Producing video games aimed at the casual market as opposed to the core market may be more profitable, but publishers are learning that the trade-off involves an increase in marketing costs in order to reach those casual gamers. AdvertisingAge has an interesting article about how publishers such as Nintendo, Electronic Arts, and Activision have had to increase the amount of money spend on advertising and other attention-getting methods in order to alert the casuals that a new game is ready for purchase.
Nintendo, maker of the ultimate family gaming machine, Wii, and a plethora of "E for everyone" titles, has led the way, boosting its ad spending from less than $13 million in 2006, the first year of Wii, to $57 million in 2007 and $41 million through November of last year across all Wii hardware and games, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
And it seems to have worked. The top four games for 2008, according to NPD Group, were Nintendo Wii titles "Wii Play" and "Mario Kart" ($5 million in ad spending, according to TNS);Wii Fit ($12 million); and "Super Smash Bros. Brawl" ($1.5 million).
It makes sense that ad spending would increase. The core gamers will hungrily come to the publishers for new game information, but the casual market typically will not. We count down the days until games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Killzone 2 hit stores, but they won't find out about, say, Wii Sports Resort or MySims unless an advertisement tells them that it exists. I'd imagine that the increased marketing costs are worth it if it results in a sales boost of comparatively cheaper to produce titles, but I believe that the increase in advertising for casual games can make the core games look better in the eyes of the mainstream. If the only gaming advertising were for violent and controversial games, then it appears that all games are bloody and horrible in the court of mainstream public opinion. Flood the airwaves and print with friendly, harmless titles and suddenly gaming as a whole doesn't seem so bad to Grandma and Mr. Congressman.