The UK gov’t is working with videogame companies to advise gamers about COVID-19 safety measures by delivering its ‘Stay At Home, Save Lives’ message in games.
With lockdown in place across the UK, many people are turning to videogame content for stress release and escapism. Games sales data from gamesindustry.biz shows UK console sales jumped 250 percent for the week beginning March 16.
To help the gov’t reinforce its message, videogame firms Codemasters and Activision Blizzard King have inserted the safety slogan into their titles.
Activision Blizzard King produces the mobile puzzle game Candy Crush, which boasted about 272 million monthly active players in 2019, and its UK players will now receive the message ‘Stay At Home, Save Lives’ upon login.
In DiRT Rally 2.0 players race rally cars in realistic settings complete with advertising banners placed alongside the road and track. Now many of those banners will display the gov’t slogan in-game.
Some might be surprised by the inclusion of DiRT Rally 2.0, a game that was released last year and recently had just 3,000 concurrent players on Steam. However, the game is one of this month’s free PS4 games for Sony’s premium content subscription service, PS Plus, which has more than 38 million subscribers.
VP Business Development at UK publisher Codemasters Toby Evan-Jones commented: “We came to realise that technology within our games, which enables the remote updating of banners within the virtual environment, could be repurposed to assist with the Coronavirus communication effort. This week, through collaboration with Bidstack Group PLC (providers of the ad-replacement infrastructure), we began delivering a version of Public Health England’s ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ message into DiRT Rally 2.0.”
Native Advertising to Advise Gamers About COVID-19
Native advertising in video games is quickly approaching the same level expected from shows created by the likes of Netflix or Hollywood. Last year the widely acclaimed Death Stranding saw probably the least subtle product placement in a high-budget game when it featured Monster Energy drink as a health recovery item.
The popular team-based battle royale Fortnite has been working with major studios, such as Disney’s Marvel, to incorporate advertising in the game.
This has taken the form of sponsored game mode weeks or special loot drops. For instance, when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was coming out, players in Fortnite could find usable lightsabers in-game.
Sports-based games, such as the Fifa or Madden series, have long since adopted the approach that DiRT Rally 2.0 is using to send out the gov’t safety message. Because they are based on real-world settings, sports games have natural space for in-game advertising.
Lockdown Boosting Sales
According to gov’t figures, more than 37 million people in the UK are actively engaging with videogames, be that PC, console or mobile applications such as Candy Crush. Recent GSD data shows just before the lockdown was put in place, digital downloads in the UK were up by 67 percent. In France, this had increased by more than 180 percent for the first week of restrictions.
The UK has long been a key site for the development and release of video games. The incredibly popular Grand Theft Auto series started with the Brit firm Rockstar North in 1997. Its latest release GTA 5 sold more than 100 million copies. The UK currently boasts around 2,227 active video game companies.
UK Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden commented: “It is absolutely vital that we all follow the simple government advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. I’m delighted to see the UK’s brilliant video games industry stepping up to strongly reinforce this message to gamers across the UK.”