MMOs! Give them your monays!

Let me set the scene for this blog. You want to buy a game. Where do you go . . . to the shops. You browse for a while and after much deliberation you choose a game. You go to the counter and the employee says “That would be £39.99 please”. You pay the guy and are about to turn around and leave and enjoy your game when the employee says “That would be another £8.99 please”. You seem a little miffed but you pay the guy and for the second time attempt to leave the shop. However, you here the employee shout “That would be another £8.99 please”. At this point you are getting a little frustrated. You give the guy the money and quickly stomp your way out the shop. You never get out the shop though. The employee asks you again “That would be another £8.99 please”. This scenario sounds like something no sane individual would even contemplate of doing! Who would want to keep on paying for the same game over and over again!

Over 10 million people, that’s who!
download

That’s right. Over 10 million people are playing the game World of Warcraft. All of you have probably heard of this game. World of Warcraft (WoW) is a type of game known as a MMO (Mass Multiplayer Online) game. If you play WoW you are required to purchase the game and then pay £8.99 a month to play the game! The aim of this blog is to find out why people pay to play these games!

Yee (2006) suggests that the reason for this is because of the emotional investment players have with the characters in the game. For example, in WoW you can alter your characters appearance to suit your liking. You can choose your character’s abilities and the way it interacts with the game. Yee states that this flexibility in character development encourages the investment of emotion towards your character and the game.

tumblr_mevxgefS3D1qeas81o1_1280

Another angle to look at is the technique of a free trial. With games like WoW you can get a 14 day free trial. You can get a feel for the game and create your character for 14 days then if you want to carry on you pay £8.99 a month. Bawa and Shoemaker (2004) found that free samples of a product can create a significant long term effect on sales. Thus, the game companies know that with a free trial available more people are likely to carry on playing. Furthermore, when people play the free trial they establish an emotional link with their character. As Yee (2006) suggested an emotional investment will cause players to subscribe to the game. So a free trial of a game can cause a player to become invested in the game. Once you have created a character you want to carry on playing with that character. Therefore, when the free trial ends you buy a subscription. As you want to carry on your character’s development.  So the player pays the subscription to invest into their character.

download (1)So, if people are willing to pay to play what effect does this have on the game? Wang et al. (2005) discovered that participant’s willingness to pay for a monthly subscription was positively correlated to the perceived quality of the product. Thus, the more people are willing to pay for a game the more they will perceive the game as having high quality. Dick and Lord (1998) also found that customer’s loyalty to the brand was influenced if the customer was a member of the brand. Customers who were a member were more loyal to the brand.

What are the take home points of this blog. The utilization of free trials enables the player to create and play with their video game character. This then establishes an emotional involvement between the player and their game characters. This emotional involvement then motivates the player to subscribe to a monthly payment to play the game. Moreover, monthly subscriptions have a significant impacts on the way players view games.

The question is would you pay monthly for one game that never significantly changes?

You set the mood. I’ll advertise!

In my last blog I elaborated on the two distinct types of gamers. I mentioned how gamers have different motivations for playing video games and how this affects companies to develop games for different types of gamers.

This blog will add to last weeks blog by addressing a certain technique that has plagued the video game universe for a substantial amount of time. Personally, I cannot decide whether I am for this technique or against it. This questionable technique is known as product placement. Russel and Belch (2005) defines product placement as simply entertainment media that has products placed within it.

alan wake energizer

Product placement in video games can come in any form; from billboards advertising the product in racing games or the product itself being used by the main character in the game. A superb example is the video game Alan Wake. If anyone has ever played the it they will already know what I mean. Alan Wake is a horror game. You walk around at night with a torch. This torch can run out of energy and to refill the energy you need to collect batteries which have fortunately been scattered around the game. Sounds fine at the moment right? Where could the product placement be I wonder?

How about everywhere in the game!

energizer

All of the batteries you collect are Energizer batteries. That’s right Energizer batteries. The to

rch you use is even an Energizer torch! Energizer must of struck a deal with the developers to enable all the batteries in the game to be Energizer batteries. Even though Alan Wake is a great game, this over use of product placement in video games can get slightly frustrating.

All this product placement got me wondering. Does product placement actually have a substantial affect on gamers/consumers? If there is an effect, why is there one?

