YAMAHA MOTOR SOLUTIONS INDIA Pvt. LTD. Online Gaming – YMI Website
What the Client Wants
I hear games are a good way to make my site sticky.
I do not want games that are inappropriate or too costly. What do you recommend?
These days, I get a lot of calls like this. As a game designer, my job now is to not only design good games, but to design games that serve specific business needs — like to keep people coming back every week, or to explain product features.
A New Kind of Client
Not a gaming company
No gaming expertise
No gaming infrastructure
Games are a means to an end
And I have to deal with a new type of client. They’re not a gaming company. They don’t having gaming expertise or infrastructure, so I often need to educate them about the basics of games. Most importantly, they view games as a means to an end, not an end in itself. So I have to understand their goals before I design the game.
An Old Kind of Client Web games are a recent phenomenon, but games in service of business are nothing new. Crossword puzzles in newspapers increase reader loyalty by providing daily amusement. Contests under bottle caps boost sales by promising a chance to win prizes. Trivia quizzes in movie theaters keep customers entertained while waiting for a movie. The puzzle above promotes Symington’s soups. The goal is to stack the four blocks so that each face of the column shows all four soup labels. The puzzle was invented and patented in 1900. A later independent incarnation of this puzzle was marketed by Parker Brothers in the 1960s as the hit game Instant Insanity. This game has a lot of the same virtues as web games: for a small price you can give the customer an engaging memorable experience they will want to share with friends.
What is a Web Game?
Questions to Ask
Reasons for Web Games
Tips for Web Game Developers
In this talk I will talk about what is a web game, the questions you should ask your clients in order to analyze their business needs, examples of the sorts of games that work best for particular business needs, and how to build a business developing web games.
Played in a Web Browser
Without big downloads
Built in Java, Shockwave, Flash
Usually simple, familiar games
For Casual Gamers
Young males with
Who will pay for
Deep and complex
Fast action games
CASUAL GAMERS All ages, male & female With low-end computers Who want free Quick and simple Familiar turn-based games Casual gamers want a fundamentally different gaming experience from the audience for traditional computer games. Note that most of the features that traditional gamers crave, such as high-end 3-d graphics, get in the way of the casual gaming experience.
1. What is the purpose?
The purpose of the game…
Should support the site purpose…
Should support the business purpose
TIP: You may have to clarify the purpose
Ask about purpose. Ideally the game should support the site’s purpose, which in turn should support the purpose of the business. When the purpose changes, the game should change. Often clients are not clear on the purpose of the game, and you have to help them define it.
4. How will you judge success?
Page views, unique visitors
Sales transactions, letters to the editor
Over what period of time
TIP: Build tracking into the game
It is important to know up front how the success of your game will be judged. It might be judged on page views, number of unique visitors, numbers of sales completed, or number of letters to the editor. You also want to know over what period of time the game will be judged. If you know the criterion for success, you can often build automatic tracking into the game. Whatever the goal, be sure the success of the game visible to the client. I made the NewMedia puzzle be a contest every month so that the magazine would receive hundreds of letters, making it obvious to the magazine staff that people were reading the puzzle.
Adobe: Track Page Hits The Adobe Puzzle was divided into several pages. Here is the page that appears when you solve the puzzle. The Adobe site already kept count of how many unique visitors saw each page — we didn’t have to build any special tracking technology. By counting who reached which page, we could track how many players started the puzzle, and how many finished it.
5. What is the technology?
Platform: computer, PDA, cell phone
Programming: Java, Shockwave, Flash
Server: CGI scripting, database, posting
TIP: low-tech is good
Now let’s look at the practical considerations in building a game. First is technology. Different platforms offer different input and output devices, which work best with different sort of games. For instance, PDAs have pen input, which work best with games played by clicking on large objects. Technology includes not only client side browser technology, but also server side technology like databases. Traditional computer games often push the technology envelope, but on the web lower technology is often better, because it reaches more people.
6. Who will build it?
What skills are needed?
In house or out of house?
Buy syndicated content or build?
