I pulled this presentation together at BBDO/Proximity in early 2008. The purpose of the presentation was to introduce branded video games and discuss the elements that go into creating a successful branded video game experience.
Marketers are looking for better ways to contribute to culture and connect with audiences. One of the ways marketers do that is by providing something of value such as a branded content or in this case, a video game. When done right - these brand experiences can be entertaining and worthy of attention. Advergames – or a video game developed with the intention of marketing – were given a horrible name and serve the following two functions: 1). marketing a message 2). building brand equity, and yes they can do both. * This deck was modified for SlideShare to include the copy on the slides. You can download the presentation version of this deck @ http://bit.ly/adver_game
Today, the mission is clear: let’s build a great video game for a brand - on a limited budget and with limited experience. After all we are marketers and not video game developers. Common sense would suggest getting someone who is an expert in this field to help build this experience. The following arguments are based on my experience playing video games since I was a fetus. The thinking also includes information sourced from secondary online research. The sources are available through my Delicious link at the end of the deck.
First, we’re going to look through the lens of something that is intrinsic to all video games – a challenge. Because when it comes down to it, creating a good video game is really a challenge in balancing a number of variable elements that go into any game. We’ll explore six variable elements as they battle it out in three of head-to-head battles. If that doesn’t make sense - it will in a moment.
Once we get a good idea of the six variable elements that go into any video game, we’ll explore three mandatory elements you want to bake into a branded video game.
As mentioned in an earlier slide, we’ll explore the six variable elements that go into any video game in three separate battles. In the first battle, FUN & MESSAGING go head to head. When it comes down to it, creating a great advergame is really a balance between a marketer’s intentions (such as getting a message across) and creating a fantastic experience that your audience will love and share with others. Now that might seem easy but trust me, that can be a challenge when clients prioritize marketing goals. We need to ensure that the experience is the content.
Although it’s an archaic thought, the Trojan horse analogy is an easy way to understand the relationship between MESSAGING and FUN. Entertainment is like an automatic license to enter an audience’s personal space. Marketers use entertainment as a Trojan horse to guise their marketing intentions. If you hate the implications of this analogy, face the facts, you’re investing in these experiences as a means to a greater and selfish end. One thing marketers forget is that their intentions (messaging or brand equity) are realized once the audience’s intentions have been realized (fun for example).
In the battle of FUN vs. MESSAGING – Fun is always #1. YAY! Let me give you an example of some fails – like Jax down there with his spine sticking out of his torso. Some campaigns have failed because they ask for a participant’s email address before they are emotionally engaged with the game. The secret here is blending marketing intentions and entertainment but always make fun #1. And remember, large amounts of information don’t sit well in an entertainment driven format, so take it easy with the messaging. WINNER BY MEDIEVAL EVIL – FUN!
Here’s a winner – Hotel 626. Doritos created Hotel 626 based on a brief to promote two flavours that were “back from the dead”. You might not have walked away from Hotel 626 knowing that “two flavours were back from the dead” but you did walk away from the game with a positive perception of the Doritos brand. Remember, advergames are also tools to generate brand equity. Here are some numbers on engagement, let alone the brand equity gains. With zero traditional media investment: Hotel 626 lured over 5 million unique visitors down its dark hallways. An average stay of 13 minutes, nearly four times the industry average. It also proved that you don't need to advertise quality digital content as long as the content itself encourages social interaction.
The next contending variable elements are GRAPHICS & EXPERIENCE. In the early days, GRAPHICS were considered a leading driver to purchase. This was particularly true during the evolution of video games (1980 – 1990) when GRAPHICS were leveraged as a point of difference. However, EXPERIENCE has made a serious comeback. When we talk about EXPERIENCE, we’re talking about the required strategy, logic, moves, rules, how players control their immersion. The success of the Wii goes to show that the battle between GRAPHICS and EXPERIENCE is back and the outcome is tough to predict. As you can imagine, the best games combine both elements.
<ul><li>On one hand, GRAPHICS are important: </li></ul><ul><li>Video games act as a form of escapism </li></ul><ul><li>They allow gamers to take on a different role, narrative and experience different worlds </li></ul><ul><li>In order for the experience to feel like a genuine departure from reality, graphics are important to help gamers get into that head space. </li></ul><ul><li>I think this PS3 commercial is a great example of these points - http://bit.ly/byGcF9 </li></ul>
On the other hand – GRAPHICS are null and void if the EXPERIENCE is crap. Again, what do we mean by the EXPERIENCE? We’re talking about the required strategy, logic, moves, rules, how players control their experience, their immersion and fun. In summary – all of the aspects of the games that are behind the visuals. Marketers are doing a lot of talk about video game mechanics and I think that trend speaks perfectly to importance of the EXPERIENCE in a video game.
