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Project Natal- A Gaming (Advertising) Revolution

By BKV in Media Strategy on June 15th, 2010

I have never been a "gamer" nor am I typically able to stomach being in the same room while video games are being played. I feel them to be a total waste of time, reality, and quite frankly - an all-around lazy activity. Due to my current and obstinate opinion of video games, I never thought I would hear myself say this but- as early as Christmas of this year, I could see myself immediately assuming title of "a gamer". How is this sudden and radical transformation possible? How can my feelings and opinions concerning the mere essence of video games change so suddenly? Two words - Project Natal. Yes ladies and gentlemen, Microsoft has done it again. While our MSN team was in the office the last week, they took the time to provide us with a preview of their latest development which is sure to revolutionize the video gaming industry. It is this pending revolution that leads me to believe it may also engorge the interest of numerous other industries as a result. What exactly is Project Natal you ask? "Project Natal" is a code name for a new gaming and entertainment experience that is void of any controller mechanism. Everything in the games will revolve around use of body movement, gestures, and voice commands. How can this be? Simple. Well okay, it's actually pretty complex, but here's the top line - The sensor, a 9-inch wide horizontal bar, is made up of an infrared projector combined with a monochrome CMOS sensor (pixel sensor). An infrared pattern will allow the sensor to read in 3D. It will be able to recognize faces, gestures, and voices. It will track motion of users based on 48 skeletal points on the human body. If you're close enough, it can even identify individual fingers! Now, gamer or not, that's pretty cool. Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect The "natural user interface" essentially allows gamers (soon to be me) to "be in the game". Ultimately, we all know what this means... a huge platform where people of all ages can turn for infinite entertainment purposes while remaining actively engaged on a regular basis. That's right, in other words - a hotbed for advertisers. Person Playing Microsoft Kinect We have seen the widespread success of display advertising in the current Xbox and Xbox live systems, but Project Natal will penetrate even deeper into the lives of consumers. It may be too early to tell, but one can only imagine the possibilities. With this revolutionized platform, they do in fact seem endless. For example, in the promotional video on Xbox.com Project Natal's website (http://www.xbox.com/en-US/live/projectnatal/) a teenage girl is shown trying on and shopping for clothes. Imagine the competition that will exist between retailers competing for this space - especially as direct marketing evolves to allow users to purchase products they view and use in the game they're playing. Person Shopping on Microsoft Kinect Even in traditional video games such as "Burnout Paradise" (seen below) the Obama campaign strategically placed an advertisement that ran during election season. The competition for ad placements such as these, in various locations throughout a variety of popular games, is growing exponentially. Advertising in Xbox or Xbox Live is an extremely effective way of reaching a very captivated and web savvy audience - the demographic of which is predominately male. As Microsoft recently stated, "the games, which have proved to increase brand awareness and recall, also can be used in conjunction with online promotions". This is yet another reason why video games are rapidly becoming a hotbed for advertisers. In-game ad on Microsoft Kinect While I, myself, am formally admitting that I will likely soon fall victim to Project Natal's gaming revolution, I can only suspect that other females, as well as other audiences not typically drawn to video games, may also jump on the gaming bandwagon. This clearly opens up countless new advertising opportunities for advertisers to reach audiences of all ages. Advanced targeting to specific interests, genders, and ages will be easier than ever. With these superior targeting capabilities, combined with a highly engaged audience, advertising has never been so much fun. I guess all we can do now is sit back, relax, and count down the months until Christmas time...