Video games have become much more than just child's play for businesses looking to connect with customers.
Once limited to teens at the arcade, video gaming is now a hobby for millions, and has the attention of marketers as the newest way to engage consumers.
One of the companies leading the way in ad-gaming — the use of gaming in the marketing world — is digital marketing and technology firm Digitaria, which recently launched a new division of the company dedicated solely to its gaming efforts.
The San Diego-based company has increased its video gaming capabilities in the belief that elements of gamification, such as reward systems, motivational frameworks, positive reinforcement, feedback loops and emotional and biochemical responses, are all potentially as resonant as any other element the marketing process.
Jim McArthur, Digitaria's senior vice president for global business development and the managing creative director, said online gaming through Web and social media pages is now as hot as any marketing tool being used.
"Retailers have decided this is something everyone is going to do this year," McArthur told BusinessNewsDaily. "It is this year's app."
Gaming triggers different emotional responses inside people that other forms of traditional advertising don't, according to McArthur.
"It is more of a subliminal connection, as opposed to an overt one," he said. "There is a level of achievement that makes people feel good about themselves."
McArthur attributes the rise in gaming's popularity to the reality that it no longer needs to be played in an arcade or in front of a television with a controller in hand.
"The proliferation of tablets and smartphones has brought gaming to the mainstream," McArthur said, adding everyone is a gamer at heart. "People are hardwired to participate."
Statistics from the Entertainment Software Association show 72 percent of American households play video games, and puts gamers' average age at 41 years old.
And it's not just men. Women over 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population than boys under 18. Overall, 42 percent of gamers are women.
McArthur said his company added its new gaming arm — another avenue for customer interaction — after seeing how popular the initial forays into ad-gaming were.
"We are able to take our expertise and create more complex and meaningful game development," McArthur said. "It gives us the ability to produce that next generation of ad-gaming."
Digitaria's most recent project was a Facebook game promoting Petco Pals Rewards. The game allowed users to "push" a shopping cart around the virtual store for a chance to win a $5 coupon.
The company also produced a scavenger hunt game to build publicity surrounding Under Armour's new line of footwear.
Digitaria also has created games for Subway, Warner Bros., Hasbro, the NFL, the World Poker Tour and the Game Show Network.
Founded in 1997, Digitaria is part of WPP, the world’s largest marketing services holding company, and aligned with advertising agency JWT.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.