Mobile Sega Aiming Big for 2008

Sonic the Hedgehog may soon be coming to a mobile phone near you.

In hopes of attaining greater exposure on wireless carrier decks to promote and sell their burgeoning line of mobile games, longtime video game maker Sega is preparing a mobile marketing campaign to help launch several new games currently scheduled for release this summer. 2007 marked the first mobile marketing campaign for Sega, now planning to introduce ten more mobile games into the market by the end of 2008.

According to a press release from the video game manufacturer, “The integrated marketing campaigns on track to launch in June for both Beijing 2008 and Sonic at the Olympics feature short codes on print and online advertisements that consumers can interact with by using their cell phones.” As it stands, other potential mega-hit games on the backburner for this year include “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” “Crazy Taxis,” and “Sonic Spinball.”

“Mobile phones are like traveling advertising and marketing tools,” says Carrie Cowan, director of mobile marketing at Sega of America, San Francisco. “Most people have one in their pocket.”

To date, Sega has experienced “moderate success,” in their mobile marketing endeavors, but this summer will mark Sega’s first “full scale” mobile marketing campaign intending to foster a one-on-one connection with consumers that will hopefully create a “unique opportunity,” that is, an increased number of ways to successfuly integrate mobile marketing with other media and services. “One under consideration,” says Cowan, “is a subscription-based service for mobile games. The challenge, however, becomes how to bill it – directly or through wireless carriers.”

Fortunately for Sega, the multimedia faculties of the iPhone, for example, are comparable to those of the popular Sony portable gaming console known as the PSP. This affords an outstanding opportunity for game manufacturers and developers like Sega to create “feature-rich games specifically for this device.” Best of all for both mobile gamers and manufacturers, new interfaces on phones allow game makers to branch out from the uncomfortable 12-key number pad and navigation toggle. According to Cowan, Sega has “already built a prototype version of Super Monkey Ball for the iPhone and iPod Touch that uses the iPhone’s accelerometer as a way to interface with the game by tilting the device from side to side.”

Unfortunately, marketing to avid video gamers who tend to favor mobile video games has been particularly challenging. AT&T, Verizon, Virgin Mobile and T-Mobile are renowned for trying to keep consumer data “highly confidential,” which, in turn, makes it painfully difficult for game makers like Sega to figure out what gamers like and how their preferences are changing. “It’s difficult to market to customers you don’t know,” says Cowan, “because carriers don’t dig deep enough.”