With the rising number of kid-friendly video games hitting mass-market retail shelves across the globe, it can be difficult for publishers to make their titles stand out in the sea of ‘E for Everyone’ and E10-rated games. Enter THQ’s new branding effort, PlayTHQ.
The Agoura Hills, California-based company conducted some research on how consumers are buying in stores and found that parents who strolled down the aisles with a preset shopping list determined by their kids had a pretty easy time of it. But for parents or other relatives (especially aunts and uncles) wanting to buy a game for a child with no idea of what to get, a simple shopping task quickly turned into a confusing nightmare.
Though the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s ratings are set in place to help guide adult buyers to age-appropriate games, director of global brand management Jim Huntley says THQ found they weren’t enough to help those confused buyers. The publisher really wanted to go a step further and put its maker’s mark on kids titles across all console systems to set them apart.
‘We saw a lot of E-rated games out there, but for a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, it was hit or miss as to whether or not the game was going to be fun for the child they’d purchased it for,’ he says. Admitting that even THQ has some E titles in its library for which it would be difficult for parents to gauge enjoyability for the younger crowd, he thinks that a game labeled PlayTHQ clearly communicates that ‘we guarantee this is going to be fun for your kids.’
Only E- and E10-rated titles pass PlayTHQ muster, and Teen- and Mature-rated games are immediately ruled out, helping put parents at ease if they’re unsure that a game’s content is age-appropriate.
This worldwide initiative had a soft launch phase last fall, teasing some of its TV spots with small visual representations of the PlayTHQ logo and feeding information to a companion website, www.playthq.com. The publisher is now ready for a harder, more integrated launch, including making stronger communication efforts to reach adult consumers. For example, the PlayTHQ logo is being shown at the beginning and end slates of TV commercials, as well as on the lower-right corner of the boxes of all applicable games to showcase the brand to kids and drive them to the site. For the parents, Huntley is working on publicity to communicate the brand benefits through articles, press event discussions and parent-targeted portals containing info about children’s video games.
The website, which primarily houses product information at present, is evolving into more of a multimedia outlet with a relaunch planned in the next six to eight months. Though still in the early stages of its existence, Huntley hopes to beef up the site with stickier content such as parent-friendly video game information, game finders, wish lists, Flash games and demos. He’s hoping to emulate the success THQ had with its Wall-E video game site that included these features.
The initiative has also opened up the opportunity to tie licenses together under one PlayTHQ banner, now grouped under the tagline ‘Big Names, Great Games.’ Huntley notes that this effort is garnering more interest from THQ’s current licensors, including Nickelodeon, Disney/Pixar and MGA, which are always looking for inroads in the ever-growing game space.