I was watching TV the other night when a commercial for EA Sports Active came on. Now, EA Sports Active launched in early 2009 and continues to build its community and workout options for its consumers. So the commercial was no surprise. However, I noticed something in its marketing that was slightly different than how other exergames or active game products are being promoted. During the commercial, the voice-over actually stated that this game was “a gateway to an active lifestyle” (or something to that effect). In other words, THEY USED THE WORD GATEWAY!
You’re probably wondering why this is a big deal. I’ll tell you.
For the longest time one of the major criticisms of exergaming (especially from the fitness professionals) was that it could never replace ‘real’ or ‘traditional’ exercise. This argument came at a time when researchers were studying the physiological responses of game play (primarily in terms of energy expenditure) and comparing them to traditional cardiovascular exercises. While these comparisons were only meant to validate exergames as a viable form of physical activity, fitness pros were skeptical in promoting these games that were, in essence, doing trying to do their jobs.
Exergame evangelists and researchers knew that exergames were not the same as ‘traditional exercise’, but somehow this idea was diluting, if not, discrediting the exergaming industry. So, in health conferences, game conferences and games for health conferences, people started to emphasize the terms “gateway effect” as one of the effects of exergames – as if to say, these games helped build confidence and self-efficacy with those who may otherwise never try typical fitness activities. Hence, exergames have a gateway effect to an active lifestyle.
I imagine when marketers create a campaign for exergames, they are focused more on selling product than developing a lifestyle. I doubt they’ll ever say “come try our product for a while so you can build the confidence to go do other activities and in turn stop using our product”. Hencewhy the term ‘gateway’ may not be applicable in this arena. Unless… unless the gateway is to other activities or games that the company also provides.
So, when I heard the EA Sports Active’s commercial insert the term ‘gateway’ into their commercial (albeit ever-so subtly and in the middle portion of the commercial), I was caught off-guard. Because by saying that it means two things: 1) Someone on their marketing team certainly has their pulse on the exergaming scene – maybe they are sending people out to various conferences, etc. and 2) EA Sports is expanding their services beyond just their games, to build an active brand and community so people who are ‘gateway’ing into an active lifestyle are doing so with EA Sports Active by their side.