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“Serious Play” Edition In this week’s email, we’re going to get down to the serious business of play. We’re talking about video games, e-sports, RPG and Massively Multiplayer Online games. For some reason, marketers are allergic to this kind of play. Maybe it’s the “nerd factor” That’s funny. Because nerds have high levels of education, good jobs and high disposable incomes. These trends aren’t speculative. These trends are happening. And you, dear reader, are missing your window to get in on the ground floor. Side note: Some of you might be new to these emails. Welcome. If you don’t want to receive it, there’s a handy “unsubscribe” link at the bottom. If you know someone you think should be receiving the Dressler Digital Trends emails, please reach out and let us know. Thanks! eSports – Please Read This eSports. People going to stadiums or online to watch other people play video games. I can’t put this any plainer – this is going to be very, very big. Like, HUGE. At a recent eSports event in Seattle (Dota 2) the prize pool was over $18 million with the winning American Team “Evil Geniuses” taking home over $6 million. The audience for the final filled a very large stadium. If you have a product that might appeal to young men with large disposable incomes, forget the NFL, forget March Madness, and (God help me please) forget NASCAR. Run, do not walk, to one of the eSports leagues and negotiate a sponsorship deal or talk to Twitch. Someday, when you’re the CMO of Coke or the head of a major advertising holding company, you can thank me properly for this advice. (With money.) Application to Marketing: Okay, imagine a sports sponsorship. Except your audience is overwhelmingly college educated and has a high level of disposable income and the entire audience also plays the sport incessantly for days at a time. That is eSports. Even the most dedicated NFL fan on earth doesn’t play football for 12 hours a day every weekend. Video game fans are video game players. This is what they do with literally every second of their free time. So, yeah, I think that might have applications to marketing. Availability: You should have gotten on this bandwagon yesterday. Read More Spreadsheets! Bureaucracy! Mining! Eve Online has earned the derisive nickname “Spreadsheets in Space.” So why does it attract a huge group of dedicated players? Well, Eve Online is what you call a “sandbox game”. Meaning that there is no central narrative, no mission. A series of parameters and conditions were set up at the beginning of the game and players are free to play and build as they think best. In the case of Eve Online, they mine for elements in space and buy spaceships with the proceeds. However, that doesn’t begin to explain the Machiavellian manipulations and conflicts that are now part of the game play. The players have literally created Game of Thrones in space. Application to Marketing: As marketers, we want to control the narrative – “Cheesy bites are the cheesiest bites that your kids will love.” And, through the blunt force of media, we can force these trite narratives down the throats of consumers. But controlled narratives are very low engagement. A sandbox game, like Eve Online, suggests a different way to market – one in which the conditions and parameters are set and users are free to interact as they see fit. You lose control, but you gain engagement. Availability: Everyone wants to end “push marketing”. But the structure of marketing today is all about push. It’s going to take a truly visionary marketer to overcome marketing’s culture of control. And a truly visionary agency to make the recommendation. We’re talking about a “unicorn event”. And not your garden variety unicorn either. So, I’m not holding my breath. Read More It’s about to get pretty nerdy up in here. Magic, the Gathering. Yes, I’m talking about the collectable card game with fantastical creatures, enchantments and Mana (just google it). I’m not going to lie to you, this game is both awesome and awesomely nerdy. There are Magic, the Gathering tournaments and there is a professional circuit of Magic, the Gathering players. The tournaments attract thousands of players (both amateur and professional) and offer substantial cash prizes. Application to Marketing: Digital is awesome. Magic Online has helped to drive growth for Hasbro (the parent company). But don’t underestimate the importance of bringing people together for a group experience IRL. If you’re trying to create a lifestyle brand, there needs to be some life in your style. Shared experiences help to create a shared culture and Magic has held on for so long (the game was introduced in 1993) because the players have created their own sub-culture. Availability: There are opportunities for sponsorship at Magic tournaments. Read More How many and how long? Click on the link below to see the Steam Chart for current players of their most popular games. For those who don’t know, Steam is a streaming service that allows you to play games online. By any measure, those are some large audiences. Now, look at the number of hours played. Now, imagine you were seeing similar numbers for a cable network. Would you perhaps spend some of your media dollars on a network that enjoyed such loyal, passionate viewers? Application to Marketing: That was a rhetorical question. Of course you would. Availability: Now. Read More $2.5 Billion for a Sandbox? Minecraft is another sandbox game. On one level, it’s quite simple. Just a virtual world of lego-like blocks that can be endlessly combined into structures and then torn down and rebuilt. However, the game is full of hidden features and challenges. And a complex virtual economy has developed between players within the game. It’s also ridiculously profitable. How profitable? Well, in 2014 Microsoft bought the company that makes Minecraft for a reported $2.5 billion and many analysts think they got it on the cheap. Since the early 2000’s, Microsoft has been shooting themselves in the foot by trying to own the platform. The internet, the open source movement and the cloud threatened to destroy a company that had been built around defending a near monopoly on the desktop. Microsoft under CEO Satya Nadella has been moving aggressively to change the culture of the company to match a new era of open source and open standards. The Minecraft purchase with its open-ended structure and cross-platform gameplay is emblematic of that change. Application to Marketing: If a company that made billions of dollars off closed, proprietary systems is revamping to work with open source and customer-driven behavior, why can’t marketers match their drive? Control is an illusion. On a basic level, move to open source in your software stack. On a deeper level, stop trying to tell customers how to think and how to interact with your brand. Availability: Again, don’t hold your breath. Read More

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