By Chenny Sarmiento and Dean Erenea
Art By Gilly De Guzman
Video games have always been a well-loved niche in popular culture, but in these times when people are stuck at home and finding new things to do, games have become more popular and developed than ever. Everyone is getting gaming laptops, PCs, or better phone models to accommodate the games they want to play, especially with their friends. A common way to bond with peers even when you are physically apart is to talk about games with each other; so oftentimes, you can see people sharing memes and talking about games like Mobile Legends and Valorant, even streaming these to a wider audience.
Now more than ever, people are turning to the digital world video games provide for spaces of comfort and camaraderie that they can’t get in recent times. All eyes are on these virtual worlds, presenting a new landscape where brands can catch the attention of their markets..
Prominence on Social Media
One game that has become a popular favorite is Genshin Impact, or colloquially shortened to Genshin. Even people who don’t play the game are bound to see it mentioned on their social media timelines, either through memes or gameplay content. People like to share videos and pictures of their wish banner pulls, or memes and analyses about their favorite characters and the vast lore Genshin provides.
Facebook groups like Genshin Impact Global Community are dedicated to bringing players together, with having over 200,000 members and 42,000 posts per day.
But what is Genshin Impact, exactly? It is a game that took over the global gaming world, but not created by any of the leading video game studios like Nintendo and Ubisoft. It is a multi-platform, open-world, action role-playing game officially released on the 28th of September, 2020 by miHoYo, a Chinese video game studio. You play as a one half of a pair of twins (referred to as the Traveler in-game) who were separated by an unknown god, traversing through the land of Teyvat with your companion Paimon (who is also the game’s mascot) in search of your other twin. It combines open world adventuring and action-based battle play with gacha game and random number generation (RNG) mechanics to build your characters and collect weapons and artifacts to make them stronger.
Popularity of the Game
Between the official release of the game and its announcement in the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2019, a yearly trade show for video game developers, miHoYo had closed beta tests wherein testers were allowed to play with and experiment with the game play and the open world aspect of it. This gave them the opportunity to build hype for the official release, and hype they did build!
The game’s pre-registration numbers had reached 20 million sign ups, and opened with 17 million downloads on mobile alone, earning over 60 million dollars just within its first week. The game was only just beginning, with five regions out of the seven still unreleased, meaning that it is bound to see more growth in its player base and earnings as time goes by.
It could be said that one of the biggest reasons as to why it shot to fame was not only because it was free and available on devices everyone had (e.g. a smartphone), but it also offered an open world game experience usually only found in paid console games.
This is one of the advantages of Genshin Impact, which translates the audience from being mere consumers of related contents in social media to actual players of the game. Genshin is lauded for its graphics, both in scenery and character design. The “anime” style that is used in Genshin is something that miHoYo is known for, as established by their previous games and is popular among many gamers. With cute, handsome, or pretty characters that have in depth backstories, players find it easy to get attached and continue playing so that they can learn more about them. In addition to character backstories, the game’s overarching story of the traveler and Paimon traveling through Teyvat is also one of the reasons why people continue to play, as they want to delve deeper into the story as the game progresses.
As a game, Genshin’s combat mechanics are also a reason it is so popular. Players are able to experiment with different types of attacks, with regard to elemental abilities and weapons. Players can choose to play with a fire-based archer, or a ground-based mage. This aspect allows for many people to find the combat style they like the most, rather than being restricted to only one for the entire game.
Furthermore, the turning point of Genshin’s marketing and advertising is that it sells itself. The gacha element of the game (wherein players use in-game currencies called ‘primogems’ and ‘genesis crystals’ to purchase wishes and ‘pull’ or gamble for characters and weapons) keeps players constantly interested. The chance to get new characters and weapons is essentially selling new products to their players every two months or so. This instance sets the foot for Genshin Impact to the advertising world — that their audience is a viable market for advertisements and brand collaborations. It means that the players have purchasing power that they are willing to use for the love of the game.
Third-party Brand Advertisements
Genshin Impact’s popularity makes it a good opportunity for brands to appeal to its large player base. One brand that has taken this opportunity is KFC in China. On February 22nd, a well-known Genshin Impact updates Twitter account @Zeniiet tweeted a picture of Diluc and Noelle, two of the game’s playable characters, dressed in KFC worker uniforms, with the caption, “KFC collaborating with Genshin Impact. Offering limited time KFC Diluc Bucket and Wing skin.”
From March 8th to the 21st, KFC restaurants in China offered a full-on experience with Genshin Impact, decking their restaurants in the game’s designs and characters, as well as offering limited-time goodies such a specific Genshin Impact themed meal you can buy in the store, complete with a KFC Diluc or Noelle-themed chicken bucket. Other goodies also included stickers of the two characters for popular messaging app WeChat, and pins of them. To get the pins, people had to say “Meet in another world; enjoy delicious food.” as they order their meals. To match its on-ground executions, KFC and Genshin Impact also created executions to be done in-game. In China, ordering the promotional meal can get you codes for an in-game recipe and a KFC-branded glider wings skin to equip on your characters.
Right now, the promotions are only available in KFC China, but the news about them quickly spread through Twitter and with Genshin Impact’s 1.4 preview stream. In the recent 1.4 update, one of the prizes in the daily log-in event is a recipe named Golden Fried Chicken. While the glider wings are not available yet, miHoYo reassured fans that the wings would come at a later date for the global servers.
Advertisements of Video Games in General
When the collaboration was announced, Genshin, KFC, Diluc, and Noelle trended on Twitter, with Genshin players talking about the collaboration and making their own takes and content. In China, the Genshin-themed restaurants were flocked to by avid fans, eagerly waiting in line to avail of the limited edition merchandise; pictures of long lines outside the restaurants tweeted out soon after. One thing that is certainly clear when brands want to advertise through games: they engage with a dedicated fandom that loves talking about and receiving more content from the game.
KFC was able to use the content that the game gives and weave that into their executions. Rather than being distracting, these advertisements were able to join and become part of the daily conversations and discussions people have about the game which stretches not only during the day of the executions but also to the virtual world. They designed characters as in their uniforms, created a promotional video transporting the main character into a KFC restaurant, and worked with what Genshin had to enhance the experience of the players, both in the game and outside of it.
Gamers like new content in their games, and they don’t like anything that strays away from the immersive game experience. New content is what catches their attention the most and keeps them engaged. Brands can use this to their advantage through contributing to the digital world that video games have created, allowing them to connect with their target market. The on-going quarantine period forces us to explore more and consume more technological media to keep our creative juices going. And in these trying times, brands and players can find opportunities in digital worlds like Genshin, where the possibilities for fun and innovation are endless.
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