The Noodle

Game On

How social gaming is driving interaction.

Angry Birds was Rovio’s 52nd game. The entertainment media company spent eight years trying to find an application that would connect with the masses before one of its designers, Jaako Iisalo, roughed up some sketches featuring swarming dust clouds and a bunch of grumpy looking avians that looked just mad enough to destroy something. That the company was on the verge of bankruptcy before the Angry Birds practically conquered the social world is only part of the story.

Rovio’s first 51 games were created in a much different time. The market was very difficult to get a hold on. For starters, game developers didn’t have direct contact with their audience like they do today. And if developers didn’t have a massive portfolio of games to sell, operators wouldn’t do business with them.

By succeeding in the face of impending doom, Rovio not only jumpstarted its brand, but changed the entire face of social gaming. Here’s the premise: Players slingshot disgruntled, wingless birds across a screen, hoping to take down cartoon pigs that stole their eggs. The brand includes cookbooks, theme parks, sweatshirts, plush toys, soda brands and a TV show.

And there’s this, too: Social games like Angry Birds, Words With Friends, Kingdoms of Camelot and Candy Crush allow you to connect with your friends through social media platforms such as Facebook. As the experts say, it’s not really about having a clinical addiction to a game as it is a social addiction.

Businesses looking to engage more consumers can stand on the shoulders of what the social game giants have shown us and use social game elements to create powerful Advergames for their brands

Scott Hill, Co-founder & Executive Chairman, PERQ

Scott Hill believes this. His company, PERQ, is in the business of driving interaction through social gaming. The marketing tech company that specializes in incentive-based promotions for businesses recently released FATWIN, a software that allows businesses to brand games and drive traffic both in-store or online.

“Businesses looking to engage more consumers can stand on the shoulders of what the social game giants have shown us and use social game elements to create powerful Advergames for their brands,” says Hill, co-founder and executive chairman of PERQ.

Today, a quality Advergame will take your brand and products, and place them in the game so players can learn more about your company. “The desire to play more and get extra features can be used to incentivize players to share their data, answer questions, watch a video [etc.],” Hill says. “Best of all, you can use your own products as prizes to incentivize players to participate even more and create an exceptional experience for businesses and consumers. Successful Advergames cause players to take actions beneficial to the brand and drive customer traffic to websites or in-store.”

The play is the thing

Based on the initial success of a Ford Fiesta campaign, Are You a Human, a Detroit company specializing in game-based verification systems, launched PlayThru. The verification ad unit allows advertisers to deliver a brand message while users play a quick game to prove they are human.

PlayThru not only eliminated CAPTCHA, a program that can generate and grade tests that humans can pass but current computer programs cannot, but it also created a new branding environment for marketers. Users interact with PlayThru units in a variety of ways, such as when registering for a site, commenting on a post or article, resetting passwords, making a purchase or sharing links or photos. Once the branded game is completed, marketers can deploy a range of call to action options such as launching video, sending users to their sites or sharing the game in social media.

The Ford Fiesta campaign reported a remarkable success rate, including 133 hours of interaction with the brand, a 97 percent completion rate and an average interaction time of 8.2 seconds.

To understand the level of commitment on an individual game basis, consider the Call of Duty franchise. According to Activision, the game’s producer, the average player spends 170 hours a year – the equivalent to one month of full-time work – “working” on the game.

Gaming experts say that game play is at the core of what makes us human. “Social gaming is successful because games tap into the human predisposition for the desire or need to compete, achieve a reward or status, and express yourself,” says Scott Reese, CEO and co-founder of blurbIQ, an interactive media advertising platform that delivers smart interactive content across the visual web. “People love to have fun, and social gaming presents an opportunity for people to enjoy an activity with friends and family online, and on mobile devices.”

Many social games provide the opportunity to gift another player with virtual goods that can even be converted to real world value such as coupons or discounts to products.

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Social gaming also is something that more brands are leveraging today. “Brands can sponsor advertising opportunities in the game itself,” Reese says. “They can drive players whom they want to eventually become consumers, to take some sort of action, creating virtual currencies that can be converted to real discounts to their products in exchange for completing a survey. Many social games provide the opportunity to gift another player with virtual goods that can even be converted to real world value such as coupons or discounts to products.”

Therein lies the enormous potential social gaming holds for the future of marketing. Rob Grossberg, CEO of TreSensa, a game development/distribution company that optimizes games for the mobile web, says more brands are using games the way publishers do, but instead of compelling players to buy virtual goods, they are compelling them to take action – liking the brand on Facebook, signing up for a loyalty program or responding to an offer.

If done right, the upside for brands is enormous – a compelling experience where they have the consumers’ undivided attention for a big chunk of time.

Rob Grossberg, CEO, TreSensa

“If done right, the upside for brands is enormous – a compelling experience where they have the consumers’ undivided attention for a big chunk of time,” Grossberg says. “The brand is then in a great position to prompt that consumer to take action. The downside is that if you create a game that leaves the player flat, he may be less eager to interact with the brand in the future.”

By Michael J. Pallerino