Month: December 2010

The future is here! (And it belongs to the gamers!)

Sorry for the absence, it has been the busiest end to a year that I can remember and now I’m off on holiday for a few weeks, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy Xmas. Mine is particularly happy because I got given a great early Christmas present.

In my role I’ve been talking with Microsoft on and off for the past couple of years and spent a lot of time discussing the Xbox platform and its value as an advertising medium. Those of you who have perused any of these pages in the past will know that I’m a bit of a gaming geek, but also that I’ve tried to champion the use of games as a potentially powerful marketing vehicle for a huge variety of products and brands.

In the spirit of that Microsoft were kind enough to send me their brand new Kinect peripheral to a) see what I thought of the product and b) see what I thought the opportunities could be for brands to use it to engage with consumers. I have to say I’m impressed!

I was just like a kid at Christmas as I got home and instantly plugged it in to my well loved Xbox. Within less than 5 minutes it had fully calibrated itself to the size and shape of my lounge, it had learnt to recognise me, and I was talking to my TV and it was listening! The talking to (well shouting at) my TV is nothing new, but this was definitely the first time it responded.

I probably spent about 2 hours just playing around with this new interface and convincing myself that I was Tom Cruise in Minority report. Very Exciting.

Once that excitement had worn off (OK it didn’t really, but it subsided slightly), I was able to actually get into the gaming side of things and again I was suitably impressed. The games had an instant intuitive feel that meant that I was able to get the wife to play along and she was even beating me. It has a very natural feel and because it analyses your entire body shape and movement in 3 dimensions, you can’t cheat it which means that us gamers can’t get better except the hard way. That’s great because it levels the playing field and allows me to share my enjoyment of gaming with my wife when previously I’d have had to wait until she was out or in bed!

So the first thing to think about from an advertising point of view is that gaming can now be seen as a way of targeting multiple users in a shared occasion rather than just solo-geeks, and that is potentially very powerful for a number of brands that would otherwise have never considered games to be a relevant medium

Obviously the Wii has been doing this for the past few years, but they’ve always been very protective of their environment with regards to brand partners. Wii Sports has always been off limits to us which has been a source of some frustration, but with Kinect Sports, they’ve made it very clear that there are distinct opportunities for advertisers. Currently Rare (the developer) owns all of the billboards, and they are very noticeable, but I’m assuming that they are just placeholders for paying clients.

The thing is though, that this still probably won’t be enough for most clients if all we can do is just stick some billboards into the games. It’s just more eyeballs and I believe that games have to offer something different if they want to get more than just novelty spend.

The fact is that when people are playing Kinect, they are more immersed than in any other entertainment medium. They are using their entire bodies to control on-screen avatars and they have a much more heightened sense of their virtual surroundings than in any other game type I have ever played. To this point I’d want to be able to engage and interact with the advertising formats in a way that reflects this immersion.

At one point in the game you have to choose between different game types and the menu system just requires you to hover over choice A or B. However if you move your hand so that the on-screen pointer moves off either A or B then it is hovering over the “crowd”. When you do that you find that the crowd respond to the presence of your pointer and perform a mexican wave that you can then effectively “conduct”. This small touch is disproportionately rewarding and surprising and fun. Again I probably spent a few minutes just experimenting with the menu system to see what other treats there were. If you could apply this type of interaction to the advertising formats then the players would not only choose to engage with the advertising but they would start to seek it out and feel much more positively towards it. That’s half the battle surely!

The opportunities for the Kinect are huge both from a gaming point of view and a marketing one. It is an incredibly powerful and sophisticated piece of technology that is sitting in family spaces and it could have incredible ramifications for not just gaming, but social media, communications, e-commerce, and most forms of entertainment. I’ve merely scratched the surface above and expect to write numerous articles on this before I’m done.

Well done Microsoft!