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An Unrealized Aspect Of Video Games…Is Online Shopping?

As a 23-year-old male I have plenty of experience with video games. They are a great form of entertainment, and many of the games coming out these days could qualify as forms of art (if those who create music are “artists” then the same could be said for video game developers). One thing that I can’t comprehend is how the gaming industry is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to online integration.

As anyone working in the digital space can attest to, bridging the gap between the online and offline worlds is a growing part of business. However, video games have not embraced this the way other forms of entertainment have. I also want to make clear that I’m not talking about mobile games and apps, I’m talking about console gaming (PS3, Xbox, Wii) and “hardcore” PC gaming.

There is so much potential lying around that developers have yet to pick up. For now a gamer can connect his or her social profiles to their Xbox Live or PSN accounts and have posts go out when they gain achievements, but what does that do for the gaming industry? It doesn’t add any layers of engagement for the player, and doesn’t make the game more enjoyable. This is where I can see companies really taking a leap forward to create something amazing and immersing.

Let’s take a game like Grand Theft Auto. All murder, profanity, vulgarity and criminal behavior aside, this series has become more and more realistic with every new release. You can purchase clothing, accessories, cars, and more within the game’s world. Does anyone else see this as a perfect product placement opportunity for companies? I understand that GTA may not have the best “image” that a brand would want to associate with, but since character customization will oftentimes reflect the player’s personal preferences I think this presents a unique opportunity.

Think about this: as most people have a credit card associated with their Xbox Live or PSN accounts (if the don’t, it’s easy to add one) what if you were customizing your character with future products from clothing companies and saw something you actually thought was really great, then you have the option to buy it directly and get it shipped to your address in real life.

It wouldn’t be a complicated process to put together. A gamer’s credit card information is already connected to the gaming network they are on, and their address can be as well.

Would you like a 6-, 8-, or 12-pack?

The amazing thing about games these days is that character customization can be VERY specific: height, weight, skin color, body type, shoe size, clothing size, etc. You can virtually try on products and see how they would actually look on your body. Take a company like Adidas (they’re one of my favorites): they can have products featured in games that characters can try on. If you like the product and would actually wear it you have the option to purchase the product for real. You go to a confirmation screen that already has your billing/shipping information included and you can buy the product straight from there. After buying it you get thrown right back into the game, playing a character that is wearing clothing you will actually have in your possession in a matter of days/weeks.

Similar things are being done with television, such as this History Channel app that allows viewers to purchase products they see on TV from an app. Video games give viewers/players even more control than television does, however.

This same thing could be applied to video game soundtracks. Like a song you hear from the soundtrack of the game? Buy it. You get the song in a format that allows you to take if off of your console and put it on your iPod or other music player.

I see video games as a final/underused frontier for marketers and companies trying to reach a larger market. Product placement has occurred in games, but it wouldn’t be difficult to expand that and allow actual purchases from within a game.

What do you think? Would direct purchase from video games be a good idea or a not-so-good one?