Glass (2007) discovered that when participants played a video game that featured branded products the participants were more likely to rate the product as ‘good’ over products that were not in the video game.Nelson (2002) concluded that this influence of product placement in video games could be related to the cognitive involvement users have with the games. Video games elicit a high amount of immersion and cognitive stimulation (Glass, 2007). The users are so heavily involved in the game that they let their guard down in terms advertisement. The users are so focused on the game they barely have any capacity to evaluate their preference of the advert/brand. The users just accept that the product is there.

subwayPic

Additionally, Escalas (2004) states that the interaction players, whilst playing video games, causes an imagined interaction with the placed brand. This imagined interaction produces more positive attitudes towards the brand. For exa

mple, If the game you play elicits positive feelings, like pleasure or joy, then you are more likely to associate the brand with positive feelings. The feelings for the game extends itself to the placed product (Glass, 2007). Winkler and Buckner (2006) suggest that the feelings from video games can be utilized to change the perceived image of a brand. Furthermore, Garretson and Niedrich (2004) found that if there is a built up trust with a character, in this case the main character in a video game, then the individual is more likely to associate this trust with the brand. This can be seen when players take on the role of the main character in a game. the player follows the character through the game and grows to associate positive feelings towards the character. These positive feelings then get extended towards the brand in the video game. Thus, it is not just the emotions elicited from the atmosphere of the game it is the emotions elicited from the character that influence brand preference.marioproduct

From this blog we can sum up that game developers attempt to establish certain feelings and moods in their games. All companies have to do is subtly insert their product into the game. Then the players will associate the feelings they get from the game with the product. The game developers do all the work and the brand companies reap the benefits!
What do you guys think? Does product placement irritate you? Does it influence your preference for a brand?

The Legend of the Video Game Consumers!

In my last blog I rambled about how video game companies use emotion in their advertising to persuade the potential customers to buy their games. This got me thinking. Not all customers can be influenced by these type of adverts. This also got me thinking. From all this INTENSE thinking I realised that there are different types of gamers that exist in the wild.

“A wild consumer appeared!”

There are a number of type of gamers roaming around. One type is the casual gamer. These individuals enjoy games on phones, like iphone games or android apps. The casual games include games like angry birds or fruit slice. Casual games are games that can be played anywhere and any time. Consumers do not need to heavily involve themselves into the game. It is just pick up and play. Kuittinen et al., (2007) states that casual gamers have been growing in number over the years due to the amount of digital games available.

Another type of gamers are known as hardcore gamers. In my opinion hardcore gamers are individuals who spend over 6 hours a week gaming. I, for example, fall into this category. The games hardcore gamers play are usually console games, like halo or call of duty. PC games are also a component of hardcore gamers. PC games included MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) games, such as World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2. Bosser and Nakatsu (2006) suggest that hardcore gamers are those who spend a majority of their leisure time playing video games.

The important question is, what gamer are you?

No that is not the important question. Well it’s important but not to this post. The important questions are why is there different types of consumers and what does this all mean?

The reason why there are different types of video game consumers is their motivational mental states. Statt (1997), in his book “Understanding the Consumer”,  talks about one theory of motivation. The theory of need. This theory justifies motivation as a process to gain biological or physiological needs, like food, love and social acceptance. Jansz and Martens (2005) questioned a group of hardcore gamers and investigated what motivated them to become involved with gaming. The researchers found that the gamers emphasized the need and importance of the social context of gaming. This suggests that gaming could be the motivational need, social acceptance, for hardcore gamers. This could be the distinction between hardcore and casual gamers. Hardcore gamers fill their social needs by playing games, specifically multi-player games. Whereas, casual gamers may not have to fill this need, due to filling it in other social contexts. This could explain why casual gamers are not heavily involved in video games.

Another theory that could explain this diversion of gamer types is the Self-Determination Theory (Ryan, Rigby & Przybylski, 2006). The self-determination theory (SDT) involves components that either facilitate or inhibit motivation. These components could be intrinsic or extrinsic. Ryan et al., suggests that video game players are intrinsically motivated to play as they seek enjoyment. Ryan et al., found that there is a significant variability between people and their intrinsic motivation for video games. Hardcore gamers and casual gamers could, therefore, have different intrinsic motivations for playing video games. Hardcore gamers could achieve a sense of fun and pleasure from games. While causal gamers could establish a feeling of pleasure and joy from other means.

What does this mean for the companies creating the games?
Companies will have to reconsider the techniques they use to market and produce games (Sacranie, 2010). Games need to adapt to hit the casual gamers (Bosser & Nakatsu, 2006). If the industry can understand what motivates each type of gamer the industry can develop games that target both types. Thus, the companies can satisfy the needs of all the consumers and in the end gather more of the moneys !