Here’s an example of a fine balance between the two: Red Bull Soap Box Racer. The game has mediocre graphics but a fantastic experience. The game leverages the concept of a racing game and builds on the nuts and bolts of the concept by allowing players to build and customize their own soap boxes. The game is also social too, players can invite friends and registered users to race against them. These aren’t shocking game options but they make a difference in creating a sticky experience. Red Bull could have developed a racing game where the sole purpose was to get the next Red Bull Power Boost. This short sighted thinking comes from the same part of the marketer’s brain that says “make the logo bigger”. Thankfully, Red Bull decided to create a richer experience by allowing customization and creating a social gaming experience. A note from 2011 - Social gaming is fascinating and I highly recommend researching the mechanics of social gaming if you are looking to create a video game experience. Check out the game - http://bit.ly/5k8fIv
The rule of thumb is you never want GRAPHICS to inhibit the EXPERIENCE. A video game with a great EXPERIENCE but bad GRAPHICS can be successful. The reverse isn’t true. As you can guessed, the best games have a strong combination of the two variable elements. WINNER BY JUDGES’ DECISION: EXPERIENCE.
The last set of variable elements to go head to head are FUNCTIONAL DRIVERS & EMOTIONAL DRIVERS.
When it comes to the FUNCTIONALITY of a game you want it to be dead simple. When we talk about FUNCTIONALITY, we’re talking about how you play the game, specifically, which buttons you push to control the experience. You want participants to pick up the game with ease which means you don’t want to spend a lot of time explaining the game. Avoid roadblocks that prevent people from getting into the experience quickly. People generally make up their mind about a website in seven seconds and I don’t imagine they have much more patience for a video game from a brand.
On the other hand, you don’t want the game to be so simple that it’s boring. Almost all video games have a story or context associated with the gamer’s task. A story linked to the video game helps gamers feel like they are part of something bigger, hence EMOTIONAL DRIVERS. Here are some strategies to creating context and baking in EMOTIONAL DRIVERS without sacrificing the ease of engaging in the experience. This is particularly relevant to a branded video game experience since people will generally have less interest committing to a long plot line: 1). Leverage rivalries 2). Tie the ask to real events ”yay we’re going to Iraq” 3). Leverage existing structure of familiar games such as the Post It Notes Pictionary.
Here’s a winning example of an existing gaming model but bolstered by an interesting contextual twist. The GTI Project: a game that allows people to relive youthful fun by tapping into the nostalgia of learning how to drive. VW built a 30ftx25ft Scalextric racetrack with 200 buildings and people got to drive a miniature GTI remotely through the mobile town. The site has generated over five million page views, an average of eight minutes on the site, 279,500 sites now linking to the microsite.
Take Away – EMOTIONAL DRIVERS such as a story, are mandatory up to the point where they inhibit FUNCTIONALITY or easy engagement. First and foremost, you want people to be able to play your game without investing too much time in understanding “how” to play. More importantly you want your game to trigger and maintain engagement by tapping into EMOTION. WINNER BY TKO – EMOTIONAL DRIVERS
After three battles, we’ve made it through the six variable elements that go into any video game experience. Some of it was pretty obvious but it is equally crucial to understand. I hope some of it was insightful. Let’s move into the next section. In addition to variable elements, there are three characteristics that must be true to all branded video games. Let’s talk them.
Mandatory element number 1 – Rewards. People play video games for two reasons: Intrinsic rewards , meaning that the reward for playing is in and of itself rewarding or pleasurable. I.e. - A player beating their high score. The other reason is for extrinsic reward , meaning that the rewards for playing that come from external sources. I.e. Your scores relative to your friends. You need to include both forms of reward in your advergaming experience.
Reward reinforcement is required and should be intermittent. Meaning gamers keep playing the game in the absence of reinforcement in hopes of obtaining a new skill or reaching a new level that will reveal novel or hidden rewards. This type of reinforcement is extremely rewarding and psychologically engrossing. An excellent example is the Call of Duty series, particularly in multiplayer – there are like a billion accolades you can achieve in that game. In addition to being a form of reward, these accolades also define the persona of an individual’s game play.
Mandatory element number 2 – Social. From a survey: do you ever pass on a link to a friend or challenge them to beat your score? The answer. 58% of women and 67% of men said “yes”. “Success of gaming is due to everyone’s desire to beat their rivals and impress their peers. To experience the thrill of achieving an easily identifiable victory in a world where real life success can be hard to gauge. Social aspects of video gaming have been around long before the advent of social media however it’s more important than ever to have social elements built into your game.” - fancy words and true. Therefore, you need to have SOCIAL baked into your game while also ensuring your game can be baked into social platforms such as Facebook. Ask yourself: how does my game facilitate social connections with other players? How do I make it easy for others to share their experience? How can embed my game where people congregate online?
Mandatory element number 3 – The Marketing Basics. After all, this is project is funded by marketing. Make sure that you remember the basic stuff and keep it broad when it comes targeting. With regards to messaging make it a priority to bake messaging into the gaming experience. In other words, the experience should be the message you’re trying to communicate. That’s it – let’s go over what we talked about really quickly.
A note from the year 2011 - this deck is certainly antiquated and I would encourage all those looking to create a video game to engage an expert in this space. I would also highly encourage you to check out the TED session on Jane McConigal - http://bit.ly/idmcLB All of the source information in this deck can be found at my del.ici.ous library @ http://www.delicious.com/Zach_ary/advergaming Please feel free to contact me @Zach_ary or firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for spending 15 minutes of your life on my work. You can download the presentation version of this deck @ http://bit.ly/adver_game