Statistics show that games and online games, social or otherwise, are among the mediums that reach the largest number of users. The research conducted by Pew Research Center from 2015 shows that half of American adults play video games, while 10% consider themselves “gamers”.
Part of online games appeal is their “freemium” nature – the base game is free to play by anyone, with only in-game benefits and eventual premium features that have to be paid for. For me the perfect example is Candy Crush Saga: you play and play and then suddenly you have to wait for the next turn or use in-app purchases to continue.
The freemium model made those games insanely popular. Popularity of online games is of course interesting for all kinds of brands.
One of the earliest product placement deals in online games happened in 2010, and it involved Zynga’s immensely popular farm building title Farmville – and peanuts. With an audience of over 80 million back then, Farmville was the perfect medium to get a message out to a large and open crowd at the time. Peanuts were added to the list of crops that players could grow. The product the placement promoted was “Elite Taami Nutz”, a peanut-filled chocolate bar sold in Israel.
The company was the first to sponsor a crop, but Organic foods maker Cascadian Farm was the first to get their logo and brand into the Farmville Market.
As you can see, the resulting images were quite the eye-catcher:
According to the article by Inder Phull the sale of “branded levels” in various popular games has become a normal practice over time. Today, certain games are built with it in mind: the ease of customizing levels makes it quick and easy to create one that has a specific product or brand integrated into it.
One of the best examples would be Rovio, the software developer behind the popular Angry Birds series, that built a level around Microsoft’s “Skype” brand. The brand was built using in-game assets and could be destroyed by the ominous angry birds.
Zynga also routinely sells branded levels to interested companies. In 2013 there was an interesting promotion by Honda in the game Words With Friends and Scrabble With Friends. As part of the “It Starts With You” campaign to promote the 2013 Honda Accord players could earn in-game currency and tips by playing words “sponsored” by Honda such as “new,” “tech,” and “you” in Words With Friends. Scrabble With Friends featured a branded game board, with tokens awarded to players who locate the words “Accord,” “luxury,” and “new.”
There are many popular online games where you won’t see any brand or product placement – unless you want to. The slot machines and other games at Euro Palace online casino are built on a completely different business model and are not the preferred target for brands to place their products. The Euro Palace is a real money gaming venue with many games based on popular entertainment products – and whenever brands appear in its games, it’s not done for publicity. Instead, all games at the Euro Palace build upon the popularity of existing brands to promote its own content. This is why it has added games inspired by popular movies and franchises (Terminator, Jurassic World, Bridesmaids and others) and TV shows to its game library. This placement works great with online gaming venues – such games are routinely among the most played at the Euro Palace and beyond.
It would be perfectly normal that a brand that had product placement in the movie (e.g. Mercedes in Jurassic World) extends its placement in comic books, (online) games or slot machines. Brands that decided to be a part of a huge promotion which includes product placement in a movie, should use all possible touch points to get to their desired target groups.