Nielsen says people are spending more time online playing games
than sending email – bringing new meaning to the phrase
“everyone is a gamer.” How can marketers use the increase in gameplay to their advantage? For e-tailers, the goal should be to add
gaming elements to the purchase process, also called “gamification.”
That can be as simple as advertising in and around games, or as complex
as revamping an entire Web site to include badges, points and
If it sounds like too much work, read on from some stats from Interpret
that prove why gamers may be an e-tailer’s most coveted target
Charles Hudson is an expert on all things social gaming related, producing technology conferences focused on the intersection of gaming and social media, including the Virtual Goods Summit and the Social Gaming Summit. He's also currently working on a series of research reports on the virtual goods market, published at Inside Virtual Goods.
Prior to this, Charles was involved with various social gaming companies and start-ups, including Serious Business, a leading producer of social games for the social web (acquired by Zynga earlier this year) and Gaia Online, a leading online hangout for teens and young adults.
I interviewed Charles to find out more about social gaming, including the challenges and opportunities for businesses, and why marketers should be engaging with consumers on this channel.
In-game advertising is nothing new. From automotive giant Jeep advertising in Tomb Raider in 2007 (image below) to FarmVille based incentives from Bing this month.
The question is; how does it work? Have companies and game providers cracked the method of getting into our psyches to get us to do what they want?
(Image courtesy of Double Fusion)
Thanks to the rise of massive social networks, namely Facebook, and a
multi-billion dollar virtual currency market, social gaming has become
one of the hottest spaces on the consumer internet.
But there's another reason social gaming is so hot: it is putting the
'casual' back into the concept of 'casual gaming'. Through social games
like Farmville and Mafia Wars, millions upon millions of non-gamers
have become gamers. In the process, social games are potentially
reshaping the gaming industry more broadly.
Social gaming is the driving force behind the billion-dollar virtual currency market. Popular social games on Facebook such as Farmville and Mafia Wars have turned startups like Zynga into IPO candidates, and have led to an ecosystem of companies that have come up with alternative ways for consumers to pay for digital goods online.
But for social game developers, building social games that have staying popular looks like it may be a challenge. As reported by Inside Social Games, the past two months have been particularly difficult for some of Facebook's most popular games. In April, over half of the top 25 games, as tracked by Inside Social
Games, lost users. And the drops intensified this past month.
Facebook has sat by and watched as prominent application developers
have made millions upon millions of dollars on its platform, primarily
through virtual currency. Not surprisingly, Facebook wants a piece of
the action and is moving to take a piece of the action.
But that may not be so easy if the results of early deal making efforts
are any indication. Application developer Zynga, which operates some of
the most popular social gaming apps on Facebook, including Farmville
and Mafia Wars, may leave Facebook and set up its own gaming social
network after negotiations with Facebook over the use of Facebook's
upcoming universal payments and credits system reportedly fell apart.
Despite the controversy over the use of CPA offers in the virtual goods market, the business of offers continues to grow.
In an effort to innovate and differentiate itself, relative newcomer gWallet is combining offers with online video. With success, it claims.
The app economy generates big bucks for Facebook's most prolific developers. Thanks in large part to virtual goods, the companies which develop some of Facebook's most popular apps are reportedly pulling in over $100m/year individually.
But what's good for Facebook's app developers isn't necessarily good for Facebook's users. App developers are understandably willing to go as far as Facebook will allow them to in their quest to acquire more users and generate more revenue.
If you had to guess what the most popular Facebook app on Facebook is, chances are you're not thinking that it has anything to do with fruits, vegetables and cows. But you'd be very wrong. What is the most popular app on Facebook? FarmVille.
As the name suggests, FarmVille is a game that gives users the ability to "grow delicious fruits and vegetables and raise adorable animals" on their own virtual farms. With nearly 35m active monthly users and 12m active daily users, FarmVille has just about grown itself into the most popular Facebook application ever. When FarmVille surpasses 35,554,755 active monthly users, it will surpass the record set by the How Well Do You Know Me? application.
As social media grows more and more prominent and social media services like Twitter attract more and more mainstream attention, it's worth keeping a hefty dose of perspective and reminding ourselves that throwing 'social' in front of a business doesn't guarantee success.
That's exactly what UK-based startup Pikum tried to do with its 'social gaming' service that tried to put a social twist on betting.