In recent years, we have seen the advent of more and more apps and social games in the digital space. The number of social gamers is also increasing at a steep rate, which has led brand custodians to start targeting these masses in the virtual space. Utilizing innovative approaches and the necessary technology support, the brands are now trying to build their customer bases on these interactive environments, shifting the focus from the people who are only on their fan pages.
Growth in the Social Gaming market – a look at other markets
Social games are getting more popular with the platform expanding from the digital to the mobile space now. As per a survey by Newzoo, there were 87.3 million ‘social gamers’ in the U.S. as of July 2010.
The U.S social games’ revenue (from a study by eMarketer) showed considerable growth in 2010 and has been predicted to reach $ 1 billion this year.Of the total revenue of $856 million in 2010, about 26.3% came from lead generation, that is from the brand giving away virtual rewards in return of free subscriptions, short consumer surveys, etc.
This growth however is not only a U.S phenomenon. Asian countries have also seen an ascent in the number of regional social games. As per AppData, amongst the highest played social games for the last week, two are Asian (Japanese and Thai) games programmed in their regional languages.
In Asia, Japan is rapidly emerging with social networks, as well as social gaming. Between July and September 2010, the most popular social communities DeNA and GREE reported net sales of ¥27.1 billion and ¥12.4 billion respectively, an increase of 216% and 82% year over year. DeNA’s social games represented 79.0% of the total sales. This includes virtual item billing, affiliate ads , in-game ads and paid avatars, which indicates a great deal of spending by the brands on social games.
Brand Engagement through Social Games
While the divide between the real and virtual engagement has always been a matter of concern for marketers, the recent initiatives taken by the brands and new ways to engage with people in social games have sorted that out.
- The usual in-game advertising that is placing a banner or billboard in a game and getting visibility is the most widely accepted way for promoting brands in games. Marketers in the U.S are expected to spend $192 million to advertise on social networking games, a rise of 60% from last year.
- Offering virtual branded gifts in games for free or at discount rates is a relatively new way of engaging. Brands can inform people about the real life discounts through this, and also create a perception for the brand in people’s mind using the context of the game. For instance, a real estate firm can use Cityville for engaging with people who are building properties in the game.
- Marketers can now conduct activities like research or direct promotions in the game space by using the so-called Offer wall. These are obstacles in the flow of the game that ask players to perform tasks in exchange for virtual game currencies or real life offers. The people participate in short surveys or they watch a promotional video in the game for getting small time benefits.
- Merging reality with games through deals is another way of engaging. Zynga and the agricultural products company Green Giant came up with an idea of driving sales through a Farmville-based promotion.
- Being located in the game is also one of the ways to gain attention. Last November, Old Navy took an initiative to tell gamers about the promotions for Black Friday. They set up a store within Crowdstar game “It Girl”. People entered the store; checked out details of the offers and products available. And then find the exact items from a real Old Navy store.
- Another huge opportunity for marketers has come in the form of Location-based Gaming. A classic instance of this practice is the Coca Cola Fairy case. For the Coca Cola’s “Open Happiness” campaign, the concept of “Coke Machine Fairy” was launched on the location badging service Foursquare. The objective was to spot the Coke vending machines in Sydney, Australia by creating contests around them.
- The usual “Badges” on Foursquare are highly successful example of gamification translating to powerful brand loyalty mechanisms. Badges like “Mayor” for highest number of check-ins or “Gym Rat” for hitting the gym ten times in thirty days, gives alert to marketers notifying where people are going, the intensity of visits, which can act as a simple kind of loyalty monitoring tool and might be used to plan the engagement schemes basis those.
Social Gaming in India
While the Indian social gaming industry is growing, the monetization opportunities are still in the formative stage. Zynga’a India wing is trying to create a more feasible payment platforms for its gamers by bringing retail prepaid game cards, internet banking and mobile payments.
Though social gaming hasn’t been widely picked up by Indian brands, brands like NDTV Imagine, HUL, Mahindra & Mahindra, USL , Hewlett Packard, Reebok and others have already started their run on gaming portals.
Look forward to see more action in the Indian social gaming space this year.