Mobile Gaming – the titanic shift

The industry is undergoing a titanic shift, factors like the ease of publishing to the App Store, the extremely low cost to become a developer, the growth of Freemium games (games given away for free with revenues coming from alternative sources) and the rise of the female gamers (53% of mobile gamers are female) are rewriting the rules.

Anywhere, any-time, high quality gaming, that fits nicely in our pocket, is yours to have .  The mobile entertainment industry was worth $33 billion last year, which is due in part to the success of smartphones like the iPhone and the plethora of Android devices like the HTC Thunderbolt.  These high powered computers were just waiting for people to turn them into gaming consoles.

An interesting infographic by Geekaphone:



Social Media Games and Product Placement

We all have spotted an iPhone or Pepsi can in a movie scene.It’s a well known concept of “Product placement”, a form of advertisement, where branded goods or services are placed in a context usually devoid of ads, such as movies, music videos, the story line of television shows, or news programs. The product placement is often not disclosed at the time that the good or service is featured.

Games such as Mafia Wars and FarmVille, attract millions of active players. Mafia Wars, for example, is played by more than 25 million Facebook users each month.This huge audience, which includes a wide range of demographics, particularly women, is highly engaged and motivated to interact with brands, particularly those that reward them with virtual currency or progress their social game status.By using the same techniques as product placement marketing in movies, brands can be seamlessly woven into the fabric of a social gaming environment.

Genre of the game and player demographics are the deciding factors in matching a game’s story and/or player’s connection with a specific brand.FarmVille, for example, is the perfect place for food-related brands to get in front of a social gaming audience that stands in the tens of millions. Israeli chocolate brand, Elite Taami Nutz, did just that.

Saatchi & Saatchi BBR Tel Aviv and its digital subsidiary, Saatchi Interactive, developed a campaign in which FarmVille players were able to buy and grow Nutz branded peanuts.Non-profit brands are also finding success with in-game product placement. raised $13,000 in under a week through FishVille players purchasing a specially designed fish. Not only that, traffic to their website increased ten-fold during the campaign.

Movie promoters are also jumping on the social gaming bandwagon. A week-long, pre-launch campaign was run on Mafia Wars for gangster movie “Public Enemies” whereby players could undertake Public Enemies-themed “jobs” and unlock additional virtual items associated with the movie along with loot, clips and facts.Here Mafia Wars theme of gang violence was the driving factor to match the movie ( a product ) of similar theme.

In a game such as Seduction, genre is closer to humor and sex with flirtatious story lines.Our experiences suggest that this genre is enjoyed equally by both genders.Products where sexuality is used in advertising, certain values and attitudes towards sex are necessarily ‘sold’ along with a product. In advertising terms, this is called “the concept”.

The message may be that “innocence is sexy” (as used by Calvin Klein when it uses young people in provocative poses), or that link pain and violence with sexiness and glamour (as used by Versace), or that women enjoy being dominated, or that women come with a product (e.g. in the advertisement for Budweiser Beer), or that the use of a certain product is naughty but legal, or that use of a certain product will make the user more attractive to the opposite sex, and many other messages.

These messages are weaved into the story narratives through scenarios .Gaming experience is aided by the scenario graphics and seamlessly links player’s in-game activity with actual online purchase of a product.

Customer Engagement, Gamification & Social Games – 2

In my last blog I referred to  the term “Gamification” as use of game design techniques in  non-game applications.This gamification exploits a humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.

But let’s get our attention back to actual gaming applications like “Mafia wars” and to my very own “Seduction“.. had to mention it ..can’t forget my baby ;).

In terms of genre,social media games are not much different from other entertainment mediums like movies  ( “Reservoir Dogs” or “When Harry Met Sally” ).The difference is that most of the social media games focus on a very limited set of genre and lack creativity in publishing story lines that cater to adults.

Most of them seem to be either fighting with aliens or plowing neighbors patch of fallow land ( “Farmville” ).I have nothing against these genres.They are very successful and have been designed to engage gamer’s attention for a long time.

But the market segment served by these genres is limited.Social media gaming industry is still new and hence we are witnessing this explosive growth.There is a very interesting statistics that I found here:

These numbers are impressive but there is still a huge untapped casual gaming market.A well chosen genre with excellent delivery of gaming experience  can attract lots of new gamers from under served market segments.

Important point to note in above statistics is that “more women play social network games” compared to men.Traditionally in console gaming industry,men dominated the market and still do,but more women play social media games.

Seduction” is a humble effort to fix this anomaly 😉

Customer Engagement, Gamification & Social Games – 1

In this edition of my blog, I initially intended to write about analytics and how it helps in making sense of huge amounts of customer data generated by these games. But analytics won’t be of much significance unless we understand the role of social games in online marketing and in general,”Gamification”. To set the context of our discussion, here are the important heuristics (as listed in my earlier blog posting – “Game Heuristics Part 2”) that we considered in our game design

  • Accessibility – Making the game easy to approach, understand and play.
  • Interruptability – Taking advantage of asynch, spontaneous and irregular play sessions.
  • Continuity – Providing continuous game world which attracts the player to come back.
  • Discovery – Providing new experiences, content and surprises.
  • Virality – Supporting viral growth in the player’s social network.
  • Narrativity – Creating in-game and off-game narratives that elicit curiosity.
  • Expression – Supporting self-discovery, customization and virtual spaces
  • Sharing – Collaborating with friends by gifting and boosting
  • Sociability – Supporting sociability among friends in the game dynamics
  • Competition – Promoting playful social competition with others.

The common thread that runs through all these design considerations is the extent to which they encourage “customer engagement”. All game features consistently try to focus on giving experiences, activities, competitions, contest & sharing opportunities that foster player engagement and encourage them to come back for more. These design heuristic considerations don’t just limit customer engagement to in-game activities but also spawn hooks that tie the customers even off the game.

Games move up or down the leader board with metrics such as DAUs ( “daily active users” ) & MAUs( “monthly active users” ).All games are designed to ramp up these two metrics and keep them high to be the leader of the pack. It’s a very powerful mechanism to retain fleeting attention span of today’s customers suffering with information overload. Whoever cracks this Holy Grail is considered a winner.

It’s important to note that some of these heuristics are not just relevant to online gaming. Since 2010, there is trend towards “Gamification”.Gamification as applied in context of non-game applications encourage adoption of best practices.Gamification if applied to mundane tasks such as completing survey, filing out tax forms encourages users to engage in desired behaviors. Some examples of gamification (copied from here )–

  • Employee training programs
  • Wellness and other personal activities
  • Financial services websites
  • Online and in-person shopping
  • Primary education
  • Extreme sports
  • Project management
  • Enhancing loyalty programmes
  • Social Networks
  • Surveys
  • Sustainability
  • Call Center
  • Market Research