Shampoo, Insurance, Heavy Rain

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Hi Susan.

I think this article misunderstands the purpose of advertising on TV, and the reason why videogames are only advertised on certain channels. Let's go through it bit by bit. Some of this was covered in passing in your article, but it all feeds into the conclusion, so bear with me.

TV AUDIENCES VS WEB AUDIENCES
Unlike pet food and Snuggles a computer game is not a useful item in of itself. You can't take the Bayonetta disc out of the box and immediately have an enjoyable gaming experience (unless you use it as a frisbee). No - you need to be in posession of a videogaming console. Which means that there isn't a lot of point in advertising a videogame on TV unless the majority of people watching actually have something to play it on.

This is why games companies advertise so much on gaming websites and magazines - because they know for damned sure that anyone reading them has a console or PC and an interest in their product.

BUT WHAT ABOUT DVDs?
You might well ask. A DVD (or Blu-Ray, you crazy, affluent kids) is just as useless as a game disc if you don't have something to play it on. But DVD players already have a much, much bigger market penetration than videogame consoles do, so the majority of viewers will already have one. And even if they don't, they can buy one for $50 at Wal-Mart, compared to a couple of hundred for a PS3.

Also, DVDs are a much easier sell to non-tech-savvy types, because they are an extension of the television, something that the viewer is (of course) already well-versed with. It's like having a TV network on your shelf! Not so videogames, with their fiddly, unintuitive controllers and weird looking characters.

DEMOGRAPHIC SELECTION
This is also why videogames mostly get advertised on niche channels - because those channels' target demographics (male, 18-35, disposable income) fit with the demographic for console or game-ready PC ownership*. There's no point splurging money on a higher-rated show if its demographics are so wide that they hit middle-aged women who don't have consoles, or older males who have no interest in videogames.

In the case of Heavy Rain - yes, the game would probably strike a chord with crime show fans, and probably with non-traditional (ie. middle-aged female, whom I believe are reasonably large consumers of mainstream crime shows) gamers, provided the advert could get across the emotional and storytelling complexities of the game. But it's also PS3-only, which means that it's available to a niche of a niche. How many middle-aged women have consoles, or free and easy access to them? And how many of those consoles are PS3s? And what's the projected 'money spent:potential consumers' ratio for buying an advertising block in the middle of Bones compared to buying an advert on The Escapist? Advertising is about money, and targeted advertising will get you better returns than scattershot spending.

OUTLIERS
GTA and Wii games do appear on non-niche channels or programmes, but they are a
out of the ordinary - the former because it's got enough cultural penetration that non-gamers or casual gamers might dabble with it just to be on the zeitgeist, and the latter because it appeals to non-standard demographics (young women and the elderly).

THE PURPOSE OF ADVERTISING A GAME
Now I know that this is by-the-by for your argument, because you are saying that games companies can broaden the appeal of videogaming as a whole by advertising to a wider, mainstream audience, thereby legitimising it as much as DVDs, movies and Snuggles. This may be true, but it's not why games companies spend millions (or hundreds of thousands, in the case of smaller games) on advertising in the first place.

EA doesn't give a fuck about - well, anything beyond money, really, but for the sake of argument they specifically don't give a fuck about how videogames as a whole are viewed by the masses. What they care about is making money on Game X, and they're not going to spend a cent more than they have to to achieve that.

They're not interested in attracting someone who wouldn't ordinarily pick up a controller, because - as explained above - the chances of getting one of those people to do so based on how good their game looks is negligible. Instead, they want to exploit the sizeable existing market to its fullest, because that's how they'll get the best returns for the least investment.

SO WHO CAN HELP?
Not the games companies, that's for sure. No, the ones who would benefit from convinving non-gamers to pick up a joypad are the console manufacturers - they're selling a product that is of immediate use to non-gamers, so their advertising will (if it works) have immediate benefits in non-gaming TV blocks.

But to non-gamers a PS3 or an XBox can look intimidatingly complicated, and saying 'it has fancy graphics and cool games' doesn't mean much at all because they don't have a context to place it in. That's one of the reasons the Wii sold well to (I hate this term) casual gamers - because non-gamers could understand how waving your arms about like you're rowing might allow you to interact with a WiiPaddler or whatever. A kid pressing buttons while some chap twats things with a sword doesn't have that immediacy.

So here's a solution: rather than suggesting that videogame companies should spend money advertising their products to non-gamers, suggest that they (particualrly if they're making console exclusives) should look at partnering up with console manufacturers. Have an advert that focuses on an ad-block-relevant game and ends with '...get the experience on PS3' or whatever. You're selling the experience and the medium that way.

Still, the chances of getting a CSI-loving housewife to splash a few hundred on a PS3 because Heavy Rain looks good are pretty slim.

So how about this? Just stop worrying about it and let it come with time. To the kids of today, gaming is just another thing you do to pass the time. Hell, it's like that for a sizeable chunk of teens and twentysomethings, too. And as these generations grow older and supplant the ones that came before them, gaming will become just as legitimate as going to the movies or watching CSI. You don't have to fight to get the middle-aged folks onboard, because the industry as it is is perfectly self-sufficient with the current audience, and will continue to grow naturally with time.

Yeah, your parents don't appreciate you spending house on World of Warcraft. That's fine - their parents didn't appreciate them listening to rock 'n' roll albums with their friends. It's just the way it goes. Just you wait till your kids are trying to ween you off those old-fashioned videogame console things so you can try their mass-consiousness psychic transference or whatever...

(Apologies if this is a bit rambling - I've pretty much just hammered this all out off the top of my head, but I hope it gets my point across)

*You can go on about how your girlfriends play videogames, or how your 50-year-old dad aced Devil May Cry 4, but these people are, statistically, not representative of the large body of game players.

I see videogame ads on television but there are always for games I have next to no interest in, except for that Bayonetta ad this is currently working its way around, I love that game to death.

I would love for games to advertised just as often as movies, and I've actually seen a few videogame ads in a movie theatre.

People seem to still be stuck in the past regarding what games are capable of, one of the comments in the aforementioned theatre was something along the lines of "haha trying to make killing shit look important, just a ****in game".

gee i gave up watching tv , too many ads , crappy shows and too many channels showing the same program ( i was on sat tv ) , there are few channels i'd watch anyway , discovery ,tlc , g4 , fox and speed ... so paying for the rest is a waste so i buy games instead

The only game ad I've ever seen on TV (besides those Wii craps which don't count) was Gears of War. More games should do it, it's just a logical idea.

It depends on the game having mass appeal, which Heavy Rain does not have. It is niche, just like Fahrenheit. And it's Playstation 3 exlusive. Even bigger niche. A TV ad wouldn't help too much, which in turn could explain why we DON'T see ads for most games.

This goes to show that gaming is still far away from mainstream. Since an advertised product would try to aim for many people and not just a specific audience, videogames are still a niche. And from what I see, upcoming games don't show an intention to go mainstream.

I recently have seen plenty of TV ads for Bayonetta, even on the major channels, like Channel 4. It even includes a popular-at-the-time pop song in the background! It seems there are more game ads in the UK than in the US, then.

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