TIP: Coordinate your team
Of course you have to make sure you have people with the right skills to build the game. But you don’t have to do it all in-house. You can outsource the work, or buy pre-built content from a content syndication firm. Many syndicators will customize their games for a small incremental charge. Working with outside firms can save money, but only if the costs of coordinating the production and maintenance of the game are not too high.
7. How much will it cost?
Cost of building the game
Cost of maintaining the game
TIP: build with templates to reduce maintenance
Of course budget is a major constraint. Keep in mind that there are two costs: building the game, and maintaining the game over time. It often pays to spend more money up front building reusable game templates, in order to reduce ongoing maintenance costs.
8. How will it be maintained?
Fixing bugs, supporting new technology
Posting high scores, awarding prizes
Adding new content
TIP: Start small, roll out over time
Often maintenance costs are higher than building costs, which can come as a surprise to companies accustomed to shipping products. Maintenance costs include bug fixes, posting high scores, awarding prizes, managing community, and adding periodic new content. As with all internet software projects, it is often good to start by building a small inexpensive core game, see how players respond, then growing the game over time. This reduces the chance that you will build something that you can’t maintain.
9. Do you even need a game?
GOAL ALTERNATIVES TO GAMES
Viral Email games, greeting cards
Friendly Jokes, cartoons, stories
Creative Open-ended tools & toys
Practical Timely useful information
One last question: do you even need a game? We’re game developers, so we’re in the business of selling game services. But games aren’t always the best solution to business needs. Sometimes I can serve my clients needs best by recommending something other than a game.
Summary: Questions to Ask
4. Judging success?
9. And…do you even need a game?
MEANS 5. Technology? 6. Staff? 7. Budget? 8. Maintenance?
Reason 1. Attract Attention iwon.com Contests are a great way to attract attention to a site. When you visit the portal site iwon, you see this screen. The more often you visit, the better your chances of winning. Through this simple gimmick iwon has come within striking distance of market leader Yahoo!
Reason 1. Attract Attention espn.com
Here is a similar contest on ESPN, the market leader in sports sites. Each day you get a different random set of three player cards. Depending on how well your players play that day, you get some number of points. Outstanding features of this game:
You don’t have to do anything at all to play
It rewards frequent visits
It is well tuned to the interests of its audience
It makes use of an existing database of player photos and statistics already owned by ESPN
Reason 1. Attract Attention
For instance: Lotteries, skill games, creative contests
Contests create buzz
Get people to register
Can be themed to match a site
To summarize: Contests can be simple lotteries that you enter by just showing up, like iWon and espn, or they can be more complex games of skill. Note that lotteries are illegal in many places; games of skill and creative contests get around this restriction.
Games create buzz that attracts people to the site.
Games are a good way to get people to register for a site: the chance of winning a prize is an effective way to dissolve a person’s resistance to divulging private information. A
And finally, contests can be dressed to match the theme of the site.
Reason 2. Draw Repeat Visits uclick.com Newspapers use syndicated daily comics and crossword puzzles as a way to keep people coming back for more. In a Gallop poll, more than 25% of the American public reported having played a crossword puzzle in the last month, making it the most popular indoor sport. The Universal Crossword by Tim Parker is the most widely syndicated crossword puzzle on the web, with millions of players daily.
Reason 2. Draw Repeat Visits sarbakan.com Mr. Snoozleberg, by Sarbakan.com, is an innovative web game that includes a simple but compelling storyline. Such a game could be presented in weekly installments. The animation production costs for a game like this are relatively low, compared with the cost of producing a fully animated movie such as Mondo Minishows.
Reason 2. Draw Repeat Visits
For instance: crossword, jumble, chess puzzle, jigsaw
Fixed format, varying content
Preview of next day, answers, winners
Ratings, high score, continuing story
To summarize: Daily puzzles such as those in newspapers are a good way to draw repeat visitors.
All daily puzzles feature a fixed format with varying content. The fixed format makes the puzzle easier to produce, and makes it easy for readers to develop a daily habit of playing the puzzle.
Some puzzles link puzzles from day to day by delaying the answer to today’s puzzle till tomorrow, by giving a preview of the next puzzle, or by announcing contets winners the next day.
Other ways to increase the stickiness of a daily game on the web include player ratings, high score boards, and a continuing storyline.
