketers a very cost-effective and focused exposure.”
According to a report by India’s software lobby Nasscom, the size of the gaming industry in the country was around $48 million in 2006. The industry is expected to touch $424 million in revenues by 2010 and a large part of this growth is likely to be on account of mobile and online games.
According to Salil Bhargava, CEO, JumpGames, a publisher of games across mobile and web platforms, this growth is fuelled by the declining price of game downloads as well as a growth in the number of handsets on which quality games are now available.
“Earlier high quality games were very expensive and were only available on high-end handsets or unaffordable consoles.” Mobile games can be downloaded for as little as Rs10. Sometimes, they cost nothing at all.