What do you guys think? Do you game? What would motivate you to game?

Make them cry, they will buy!

I have given Apple a break for this weak. I have decided to blog about video games.  More importantly how companies get you to buy and continue playing their video games.

The purpose of video games are to engage the player in an entertaining way (Dickey, 2005). Video games tell a story using a unique technique which involves you, the user, to play the story. How would you advertise and sell a product that does something that unique, that allows the user to play the story? This is what this blog will explore.

My favourite game trailer:

After you have watched these two game trailers have a think about how you feel. Ask yourself the questions ‘Did I like the advert?’, ‘Did I feel involved with the characters?’ and ‘I want to know what happens next to the character?’. The key feature that these trailers elicit, and so do many others, is emotional linking. Coincidently, individuals have a need to seek out emotional stimuli (Raman et al., 1995) Video games meet this emotional need as they do elicit emotional responses from users (Ravaja et al., 2004). Emotions such as joy, pleasure, fear and anger. Ravaja et al., stated that video games are a useful stimuli for ‘sensation seeking’ people. This emotion from video games derives from the involvement users have with the video game. Newman (2012), suggests that the main character in a video game is a selection of equipment utilised and embodied by the player. Newman further states that players have an empathic emotional link with the main character in a video game. Hefner, Klimmt and Vorderer (2007) additionally state that players change their concept of themselves to match that of the main character in the game. Collins (2011) links the mirror neurons to this empathy relationship with video game characters. Mirror neurons are located in the premotor cortex of the brain. These mirror neurons activate when we observe another person’s actions as well as performing the action ourselves (Cattaneo & Rizzolatti, 2009). They are key to how we learn behaviour.

This alteration of self-concept and activation of mirror neurons further strengthens the bond between player and character. This emotional link with the main character is utilised and developed in the advertisement campaign of a new game. 

Hollis (2010) suggests that emotion is key to a person’s survival and is more important in advertisement then companies believe. Lerner et al., (2004) additionally discovered that emotion can have significant influence over consumers buying behaviours. Weinberg and Gottwald (1982) also found that induced emotion can cause impulse buying. Therefore, to get consumers to purchase a video game the companies must elicit emotion in their advertisement.  The advert will establish emotional links with the viewer and the primary character. This established emotional link with the player and character will cause the player to purchase the game.

So as we can see from this blog video game adverts can use emotion to entice the viewers to purchase the game. The use of emotion creates a link between the viewer and the character. Thus, keeping the consumer playing the game and using the product.

Saddest moment ever . . .
R.I.P. Dom

‘Mr. Apple, how do I stop the evil Haxors?’

‘Don’t worry Jimmy, buy an Apple product!’

One phrase that always got to me was the phrase ‘Macs never get viruses!’. The only possible reason I could think of that explained this was the fact that at the time not many people used Macs. Thus, individuals that created viruses would only create them for Windows, as more people used Windows. However, all that has changed now. 51% of American households own an Apple product and 1 in 10 of these households plan on buying one in the next year. With more people buying Apple products, including Macs, this diminishes the concept that Macs cannot get viruses. For example, a recent virus that affected around 600,000 mac users was the Flashback Trojan. Apple did release an update to fix this trojan but this proves Macs can get viruses, even if it is rare.

This is one example of another key ingredient to Apple’s famous recipe of their success. This ability to install the perception of high product value. The question is how do Apple establish this make-believe built to last image in their products? Why do consumers believe this image?

There are numerous elements that Apple employs to ensure consumers believe product stability. Kenneth and Agarwal (2000) state that price, brand name and store name can significantly influence the customers perception of product stability and quality.

Let’s take the first element into consideration, price. We all know Apple products are overly expensive. The new iPad mini is £269, the new iPhone 5 is priced at £529! The cheapest MacBook Pro is £999! The specs MacBook has a 13-inch screen with a 2.5GHz processor. Whereas, the Samsung series 3 laptop has a 15.6 inch screen with a 2.9GHz processor and it costs £499! That has significantly better specifications at half the price! Furthermore, Apple products are manufactured in warehouses, in China, just like any other products on the market today. What can explain this high pricing?

This high pricing induces the belief that the product is of high quality because high quality products cost more to produce (Lichtenstein et al., 1988). Therefore, the high pricing elicits the perception of a product that is high quality. Even if there are other products out there, with similar or higher, specifications consumers still perceive Apple products as being of a higher quality as the product pricing is significantly higher. Additionally, pricing effects consumer’s perceived product value independently from any other product quality cue (Kenneth and Agarwal, 2000).