Reason 3. Retain Visitors lycos.com Big portal sites like Yahoo!, AOL and Lycos offer games for the same reason that shopping malls have game arcades — to give customers everything they want in one place. Why let your customers escape to another site if you can offer everything they want in one place?
Reason 3. Retain Visitors
For instance: card games, board games, bingo, puzzles, arcade games
Include what is expected
Themed to the site
With a few standout custom games
One-stop shopping game areas should strive to offer a wide variety of games that cover what the customer expects, which typically includes card games, board games, gambling games and simple arcade games.
For the most part the games can and should be generic.
But even if gameplay is generic, the look can still be customized. Las Vegas casinos use this trick: same games, different environment.
It’s probably worth including a few unique games that make your gaming area special, otherwise there is nothing stopping people from going to other portal gaming areas.
Reason 4. Distraction mondomedia.com Heavy Metal Guy is a humorous 5-minute animated show produced by Mondo Media. New episodes appear regularly on sites such as Netscape and iwon. Because episodes can run as much as a megabyte each, each show begins by giving the viewer the option to play a game while the rest of the show downloads. Such a game is called a “download game.”
Reason 4. Distraction The download game for Heavy Metal Guy is based on the musical memory game Simon, with the title character making appropriate noises and gestures. In general it’s good to dress a download game in the style of the content. Like Disneyland’s elaborate pre-show exhibits that you see while waiting in line, a download game should be part of the experience of the main show, not merely a time-waster.
Reason 4. Distraction When the show has loaded, the player is given the option of launching the show. In general it is a good idea to let the player control when the game ends, instead of automatically launching the rest of the show.
Reason 5. Teach newmedia.com Web games can teach concepts. This game teaches the concept of color mixture — an important skill for visual designers on the web. I designed this puzzle for my monthly puzzle on newmedia.com. After ten years of creating puzzles for NewMedia I found that I could make games to teach almost any concept.
Reason 5. Teach
For instance: drill, simulation, walkthrough
For education or corporate training
For marketing or consumer awareness
Expected on kid sites
Teaching games include conventional drill and practice, simulations, and walkthroughs that step you through a process.
Teaching games can be used in educational settings such as schools or corporate training…
As well as for marketing products or creating consumer awareness of an idea. For instance, an ecology site might want a rainforest game.
Although somewhat unusual on adult sites, teaching games are de rigueur on kid sites.
Reason 6. Brand Marketing candystand.com Candystand is a web site aimed at kids that promotes Nabisco’s many brands of candy.
Reason 6. Brand Marketing candystand.com Here the donut-shaped Lifesavers candies form the holes for a game of ski ball. Since it is not appropriate to sell candy to kids on a web site, Candystand instead creates positive associations with its brand names by incorporating the products into familiar arcade games.
Reason 6. Brand Marketing mentalworkout.com Here is a completely different example of brand marketing. I recently designed puzzles an ad campaign entirely built around puzzle solving. The client is the business consulting firm Cambridge Technology Partners, and the goal is to recruit new employees.
Reason 6. Brand Marketing mentalworkout.com The print ads point to a web site called mentalworkout.com, which has interactive puzzles like this. Here, the goal is to arrange the tiles so all lines connect all the way across the board, both horizontally and vertically. Players can post high scores and win prizes.
Reason 6. Brand Marketing
For instance: jigsaw puzzle with logo, driving simulation
Goal is to promote a brand
Not to sell a product
By using the logo, product or idea in a game
Brand games can be as generic as a jigsaw puzzle using a company logo, or as specific as a driving simulation for a Seadoo jet ski vehicle.
The goal in brand marketing is to create positive awareness of a brand, not to actually sell a product.
In some cases there is no product to sell. For instance, oil companies create ads that portray themselves as environmentally friendly. In other cases the product is not appropriate to sell on the internet, or the web site does not want to preempt sales in physical stores.
In all cases the idea is to build a game in which the brand is part of the game itself.
Reason 7. Product Marketing shufflebrain.com Computer game publishers often put demoes on the web to help sell games. Here is a web game I created to help sell the CD-ROM game Obsidian, which I also worked on. I didn’t use actual puzzles from the game because they would have been too big, and given away too much of the game. So instead I created original puzzles using art and themes from the game. In this puzzle the challenge is to unscramble a poem that occurs at a critical point in the game. The game originally appeared on segasoft.com; you can play it at shufflebrain.com.
