Having a branded video game developed for the proliferation of your brand can seem like a daunting task. How do you convert your vision into a functioning product? How can you best allocate your financial resources? and, how do you yield the biggest ROI?
If you don’t have the right ingredients to work with, you are poised for costly failure (and I’m not just talking financially). Although nobody really knows what ultimately drives the adoption of creative goods such as video games, there are certain guidelines to facilitate a smooth development process, which may increase your chances for success. In this article, I will highlight a number of these guidelines in an effort to help you determine what makes a good advergame good in the first place.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Nowadays almost anyone can obtain a developer’s license for digital distribution platforms such as Apple’s App Store or Google Play at virtually no cost. Programming interns are plentiful and offer cheap labour, and with the right guidance from internal staff members, surely it should be possible to develop something that’s fun and appealing, right? Not quite.
Video game development comprises a complex interplay between creativity and technology, and the added objective of favourably changing end-users’ behaviour or attitudes towards your brand seriously complicates things further. The idea that you can do it yourself doesn’t mean you should actually go and do it yourself.
There are plenty of firms whose core competence is creating video games with the sole purpose of brand proliferation. The $3 billion+ advergaming industry is densely populated with skilful digital production agencies, applied gaming studios, and advergaming firms such as Gamify, each with their own specialties. Instead of trying to compete, you are best positioned by contracting a team that can translate your objectives into a compelling experience.
Now when I say this, I don’t necessarily mean for you to delegate all work over to a third party and sit your hands, in fact with Gamify’s Pro-tool, you can very much be in the driver’s seat for the game creation process. Gamify’s system can help facilitate the perimeters needed for you to create your creative exploit.
Know your objectives
Advergames lend themselves well to an array of objectives. However, before you start issuing RFPs (requests for proposals) to developers, think long and hard about what it is that you want an app or HTML5 game to accomplish. Different objectives require different production trajectories and can vary in budget. Also, specialised firms tend to have key areas of expertise that may fit certain objectives better than others.
Is your Gamified Marketing Campaign designed for the purpose of educating clients on a new product or service? Creating hype around the brand? Selling more units of a product or simply creating awareness? Having one clear priority helps give the campaign direction.
You would be surprised how often Brands feel the need to launch a marketing campaign, yet never take the time to identify what it is they hope to achieve. Simply making noise in the hopes of staying front of mind with your customer base is not a long term conscious goal.
Choose your platforms wisely
One of the key strategic decisions for apps and HTML5 games is the choice of platform(s). This choice influences many things including the size of the addressable audience, characteristics of the addressable audience, possible features of the product, and (in part) development costs.
Popular platforms for advergaming include mobile devices (smartphones & tablets), PCs, touchscreens, and increasingly, reality technologies (AR & VR). Rather than letting the technological capabilities of the developer dictate the choice of platform, it is best to determine it by studying the target audience and the app’s or game’s intended use.
The cost increase of adding platforms, perhaps surprisingly, is non-linear. Since the bulk of labour needed to develop a game goes into the actual creation of gameplay mechanics and in-game assets, platforms can generally be added at little extra cost. With the prerequisite of deciding on a platform strategy prior to production, about 80% of all activities can be deployed across platforms. The exact cost increase then depends on the specific mix of platforms chosen. Mobile platforms such as iOS and Android share a common technological architecture and can therefore easily be combined, while the combination of mobile and browser-based games, let alone the combination of mobile and VR, is more challenging, and therefore costlier. Generally speaking, you’d do well by launching your game simultaneously on various compatible platforms.
Have low barriers to entry
The best Advergames have low barriers or none whatsoever for players to get started. No apps to download, no complicated registration process – just click and start playing.
For this reason simple web games, created in HTML5, are quickly becoming the standard for advergames. Everyone can access the games and start playing quickly and easily. With no barriers to entry more people can play and enjoy your advergame. More advergame plays means more people engaged with your advertising message.
Lowering the barriers of entry, by using simple web games, regularly results between 88-92% game engagement. These percentage is a read of how many people are actively playing the game and engaging with your brand.
Ask for signups to rank scores
Once your players have finished the game, get them to sign in to register their score and rank on the leaderboard.
As the leaderboard is shared, users want to judge their performance against their friends and other game players. This is a great way to convert your players into leads for your business.
By including a signup page after the game play, to access the leaderboard, converts, on average, 33% of players into leads.
Provide incentives for sign ups and replays
Of course, providing incentives can help boost sign up rates and the number of replays a game can get. If you provide the game as part of a competition, where the rewards are based on leaderboard ranking, then conversion rates go up.
If the incentive is high then players will replay the game multiple times – (some previous cases have recorded 100s of plays from an individual player!) On average, an advergame is played 10x per player. This means that your brand and your promotion is repeated multiple times with every play of the game.
However, you don’t always need an incentive to drive conversion rates – the desire to rank on a leaderboard can be enough. A financial services company achieved a 43% signup rate by using an advergame to get leads.
Make the game shareable
Your game needs to be integrated with social media. Players will want to share the game on Facebook and Twitter and this will boost awareness of your advergame.
Entenmanns used a 3-point basketball shootout advergame through Gamify, to increase their database numbers. They reported that 3,904 social media shares come about as a result of playing the game!
This is the advantage of using web-based games, which can easily be shared across social media. This helps promote a viral effect of spreading your advergame and boosting brand discussion and engagements.
Make it mobile friendly
Mobile is a growing channel for consumers to access social media and the internet. Games are one of the main uses of mobile devices, so it makes sense for brands to use games to engage with mobile users. Over 60% of advergame users access the games from their mobile devices. This means that your advergame should be optimised for mobile use.
However, make sure you cater for mobile users without discouraging desktop game players. This is why HTML5 is so useful for mobile games, it can be played on any device – autoscaling to whichever monitor size is in use.
Advergaming that is done well strikes a good balance between being creative and different, along with making sure people identify and associate who is behind the campaign.
Advergames can serve a wide array of objectives and can add significant value to your product, service or organisation in the form of gamification. Like any other creative good, however, success is hard to predict and even harder to quantify and measure. By selecting the right partner, identifying your objectives up front and deciding on which platforms to target, you will create a strong foundation to build on.
All the results point to the effectiveness of using advergames to promote and communicate a message. Using the tips above, your business can provide an entertaining game and ensure that you maximise conversions and social engagement too.
Success ultimately depends on a mixture of factors including the creative concept, the target audience, and certain environmental/competitive factors that are beyond any single firm’s grasp. Regardless, with literally billions of people playing video games all around the world, it is apparent that advergames are an indispensable option for any marketer to consider.