We’ve recently run a number of campaigns in the gaming sector. The guys in the office often hook up online to play various games. So I thought it was high time that I dived in and tried it myself.
Expectations? Well I had a few. I expected it to be different to my Friday night gathering around the console with my friends as a kid. I thought it would be a good way of catching up and having a few laughs with distant friends.
With hindsight, I should have known that it would not live up to my expectations. Because we’re talking about an environment populated by over a million people, predominantly teenagers, clever discourse over the state of the world was never going to be on the agenda.
Then again hindsight probably would never have prepared me for what did happen. Within two minutes of playing my headset was filled with non-stop verbal abuse. And it didn’t stop. For two hours. I gave up.
Back in the office I chatted to some of the guys. My experience wasn’t out of the ordinary. They informed me that ‘clans’ compete to see how quickly they can force people off with abuse.
Thinking about it now, am I shocked? No, not really.
People are always braver, ruder and more opinionated when the chance of the recipient being able to respond in any real way is less likely. Take driving, and instances of road rage. Most of us have yelled at another driver for cutting us up in the safety of our driving seat; very few of us will have done the same when another person cuts across us when walking along a street.
Having physical distance from our target makes life easier and all of us much bolder.
People operate online in much the same way. With an avatar to hide behind, they’re always more vociferous in their criticism. But online, criticism can stick and gain momentum fast. And with Tweets now feeding into Google, the consequences could be quite painful. It’s not just forums that you need to keep an eye on.
More so than ever, you need to be aware of how people are commenting on your brand. The good and the bad. What’s more, it pays to have a strategy in place for counteracting any negativity and promoting positive feedback.
The fact is, unlike my Xbox Live experience, brands can’t just pull out the earpiece and ignore the online noise. Because if you do, there’s a risk that it could be amplified. And if that happens, it won’t just be your ears that are left burning.
The missing link for marketers is getting to grips with the online persona and effectively targeting the individual underneath.
The difficulty of linking individuals to their online profile becomes amplified in the gaming world, where people’s online behaviour differs so greatly to their identity in the real world. Fake avatars and an unwillingness to share personal information leaves marketers at a loss as to how to approach individual networks of gamers.
Playstation and Xbox addicts may be aloof but it’s the console owners who hold the key to this unpenetrable mass. As users sign up and consume via the online stores, Playstation and Xbox accumulate a wealth of data, which links the users from their avatars to their sofas and their true identities.
Find a way to tap the Playstation and Xbox databases and you have the key to targeting gamers. In the somewhat turbulent gaming world, it’s the middleman – not the Nathan Drake – who holds the power.