Reason 7. Product Marketing gamelet.com Gamelet.com built this game for Proctor & Gamble to promote Cascade Complete, a dishwasher detergent that lets you avoid prewashing. The goal is to juggle the dishes. The Cascade box is a powerup. When you catch it, all dishes are suddenly put away clean. Through this imaginative dramatization, the game communicates the idea that Cascade Complete lets you “skip the sink”.
Reason 7. Product Marketing
For instance: demos of computer games, automobile web sites
Excerpt of a product
Simulation of a product
Web games can help sell many types of products. Besides demoes on computer game sites, automobile sites often include games.In general, a game can help sell a product by
Letting the customer experience it directly (in the case of products that can be delivered online)
Simulating the experience of a product.
Or by explaining how it works.
Reason 8. Viral marketing battlemail.com Marketing people all know that word of mouth is the most effective form of advertising. No wonder there is so much buzz about “viral marketing”. The web site battlemail promotes itself to advertisers as a potent form of viral marketing. Not only are customers likely to infect friends with the virus, the messages are highly targeted, based on the types of people that like particular types of games.
Reason 8. Viral marketing
For instance: email games, screensaver games, greeting cards with games
Make it fun
Make it personal
Make it easy to send
Besides email games, other possible types of viral games include screensaver games and greeting cards with games. To make a game that people will want to send to their friends, be sure it is fun, personal, and easy to send.
Reason 9. Brand Extension station.sony.com Jeopardy! is one of the most popular syndicated TV game shows, second only to its cousin Wheel of Fortune. Dozens of versions exist, extended into every possible medium. To make sure the internet generation keeps watching the show, parent company Sony created the Sony Station web site, with spiffy new online versions of its game shows. Note the co-branded versions of Jeopardy with VH-1 and ESPN.
Reason 9. Brand Extension
For instance: TV game shows, board games, newspaper puzzles
Faithful to the original brand
But also appropriate to the medium
Be willing to take poetic license
Besides TV shows, board game manufacturers like Hasbro and newspaper puzzles like the New York Times also have web extensions.
A web game extension of a game from another medium should be faithful to the old brand, yet appropriate to the new medium.
Be willing to alter details of the game to fit the web. For instance, TV Jeopardy! requires contestant to speak their responses, whereas web Jeopardy! has contestants choose responses from a list. This changes the game strategy a bit, but keeps the game show pace moving.
Summary: Reasons for Games
5. Teach 6. Brand marketing 7. Product marketing 8. Viral marketing 9. Brand extension Here is the a summary of the nine reasons for putting a game on a nongame web site. The first four reasons involve manipulating the customer’s attention, while the remaining five reasons have to do with communicating a message.
Tip 4. Customizable Templates shockwave.com Most puzzles in newspapers use the same form every day with changing content. By building a puzzle on a re-usable template, you can shorten production time, make it easy offer cheap semi-custom puzzles, and streamline production of a periodic feature. An example of a template-driven puzzle is Jim Collins’ jigsaw puzzle on shockwave.com and uclick.com. Drop in a new picture and voila, a new puzzle. Not only is life easy for the puzzle creator, he can offer the tools to end-users to build their own puzzles.
Tip 5. Levels of Customization clevermedia.com Web game developer Clevermedia created Speed Snack for the Planet Lunch web site eploids.com by dropping custom graphics into an existing game engine. By using such engines, CleverMedia can customize games for low incremental fees. In general it is good to offer a range of customization options, from free generic games, to expensive completely custom games. Ezone offers some of its games for free, even giving away the HTML on their site. Tim Parker creates a widely syndicated crossword puzzle. Pay a bit more and you can get a custom crossword puzzle for your site. By offering both generic and custom games, you lower customer resistance, and give customers a gradual migration path toward more expensive options.
Web Games that make Business Sense The web is a new frontier for game developers. It is too early to say which strategies will succeed. But whatever happens, the winners will be the companies that build web games that make business sense.