CANNES: Gaming is becoming ever more popular with brands having opportunities to tap into the billions of hours spent on this activity worldwide, a leading games industry figure has argued.

Jane McGonigal, a game designer and author, told a seminar at the Cannes Lions festival that 1bn people spent an hour or more a day playing computer and video games. That meant that 7bn hours a week were "up for grabs" in the "engagement economy", where gamification is reshaping how businesses and consumers interact.

"Decisions about where to work, what to spend money on, which brands to be loyal to – these decisions will all be made based on how well an organization, or experience, or product fulfils this urgent desire to engage whole-heartedly with meaningful challenges", declared McGonigal.

The opportunities for brands to reach consumers via gaming are increasing as new platforms and free games attract a wider audience of gamers.

A recent survey for US research and consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates, cited by eMarketer, found that of the 69% of Americans who had ever played video or computer games, over half (53%) played games weekly on their smartphone.

Some 42% continued to use consoles while 29% said they played social networking games weekly, and 27% played online games.

Nor is the profile of the average gamer the stereotypical young male. A survey from the Entertainment Software Association revealed that 45% of US gamers were female and 68% were over 18.

The ESA also noted the decline in sales of console games as free games on digital platforms drew large audiences.

The gamification trend is reaching into new areas, including the workplace. The PHD media agency told the Cannes Lions audience how turning its work for blue-chip clients like Unilever into a mass scale game, had led to 75% of its global workforce displaying unprecedented levels of engagement, collaboration and creativity.

"This has been achieved without us truly maximising the full potential of game thinking which suggests that the opportunity for brands, business and communities at large is highly significant," said Mark Holden, worldwide strategy and planning director at PHD.

Data sourced from eMarketer, PHD; additional content by Warc staff