Marketing And Branding in Social Gaming

Social Marketing : Social Gaming

My college programming professor always used to say that computer games were a complete waste of time and if you had spare moments, he expected you would use them to practice your coding. It was only after I graduated that I found out he was a big player of Sid Meyer’s Civilization. I wasn’t so much shocked as I was reassured that gaming is something even the most serious minded engage in.

I’m not surprised that social gaming has taken off as it has. Facebook games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars allow one to interact and gain status within a community governed by rules which everyone (well almost everyone) abides by. Games allow for interaction while reassuring us that everyone is being guided by the same rules as we are.

In the year of social media (2010) we also saw social gaming burst forth with huge numbers of people playing. Since the first online gaming networks came along in the late nineties, producers have struggled with revenue models. While subscription seemed to be the obvious way to go, some producers decided rather quickly that a free play model offering people the option to buy items was a better way. Many online RPGs (Role Playing Games) have adopted this kind of model.

eMarketer isn’t playing around when they predict that social gaming revenues will surpass $1 billion this year. When you notice that your local convenience store now carries FarmVille gift cards, you realize something is catching on.

According to eMarketer, 61.9 million people will play social games this year, representing 27% of US internet users and that will rise to 29% by 2012. Certainly the growth has been impressive, even staggering, but social gaming isn’t new. It has a history going back to the old BBS and IRC days. The difference today (aside from the graphics) is that you can generate revenue and use it as a marketing channel.

eMarketer is being understandably cautious in their growth predictions for social gaming in the next year. However, all it takes are a couple of great titles to bring more people into the gaming community on Facebook and other portals. As well, let’s not forget smartphone “augmented reality” games. For example, how would you like to battle Tie Fighters while zipping around actual buildings and such?  The branding potential here is right off the charts – did I hear someone mention AR billboards?

OK so AR games are not really social are they? Or are they? When social, smartphones and AR meet, there is going to be an explosion of these kinds of games. Who wants to play boring old tag anymore when you can have a real AR game of Pac Man in the park?

eMarketer makes several suggestions about how you can take advantage of social gaming with smart branding:

  • Integrate your brand into an existing game through virtual goods.
  • Use display ads or sponsorships in an existing game.
  • Create a hybrid campaign that combines elements of these branding approaches.
  • Develop your own game.
  • Participate in an offer wall.

eMarketer is offering a full report on social gaming titled: Social Gaming: Marketers Make Their Move