Quick Read: Today’s video games like Grand Theft Auto V, are more than just stunning life like gaming experiences. We could have some exciting possibilities here – where experiential & interactive branding can be embedded in games. And more interestingly, a world where video games can be virtual beta testing grounds for new product and UX design. These could be potential disruptive innovations for fields like Market Research and Product Design.
Visit Los Santos & Blaine County – where plastic surgery, bad movies and big sharks rule the roost – see for yourself.
It broke industry sales records by earning US $800 million in the first 24 hours of its release, and US $1 billion within its first three days.
One of the key features of the game is that it has an Open World game level design – i.e., a world where a player can roam freely through the fictional city of Los Santos and is given considerable freedom in choosing how or when to approach objectives. So as a character in the game you have the freedom to spend your time pursuing adventure sports, lounge about by the beach, go shopping, visit the local artisan, enjoy music and other such entertainment options.
But Fernando Pereira Gomes – a street photographer by passion and a game enthusiast who went to the midnight launch of the game and played the night away, noticed something even more interesting.
He noticed that the characters in the game had phones with cameras at all times during the game play. This means the players can practically take pictures from within the game(!) and upload these. So with this new tool, and the huge world of Los Santos and its streets, he started experimenting with the camera and went on to take some truly stunning photographs that he has started to share on his blog. Ever since its launch, his blog and the pictures have been rapidly climbing up the popularity charts – thanks to the ingenuity of his idea and the beauty he captures from within the game’s landscape. See a demo video on how he does it here. Now that is Street Photography taken to a completely new level!
He goes on to say..
What I found was remarkable. The game is so realistic that it felt like being in the streets outside, running around for shots, anticipating passersby’s movements and reactions. In a way, it was also incredibly frightening that these algorithms could look so real, or is it that we ourselves are becoming ever more algorithmic?
(Los Santos Street Photo by Fernando Pereira Gomes sourced from his blog)
On first look this is fascinating for two reasons:
- For the GTA V’s rich media, content and the game design that enables such interesting possibilities (makes a definitive commentary on the evolution of game design).
- And for the creativity and ingenuity of someone like Fernando Gomes who has ventured beyond the apparent possibilities in the game and went on to make a mark for himself.
On second look, and from a marketer’s and a product designer’s stand point, I thought there could be even more compelling possibilities dormant here waiting to be realised. Two things I could think of:
In Game Experiential Branding
In game branding is nothing new. But how about adding an experiential / interactive angle to this ‘in game branding’? More specifically, how about, say a brand like Samsung, tying up with the game franchise and embedding its full camera functionality in the game’s camera phone? Wouldn’t it be an interesting way to let the gamers – many of whom tend to be tech’s early adopters and thereby potential customers of “the latest phone out there” – try out the phone’s exciting new features?
The opportunities of ‘customer involvement’ here could be limitless – almost life like with little risk involved while affording an almost first person experience of the phone and/or its camera to the user. The best part is the free marketing that these early adopters could do for the brand if and when they share these pics on their social network.
A Virtual Beta Testing Ground For The Upcoming Wearables
Let’s take Google Glass as an example (one among the most awaited wearables in the market for 2014). As we speak now, it is in its Beta testing phase with some early adopters signing up to use, explore, develop and test new possibilities. In fact an Android developer Mike DiGiovanni looking to test the concept of using Glass as a second screen, has managed to capture Grand Theft Auto’s crucial in-game GPS interface, beaming it to the player’s Google Glass eyepiece in real time (source).
But how about embedding the functionality of something like Google Glass within the game and let the players use it and explore its possibilities by themselves? I would guess something like this could give a treasure trove of real time feedback and insights to the product designers in order for them to refine its design and functionality.
Ben Hammersley in his must read WIRED article on Wearables as the 3rd wave of computing, rightly says that when it comes to something like Google Glass, how our social progress plays out will be just as interesting as the technology itself. The social component of the implications would probably need to be tested and tried in real life, but the technology component and its possibilities can perhaps be tested in the game’s ‘reel’ life already today.
And may be when the game design becomes so smart to be able to reflect life like social dynamics – a not so unlikely prospect in the near future – we might not even need the good old focus group or the hordes of beta testers!
Now, that could be a disruptive innovation for market research and product design!
Market research agencies and product designers of the world – hope you are investing in video games. No?
(Featured Image: Source, Fernando Pereira Gomes Street Photography on the streets of Los Santos within the game Grand Theft Auto V)