Sega Goes Wireless To Sell Mobile Games

Looking for more visibility on wireless carrier decks to sell mobile games, Sega has put marketing plans in place for several titles scheduled for release this summer. The game manufacturer stepped into mobile in 2007 and plans to release 10 titles by the end of this year.

The integrated marketing campaign, on track to launch in June for both Beijing 2008 and Sonic at the Olympics, features short codes on print and online advertisements that consumers can interact with by using their cell phones. Other titles on the docket for this year include "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," "Crazy Taxis," and "Sonic Spinball," and more.

"Mobile phones are like traveling advertising and marketing tools," said Carrie Cowan, director of mobile marketing at Sega of America, San Francisco. "Most people have one in their pocket."

Sega has experienced little success in banner display ads, and magazine circulation continues to fall, but the one-on-one connection with consumers creates a unique opportunity. It has made marketing executives at Sega think longer about ways to integrate mobile marketing with other media and services. One under consideration is a subscription-based service for mobile games, but the challenge becomes how to bill it directly or through wireless carriers, Cowan said.

Meanwhile, Santa Monica, Calif.-based mobile game publisher Gosub 60 may have an answer to mobile marketing, demonstrating a marketing platform that can send the player to a WAP merchandising site with a click. Launched in October, iCubed--an interactive, in-context and in-game mobile content platform--enables game developers to insert a moving target, such as an arrow, in a mobile video game that takes the consumer out of the game and into a WAP site when clicked on.

Rather than advertise to the consumer in the game, Cowan said the focus turns to marketing and merchandising, an appealing strategy for Sega. The biggest problem with this model--getting the player back into the game--could create a challenge.

Limits to the amount of space marketers have to get their message across and sell products on carrier decks--about 150 characters in a text line--make technology similar to Gosub 60's attractive, Cowan said. "In a way, mobile is a good medium for merchandising, rather than ads, because of the short time players spent with the games," she said.

Marketing to consumers who play mobile games has been challenging, at best. AT&T, Verizon, Virgin Mobile and T-Mobile take great strides to keep consumer data confidential, making it more difficult for Sega to know customer preferences. It's difficult to market to customers you don't know, Cowan said, because carriers don't dig deep enough.

Aside from wanting to know the name of games and drivers behind the purchase, Cowan's interest lies in the amount of time consumers spend playing a mobile game, and whether the player gets past the first level. "We know what's selling, but we don't know why they might click on a product to buy and then abandon the purchase," she said.

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