Online ads and games would benefit from more rewards, according to UCLA survey
A new study from Versus Systems and the MEMES
(Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment & Sports) Center at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management examines how gaming and advertising are evolving, and how one influences the other. As Versus Systems CEO Matthew Pierce put it, the goal was to study, “What is the impact on advertising as interactive media grows, and as more people consume interactive media?” The individual findings — People like rewards! Not everyone who plays games calls themselves a gamer! — may not be that shocking to TechCrunch readers. And because Versus Systems has built a white-label platform for publishers to offer in-game rewards, the study might also seem a bit self-serving.
But again, this was conducted with UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, and both Pierce (who’s a lecturer at the school) and UCLA MEMES head Jay Tucker pointed to the size of the study, with 88,000 (U.S.-based) participants across a broad range of demographic groups. Of those respondents, 50 percent said they’ve played a video game (on any platform) in the past week, while 41 percent said they’ve played a game in the past 24 hours. However, only 13 percent of respondents described themselves as gamers. That “identification gap” is even larger among women, where 56 percent played a game in the past week but only 11 percent identified themselves as gamers.
Why does that matter? Well, the MEMES Center and Versus Systems argue in the study press release that “advertisers that are recognizing the value in advertising in-game may be underestimating how large and how diverse the gaming audience really is today.” The study also suggests that traditional advertising may be facing more resistance from consumers, with 46 percent of respondents saying they frequently or always avoid ads by “clicking the X” to close windows or changing channels or closing apps. Only 3.6 percent of respondents said they always watch ads all the way through.
When asked what would make them play games more, the most popular answer was “winning real things that I want when I achieve things in-game” — it was the number one result for 30 percent of respondents, and among millennials, it did even better. (In comparison, 18 percent put “if the games were less expensive” as their top answer and 11 percent said “my friends playing the same game(s).”) This attitude even extended to TV, where 77 percent of respondents listed rewards as one of the things (not necessarily the top reason) that would make them watch more television. Meanwhile, 24 percent of respondents listed “if more games/more shows were made for people like me” as the number one thing that would convince them to play or watch more.
Tucker suggested that these seemingly scattershot answers are actually connected. On the advertising side, “We’ve got folks who are used to being part of a community all day, every day, whether that’s social media or massively multiplayer games. We see users are increasingly connected and are not really interested in getting pulled out of an experience. Rewards, if done properly, can reinforce being part of a community … you can amplify that sense of connection.” “The introduction of choice seems to make a big difference,” Pierce added. “We need new models where we can foster choice, foster community, foster more aspirational relationships between viewers and brands that ultimately allows content developers to have a relationship with the brands that isn’t so adversarial.”
Meanwhile, when it comes to content and storytelling, Tucker said we’re entering an “age of personalization.” Among other things, that means more diversity, in what he described as “a generational shift away from stories that assume everybody’s looking at life from the same perspective.” Pierce and Tucker suggested that they’ll be taking an even closer look at the data in the coming months (“needs further study” was repeated several times during the interview), particularly by examining responses within smaller demographic groups.
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Anthony Ha is a senior writer at TechCrunch, where he covers media and advertising and co-hosts the Original Content podcast. Previously, he worked as a tech writer at Adweek, a senior editor at the tech blog VentureBeat, and a local government reporter at the Hollister Free Lance. He attended Stanford University and now lives in Brooklyn.