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NEWS1 May 2004

Research enters 'virtual playground'

Research enters 'virtual playground'

Researchers are to break new ground by exploring ways of measuring consumers' exposure, recall and response to the increasing number of real-life adverts and products being incorporated into popular videogame titles.

First off the block is likely to be VNU's Nielsen Interactive Entertainment ( NIE ), which has announced a joint project with gaming giant Activision to develop a standardised methodology for assessing the value advertising can bring to companies and brand owners in the 'virtual playground'.

NIE general manager Michael Dowling said the company already has the technology to measure ad exposure within videogames, providing publishers are willing to insert an inaudible code into their games. If they are, it could mean that whenever a virtual billboard, for example, is passed in the game world, the code is triggered and the signal picked up by a device similar to Nielsen's TV People Meter.

The company intends to set up an opt-in panel of US games players within the next 12 months. Tests of the system will be made public and will involve both advertisers and the wider games publishing community. "We want people to feel comfortable with the methodology," said Dowling.

Hive Partners, a consultancy which recently liased with developers Vivendi Universial and Sega/Team 17 to introduce energy drink Red Bull into the games Dredd Vs Death and Worms 3D, is working on a more European-focused project with brand owners and research strategists to quantify recall and figure out ways of costing virtual advertising space.

Ed Bartlett, Hive's CEO, believes the computer game medium has the ability to become a valuable tool for advertisers seeking to pin down the increasingly elusive 18-35 year old male demographic, which is shunning traditional media to devote time to game-playing, clubbing and car maintenance.

"Games players are no longer the spotty geeks of old," he said. "It's a lifestyle choice now and it has become very mainstream, mostly due to the Sony PlayStation games console."

May | 2004