To draw this blog to a close, we can conclude that price is a key influence on consumers perception of the product’s value. Furthermore, consumers believe this price is ‘fair’ for the standard of the Apple product (Bolton et al., 2003). Apple’s technique of high pricing has created their image of stable products. The high pricing has also ensured loyal customers and constant sales. Does this mean all companies should aim to increase their prices?

High prices means high quality!  . . .  or is it?

‘Ipod, nuff said’

Over the last few weeks I have blogged about Apple’s key ingredients to success. I have talked about Apple’s brand imaging, Steve Jobs and last week I blogged about Apple’s stores. This week I will explore the mysterious wonder land that is Apple’s advertising campaigns, more specifically the Ipod campaign.

The first Apple advert was in the 1970s, since then Apple has been trying to lead the way in innovational advertising. This advertising theme has still not changed today.

For example, the memorable ipod adverts with bright coloured backgrounds and the silhouettes. These adverts were a highly successful campaign. Singh (2006) state that about 90-62% of an initial assessment of a product is made on colour alone. Sing, also found that colour can significantly impact the mood of customers. Furthermore, Gorn et al., (1997) discovered that brighter colours, such as the ones used in the Ipod ads, elicit a higher state of excitement in individuals.

All this research shows that the format of the Ipod ads were specifically created to excite customers. To develop an image for the Ipod, that it is an exciting product full of innovation. These adverts started the Ipod epidemic, the Ipodemic! Over a 100 million units sold over 6 years!

Another factor about the Ipod advertising campaign was the use of popular music. The music was the key to the campaign’s success.

Whan and Park (1986) found that the use of music develops consumer’s atitude towards the brand. Apple uses music that is new and popular at the time. The use of chart music presents the Ipod as a chart-topping music player, that is also new and popular. The use of music and simple messages creates the elementary message ‘Buy this’, or, alternatively, ‘Use this’. De Pedro Ricoy (1996).

 Apple’s Ipod advertising campaign was so effective because of the appliance of popular music and the contrast of bright colours and silhouettes. The Ipod was framed as an item of popular culture which attempts to change your thinking of a mp3 player. The clear, simple messages that appear in the adverts further this avant-garde music player. Below is a recent advert for the Ipod. As you can see Apple has evolved the campaign. It stil encompasses the use of popular music and contrasting colours. Moreover, the new style advert keeps the plain, crystal clear message ‘Ipod’.

What do you guys think of the Ipod campaign? Is there any other adverts that you like?

Let’s go visit the Apple Genius!

The last two blogs talked about a couple of ingredients that Apple use in their giant cauldron of success. The first talked about Apple’s image branding. The second blog analyzed Apple’s messiah, Steve Jobs, and his reality distortion field. This current blog will investigate another key ingredient that Apple have utilised in order for them to create a successful business. This blog will examine Apple’s retail stores and the consumer’s retail experience.

I have only ever been to one Apple store, and I was overwhelmed. It was a retail experience like no other.

The staff were constantly aware of the customers and attended to them if they needed help. They were fully trained in Apple products and could answer any question a customer asked. The simple, plain, futuristic layout of the store created an original atmosphere. It felt like you had just entered a portal to a new world where everything seemed perfect. Thang and Lan (2003) discovered that in-store service and the atmosphere were factors that significantly influence the customer’s preference of the store. Burt and Carrelero-Encinas (2000) specify that store images are essential to establish if a company wants to be successful. Apple has seemed to have nailed these factors. Furthermore, Baker and Grewal (1994) found that store environment and service quality are key elements to store image.

Apple’s employees are named ‘Geniuses’! They are told by Apple exactly how to act and what to say. The staff are programmed to ensure the customers are happy. Spies et al., (1997) discovered that customers in a pleasant store ‘spontaneously’ spent more money.

The staff are one of the special techniques Apple employs to sell their products. The staff have to go through a rigorous training regime to enrobe the blue shirt, to become a Genius! The Geniuses are told to persuade while you seem passive, empathise why you sale. In one word, it’s Genius. Staff becoming the customers friend, ensuring a pleasant atmosphere but with the intent of selling you their products.

Apple’s combination of store environment and staff quality have ensured retail success. The Geniuses’ strict training creates the perfect atmosphere and service quality. Consumer’s experience is positive and thus, Apple sells products. The Genius is another key ingredient that Apple has brought into play to develop an incredibly successful retail store image.

What do you guys think? Have you ever been to an Apple store? Do you think more companies should develop their staff into Geniuses?