5 Ways to Target More Than Just Fun With Online Games
According to a recent comScore report, traffic to free online gaming sites grew by 27 percent in 2008, and time spent playing games increased by 42 percent. It's no secret that the role of online games is growing, and marketers understand that games are no longer a marketing afterthought, but rather an integrated part of an entire campaign.
Before you get started, here are a few important tips you should consider when building your gaming strategy:
1. Determine your audience. Audience analysis is one of the most important tasks when determining what type of game should be developed. If you sell toys to teenage boys, a Mahjongg- or Solitaire-inspired game is probably not the best option. A sports or arcade game may make more sense because teenage boys tend to prefer more action-oriented games.
Hearst Magazines Digital Media always takes audience into consideration when developing games. Over the last two years, it methodically has been creating game centers on its branded magazine Web sites, including Seventeen.com, Cosmopolitan.com, GoodHousekeeping.com and many others. The unique audience for each site and the needs of that audience are considered before launching. For example, while a customized zit-zapping game works well for teens on Cosmogirl.com, it is not really the right fit for women who log on to Redbookmag.com to play games like Mahjongg and Sudoku.
2. Define your goals. Evaluating your campaign goals helps you make the decision between creating one game or an entire gaming community. If you are launching a campaign to promote a single product, event, etc., then one game may be enough to deliver the message. However, if your objective is to drive continuous traffic and help monetize your site, a dedicated gaming community with multiple games may be more effective.
Fandango was looking to create a games center that would contain games and activities that were relevant to Fandango and movies/entertainment. It wanted this site to contain community elements such as creating your own bag puppet (Fandango's mascot), trophies and high score contests to keep people on the site longer and keep them coming back. This type of community-focused site was the best solution to accomplish its goals.
3. Figure in budget and timing. Budget and time frame for delivery play huge roles when deciding on whether custom "advergames" or rebranded games are better for your campaign. Custom advergames allow more flexibility for your brand; however, the trade-offs can be increased cost and longer development time. When speed to market and lower costs are of primary importance, consider rebranding an existing game engine. While rebranded games are sometimes not as unique in concept, they are generally cheaper, can be completed relatively quickly and still can be fairly customized.
During the development of Seventeen.com, the decision was made to combined custom advergames—ones that fit in with the publication's branding directly—and rebranded games. The resulting game center allowed people to engage with an equally rewarding branded experience that reinforced Seventeen's message. The rebranded games still accomplished its goal of offering users additional reasons to visit the site and ultimately was a more cost-effective solution.
4. Evaluate community elements. Creating games often goes beyond just deciding what content to put into the game play. Here are a few items to think about:
- Viral: Give your players the ability to challenge or invite friends to play along.
- Personalization: Let visitors create a customized avatar and profile for use inside the game and throughout your Web site. By integrating community elements outside of the games, players can carry over to other elements of the site.
- Leaderboards and points: To encourage competition and game play, use leaderboards and point tracking systems to display score leaders.
- Ratings: Encourage people to rate the games they enjoy the most so those games can, in turn, be recommended to others.
- Prizes: To reward repeat game play and promote play of select games, incorporate prize or sweepstakes entry redemption with game play points.
Lifetime's loyal community on myLifetime.com always has maintained a very active user base of women who are interested in connecting, playing and sharing. When creating its gaming strategy, Lifetime wanted its gaming section to carry on that same message and presence. As a result, various community elements such as the leaderboard, game ratings, send to a friend, personalization, etc., were incorporated.
5. Consider revenue options. With the addition of games on your site, you are able to instantly increase the amount of valuable advertising and sponsorship inventory. For online games, the most popular means of advertising include around game, during game load, in between levels and postgame ads, in addition to game or game community sponsorship.
Neal Sinno is the vice president of business development at New York-based game software company Arkadium. He can be contacted at email@example.com.