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impact Roundtable: ‘There is need for innovation in gaming, and the time starts now’

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impact Roundtable: ‘There is need for innovation in gaming, and the time starts now’

If at all there is a right time for bringing innovation in gaming, it is now. Gaming industry in India most certainly has a bright future, however, it needs to get its metrics right and better. These were some of the highlights of the impact Roundtable conference on Advergaming, held in Mumbai on July 31, 2009. The theme this year was ‘Winning customers with in-game advertising’.

According to the Indian Entertainment and Media Outlook 2009, brought out by PwC, the animation industry grew at 20 per cent in 2008 to reach Rs 15.6 billion from Rs 130 billion in 2007. On the other hand, the Indian gaming industry grew at 47 per cent from 2007 to reach Rs 4 billion in 2008, mainly due to the growth in mobile gaming sub-segment. Nevertheless, advergaming is still at a nascent stage and has a long way to go in India. 3G launch in India is expected to benefit this form of advertising in a big way and take the gaming industry as a whole to the next level.

One of the most talked about in-game advertising as a case study was that of Barack Obama’s attempt to appeal to new and young voters through advertising on video games.

Participants at the impact Roundtable included Karl Gomes, NCD – Digital, Rediffusion Y&R; Raghav Anand, Sector Leader – New Media and Convergence, Ernst & Young; Akshay Garg, Co-founder, Komli Media; Hrishi Oberoi, Studio Director, Indiagames; Manoj Malkani, VP, MPG; and Mahesh Murthy, Founder and CEO, Pinstorm. The session was moderated by Pradyuman Maheshwari, Group Chief Editor, exchange4media.

Of gaming and advergaming in India

Commencing the discussion, Maheshwari said, “The gaming sensation is not a new phenomenon. It has existed since the time of batman days, ironically it took the 2008 US Presidential elections to create that much needed sensation around gaming or advergaming per se, wherein Obama, too, had used it as a source to reach out to new and young voters. Things in India, however, have had its ups and downs, where gaming is more or less seen as outsource. So, with the overall ad spends in India likely to grow by 2 per cent this year, as per estimates, where does gaming and advergaming stand?”

Initiating the conversation, Anand explained, “Globally, the gaming industry is doing very well and the sales, too, have picked up well in the market. Globally, the gaming business is over $47 billion and trends show that gaming is emerging as a strong entertainment medium. Majority of games are dominated by console gaming, in fact, some research even suggests that if properly used, in-game advertising could make a huge difference in the market.”

He further said, “While PC-console market is largely of core audience, the online mobile market is slightly more mass, therefore, advergaming comes into play. While advertising has been growing more and more as an interactive medium, the gaming industry will only take time to grow and as this segment grows so also advergaming will also grow. While in the West a shift to online has been drastic, for India, still at a nascent stage, this kind of shift will still take some time.”

Oberoi observed, “I believe that currently the biggest canvas in the country is mobile gaming, and with mobile having a massive reach in the country and mobile gaming having a massive reach in mobile market, the challenge lies in creating awareness of the brand. With Obama using in-game advertising during the US Presidential elections last year and the success it received only shows that in-game or advergaming is a possibility. One of the challenges in advergaming also lies in proper distribution system. Advergaming will be more relevant only when it can be reached to the right people.”

He added, “As the online industry grows, having a universal metric system becomes more important, and even when it comes to having mobile metrics, it will be relevant to brands only if it is relevant to them. There is a need, therefore, to improve the quality of distribution, which should be given more importance today and when this issue is addressed, it will certainly add value for the brand.”

According to Gomes, “We need to stop doing what others have already done. First and foremost, we need to understand the purpose of the brand and find a way to fulfill that purpose. I believe that if we use mediums where one medium can help another medium and if we figure out that hook, I believe it will help people think in a collaborative manner.”

Garg noted, “We still see the digital medium as a medium that is not mainstream yet, and we continue saying that next year would be the year of the digital, however, the number of people being reached out to is still very small. I believe reach is very important and unless you have a critical mass, none of the brands will invest. You also need to provide brands the right data sources as until a common currency comes into fray brands will treat these mediums only on experimental basis.”

Malkani explained, “Ironically, gaming has not been explored as it should have been explored. The major hitch is that there is lack of speed, while gaming requires good speed. With 3G rollout in India, things are expected to change and mobile is thus expected to see a drastic change. For most of the clients, it depends on which category they are targeting, which product lifecycle they are in, and where are its audience, etc., and thus depending on this, the money will go. That’s how the industry functions.”

Creating the buzz and the potential

Having a completely different take, Murthy of Pinstorm said, “The gaming industry has a long way to go, advertising in gaming is still very rare in India. There is a need for creating a metric system, what you need is an engagement metric, and for gaming to survive it has to create a completely different metric system, and above all it has to show its delivery. The industry has not demonstrated the value of this medium and because of this, people hesitate to make use of the medium for the second time.”

Anand of E&Y said, “Any medium today is not successful as a singular medium, you require other mediums to be successful, and this is what our industry needs to think about. We need to think different and when you think different, eventually it will make a lot of difference for the brand and the industry as a whole. The medium is still not that big enough to bring a turnaround, success, however, may not lie in reaching out to an ‘X’ number of people, but about people acting upon the message you have tried to convey. If at all the gaming industry wants to create something iconic, now is the time. There is a need to innovate. We need innovation that is not complicated, but simple.”

On a slightly different note, Garg of Komli Media said, “To me, gaming is still a substance of digital, and for digital to grow, the industry needs to look at creating equivalence of TAM and RAM. Bandwidth speed is another challenge and 3G has to start percolating down to the masses, and until this happens, I don’t see the segment grow and be taken seriously that mass is very phenomenal. This can only happen when 3G is launched and broadband penetration is increased.”

Malkani of MPG said, “Brands are not looking at gaming as a revenue stream, but as a promotional tool, especially for filmmakers – ‘Ghajini’ and ‘Don’ are some examples. I believe there is a need for a universal metric system for the industry, with a credibility that any advertiser can rely on. Gaming has a lot of potential, but it requires to come with something innovative.”

Oberoi of Indiagames said, “It is too early to say where gaming has helped significantly. It is just that it has not been as effective as it should have been. If only there is a stickiness, in India this has not happened yet, and only when it does will advergaming be successful enough.”

Citing the examples of the Air India campaign, Wilkinson and Lipton, Gomes of Rediffusion Y&R said, “Creating a game and communicating the message well is what is needed. We must start experimenting and use this medium in an interesting manner.”

“There is an agreement that gaming has to innovate and that there is not only a need for a universal metric system, but that the metric should be right and good enough to prove the power of this medium, and that there is good delivery as well,” concluded Maheshwari.


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