June 16, 2024

Byte Class Technology

Byte Class Technology & Sports Update

How a video game has revolutionised the way farmers are buying tractors | Games

How a video game has revolutionised the way farmers are buying tractors | Games

Tractors are commonly sold to farmers at agricultural fairs and announced in the trade press. But machinery makers are falling over themselves to get a slice of a much more unlikely advertising vehicle: the Farming Simulator video game.

The developers, Giants Software, now receive hundreds of queries a year from manufacturers of equipment – from tractors and combine harvesters to trailers, balers and seed drills – about how they can feature in the game, where players create their own virtual farm.

Farming Simulator is important enough that some firms even launch products at the same time as the game is updated. Search for news about Göweil, and you’re just as likely to find details of the nine products in the Farming Simulator update pack released last week as coverage of its hay balers in the real world.

Giants, based in Switzerland, told the Observer that interest from manufacturers provides it with enough of a revenue stream to cover the costs of game development. “In the beginning, we had to ask manufacturers to be included in the game,” said Wolfgang Ebert, Giants’ marketing manager. “Today, we have to consider who we can integrate and what benefit there is to the game – we have many, many brands waiting to be included.”

Players begin with a barn, some equipment and a little land. They need to grow food, sell it, expand their farm – and buy better gear.

Part of the appeal of the Farming Simulator series, like Microsoft Flight Simulator or the Formula One racing games, comes from the realism of the experience. Yet would-be pilots and drivers are unlikely to be able to afford a jumbo jet or a racing car, while there are plenty of farmers who have bought one of the 25m copies sold who can potentially field-test a new tractor in the game, making it a much more valuable marketing tool.

Companies now share detailed engineering drawings of their product with Giants so that it can be simulated – a highly sensitive matter, according to Martin Seidel, the partner manager for Giants. “We definitely have to have good relationships with everyone, because we’re on a high trust level,” he said.

Farming Simulator 23.
Farming Simulator 23: part of the appeal comes from the realism of the experience. Photograph: Nintendo

Giants has resources to include about 500 products in the PC, Xbox and PlayStation games, and 130 in the handheld version, so there are limited opportunities. Players need to be able to buy a three-metre cultivator early on, or a nine-metre version later.

“The really interesting stuff is above nine metres, and that’s what everyone wants to advertise,” Seidel said. “It’s up to me and my colleagues to be patient and negotiate.”

Seidel and Ebert were coy about how much money changes hands, but said their focus remains on the players. “Our main business is game development,” Seidel said.

skip past newsletter promotion

Last September, the Finnish firm Valtra announced its Q series of tractors at the same time as Giants released an update to Farming Simulator 22. “We collaborated since 2014 and we see if our timetables coincide, and that makes things cooler,” said Pamela Engels, senior manager for communications and digital marketing for Valtra, in Finland. “So right from the get go, farmers will hear about the Q-series, and on that very day the gaming community were able to discover it.”

Many games have included advertising and product placement for some time, from mobile phones to junk food. H&M sold clothing add-on packs in The Sims, and Sony managed to advertise PlayStation on pitchside boards in Fifa 19 – even on Microsoft’s XBox version.

But the interest in Farming Simulator goes beyond product placement, Engels said, and is an “established” part of Valtra’s marketing mix. “We see people really engaging with it, gamers discussing features of the machine and how to equip it. It’s not product placement any more.”

Does Valtra use feedback from gamers to inform their designs? “No,” Engels said. “But you’ve given me a cool idea.”