You have more than likely played video games in the past and probably the present too. We, as human beings love to play games, and global brands have been entertaining their audiences with games since the 80’s.
But the industry has moved on a fair bit since then, it’s not just big brands with deep pockets that can make the most of this games boom, marketing departments of all shapes and sizes can and should get involved.
This blog will arm you with everything you need to know about the current state of the games market and will offer some insight into why so many of us are playing games and why you should be incorporating branded games into your marketing and engagement strategy.
So let’s get started…
Who’s playing games and why?!
We know that people love to play games – in fact 2.2 billion people play video games worldwide.
The global games market is worth $137.9 billion, with a 13% increase year on year.
The growth of the market has increased dramatically since the rise in popularity of the smartphone.
If we look back, it took 35 years for the global games market to creep its way up slowly to reach a consumer spend figure of $35 billion in 2007, the year the first iPhone was launched.
In the 10 years following that significant Steve Jobs press conference, that consumer spend figure has increased by $100 billion !
So there is no denying that the shift in modern day technology is one of the biggest contributing factors for this exponential growth.
What does a gamer look like?
The accessibility of games has also diversified the audience. No longer the privilege of teenage boys, the make-up of ‘video-gamers’ is now much more balanced.
48% of the UK’s 32.4 million gamers are WOMEN (say whaaat?) Yup.
Plus half of those are over 40,
and a quarter are over 56 years old.
So chances are your audience are playing games too, whether you’re marketing to a B2C or B2B audience.
We are all human and a whole heap of us are playing games.
So it turns out we love games.
We’ve established games are more accessible than ever, but why do we love to play games? Here’s the brain bit…
Let’s start with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which goes someway to explaining the psychology behind what we get from playing games.
The 5 tiers of needs start with the basic human needs, working up to the last tier of fulfilment and achieving our full potential as human beings.
Maslow’s theory concludes that only when the basic needs are fulfilled, can we move up the hierarchy and focus on the higher growth needs.
Rewarding good behaviour
Evolution made sure we listened to our needs – our brains have developed reward areas that release dopamine to give us those pleasant feelings that serve to reinforce healthy behaviour, encouraging us to repeat those behaviours for another hit of the good feels!
In relation to the basic needs, those rewards are simple. If you’re thirsty – you drink, your brain then thanks you by releasing dopamine. But when we look at the higher needs based on our psychological, rather than our physiological needs, things get a bit more complicated. It is a brain after all! But ultimately, as long as we feel we are doing the right thing for the right reasons and getting good results from these efforts, we’ll get our dopamine fix.
We seek the dopamine hit and its pleasing effect in everything we do. And games are a prime example of ticking off a lot of those higher needs.
Working our way through levels, unlocking exclusive items, collecting points etc. all create a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Games often have a competitive element where you must defeat opponents, or race around the track in the fastest time or score the most goals. Having a prominent and public leaderboard feeds into both our competitive natures and satisfies our sense of achievement too.
Creating an alternate reality, a make-believe world that breaks the constraints of real life, gives us huge pleasure in seeking abilities and traits that are beyond our normal life.
Creating communities and socializing, while working towards a common goal unlocks our need of belonging to a tribe or group and touches upon the psychological need for affirmation and comradery.
If you include some or all of these elements into a game you’re generally onto a winner. But most important of all people play games because they are fun. If the game isn’t fun or doesn’t meet these needs, people simply won’t play.
Branded Games and Marketing
With all that in mind it’s no surprise that brands are using games to create positive and lasting connections with their audiences.
In an ‘always-on’ and ‘plugged-in’ world, where consumers risk being overwhelmed by marketing messages, products and advertising, brands need to entertain and engage their audience with something that is relevant to their lives. Something that offers a sense of achievement, community, cooperation and fun to cut through the noise and go some way to creating brand affinity and loyalty.
But what can YOU as a brand, as a marketer, expect from a game?
- Measured Engagement
Average engagement figures of between 10 and 40 minutes per player are the norm when it comes to branded games. However, it can even be more – one of our clients ran a game with a daily competition throughout December and saw per player engagement in excess of 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Games are great way of building communities, with players sharing tips on game-play, sharing their scores and engaging with the brand in a positive way on social media. With the inclusion of leaderboards and sharing functionality, you can help your audience spread the word with their friends and networks, creating online brand ambassadors from top players.
- Sales generation
Games can generate revenue too, with links to special offers or promotions that are unlocked only from collecting enough coins, or finding a specific item in the game. These exclusive items give a real reason to play and rewards players for their persistence and re-engagement, whilst driving traffic back to the website to redeem a ‘25% off offer’ or a ‘buy one get one free’ offer, for example.
Using this unlocking mechanic worked well for DFDS with their European Tour game delivering a company-wide record ROI.
- Permission based data capture
Games can also be used as a way of capturing data through a leaderboard based competition. Brands need to offer relevant and engaging content to ensure compliant, permission based opt-ins to marketing databases. If you can make that process fun and positive you’re more likely to gain quality data and leads.
It’s also a good way to get a better understanding of who your audience is from a closed platform like an app by capturing their details.
One example saw a retail brand deploy a game within their app. From 56,521 players who played the game, 29,698 submitted a score and out of those who submitted a score 19,122 opted-in to marketing, which equates to a 64% opt-in rate.
- Stand out from the crowd
Branded games are a great way to increase footfall to your stand. Having a branded arcade machine or an iPad running a competition offers something interactive and fun on an exhibition floor to help you cut through the noise and be memorable when following up post show.
Those are five pretty compelling reasons why more and more brands are using games in their marketing, the can offer engagement beyond lots of other forms of digital marketing, they can help you create a community of loyal ambassadors, not to mention drive web traffic and sales.
Having said all that, we’d like to leave you with one final thought…
It’s not about you
Sorry, a little harsh?
We understand that you have objectives and that your brand and messaging need to be represented within a game, otherwise what’s the point, right? BUT, make sure that you’re thinking of the player’s experience too. If your branding is getting in the way of game-play, you run the risk of it having a negative impact.
If your brand and messaging is the primary focus of your game, rather than the player and their needs, chances are it isn’t going to be that fun to play.
If you’re commissioning a bespoke game, make sure that good game-play principles are at the forefront of the brief. If you’re tailoring a white-label game that already exists, be sure to demo it first. Play it for yourself and check it’s been proven to be fun and has a good balance between brand integration and game-play.
It’s a balancing act, but one that any good games studio will be able to help you navigate. If done right, branded games can offer huge rewards and could be a marketing game-changer.