Gaming Executives Aim to Bridge the Divide Between Brands and Games

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Games are media, and marketers need to think about it as such. Facebook’s head of games and other executives at CBS Interactive, IGN, PaeDae, and Scopely encouraged a room full of marketers yesterday to get serious about gaming as a media channel that is on the upswing and ripe for advertising opportunities.

“The two areas of our business that are going through phenomenal growth are the mobile side of our business and the console side of our business,” says Simon Whitcombe, games lead at Facebook. “We’re going through a mobile revolution right now,” he tells the audience here at ThinkLA’s Gaming Breakfast.

“One out of every five minutes on mobile is either spent with Facebook or Instagram,” he says. So what are people doing on their phones during those other four minutes? Consumers are looking to be distracted, and in many instances that distraction is a mobile game, says Whitcombe.

“Mobile gaming has become a big deal very quickly,” he says, citing the latest projections that have the industry topping $12 billion in revenue next year. “It took the video games business 10 years or more to get to that kind of size.”

When iOS or Android users surf through the most popular apps of any given day, games are always sitting front and center. Games are “absolutely dominating” and driving that ecosystem, says Whitcombe, adding that most revenue will continue to come from free-to-play games that are paired with in-game transaction models.

“It’s dominating those devices we carry around with us every day,” he says, adding that brands still have a “huge opportunity to reach an audience around a passion they deeply care about.”

On Facebook, the conversations and interest among hardcore gamers for professional games are just as enthusiastic, and thereby rich for marketing as well, he adds. “Professional gaming is here, it has an audience and they are deeply engaged.”

The next generation consoles coming from Microsoft and Sony later this year are driving excitement and revived interest on Facebook as well. Earlier this week, more than one million people were talking about “Grand Theft Auto 5” on the site in a single day, says Whitcombe.

Perhaps that is why, as Whitcombe tells ClickZ after the event, Facebook’s primary objective in games is to help publishers sell more games. Non-endemic brands can certainly target fans of specific games on Facebook, but the more direct opportunity lies in connecting console, PC, and mobile games publishers with their fans on Facebook, he adds.

Ben Howard, VP of programming at CBS Interactive, says the pro-gaming crowd is craving for attention from big brands, but many brands are still struggling to make that connection. “It’s about being appropriate to the gaming experience, not replacing everything with a free-to-play” strategy built around traditional banner ads. For a media that has this much exposure in our lives, the nature of games is enabling marketers to “change the advertising paradigm,” says PaeDae CEO Rob Emrich.

“I think targeting within the games and these overall networks matters a lot and it’s not being done very well right now, generally, Emrich continues. "Unfortunately the Internet as a whole and games in particular are still moving toward direct response, and unfortunately that’s still the lowest common denominator when it comes to advertising.”

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