Market a social game

By Jignesh Jain

Social gaming is one of the fastest growing sectors right now, and there doesn’t appear to be any slowdown in sight. According to a new report from Parks Associates, revenues in the social gaming market will increase fivefold to $5 billion by 2015.

The Parks report attributes this growth to advertising revenues and sales of virtual items or micro-transactions. These two elements were mostly responsible for the over $1 billion in revenues seen last year. There have been big improvements in the way companies are monetizing these social games. While early entrants often missed revenue opportunities, new game play innovations incentivize players to buy virtual items such as virtual tractors, seeds, or rare swords to build status, improve the gaming experience, or gain a competitive edge.

Furthermore, advertising innovations such as branded games, sponsored items, communities, and ‘advertainment’ that enhance, rather than interrupt, a gamers’ experience will also generate new sources of revenues for game publishers.

Gaming on social networks has quickly become the most visible category of online games and is slowly catching up on smartphones as well. Right now, more than 2.5 lakh monthly active users can be found playing top-rated games from Zynga online or Draw Something on their smartphones.

The most powerful asset of social game developers is the quantity of behavioral data that they can obtain from their games.

The ability to measure the efficacy of different gameplay mechanisms, to tweak game design in near-real time, and to test new models are advantages that traditional gaming companies will never have.

Zynga’s huge market share is the best proof of the competitive advantage made possible by properly leveraging consumer data.

So what are the essential factors that would measure the success of a social game?

Choose the right game
If you are a brand and want to leverage social media, building a prolific social game will be the key. Ensuring that the product matches the intricacy of the game is of utmost importance. More interactive scenarios which lead to brand building at each step are the most ideal ways to extract the maximum out of a game.

Identify the target audience
Andrew Dean, Future Trends and Innovation Consultant at Amaze, explains: “Think about your audience and take their demographics and attitudes into consideration. Do not waste your time and money talking to the wrong people at the wrong time, for example, if you were selling cars you would not be talking to 14-year-olds, nor should you be talking to only people who have just purchased a new car.”

Social gaming does open up new challenges for marketers who are keen to target specific demographics. In terms of the people that are playing these games, it is a vast array.

Design the campaign in an innovative pattern
Making users frequently return to play is the key. There should be more to advertising in a social game than just getting gamers to watch an ad. A good campaign could drive interaction with the brand through creative placement, or a built-in area of the game. It should be social, so the brand can see what consumers think of the ad, and act on feedback. And it could drive offline sales through incentives. Then give them a reason to interact with you in the real world—redeemable coupons, or access to exclusive events, for example.

Ensure the reward for the user has value
There needs to be value to the player. McDonald’s rewarded users with a farm that had the McDonald’s logo on it but that also opened up special powers in the game play so that they got 1.5 times the reward as a normal player. So it has to be meaningful to the player.

McDonald’s got a bit of stick for its Farmville strategy, for not giving users enough incentive to take part—a virtual coffee made farmers work at twice the speed, which wasn’t seen as a great benefit. If the users had been rewarded with a coupon for a real coffee, on the other hand, the project might have led to real sales, with McDonald’s able to track the impact of its social gaming through consumer visits.

Encourage viral promotion through the audience
The best way is to get existing users to invite their friends via Facebook or e-mail or any other provision within the game. Encourage this by rewarding the activity.

Utilize synonymous or seasonal releases to compliment the game or product
How cool is it when you are going to watch The Dark Knight Rises and your smartphone is thrilled to have the Batman live wallpaper or even the Batman game where you become the Batman and you save your social friends from evils in the crime-plagued Gotham city! Today even movies, TV shows, daily soaps or any other media or public entertainment resources can be used to complement your game if it’s similar in nature.

Keep it simple
Simplicity is the key to any successful social media campaign, which in turn measures the success of the game. Straight to the point and noticeable elements at various intervals will drive the most prospected audience of all kinds.