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SALT LAKE CITY -- Social media platforms and mobile technology are making gamers out of us all.
In the last couple years, we have seen a trend toward social gaming that no one could have predicted, with Zynga leading the way. Who would have thought that Zynga, a company founded in 2007 that produces simple and sociable games about, for example, *f*arming, could be valued higher than EA Games and Activision, companies that have produced countless games for PCs and consoles for decades?
Millions and millions of people are logging on to Facebook every day just to check in on their current crop of corn and invite others to be their neighbors. Of course, marketers tend to see all this traffic and think: How can I get a portion of that?
Millions and millions of people are logging on to Facebook every day just to check in on their current crop of corn and invite others to be their neighbors.
Marketers will have to be careful here, though, because, like other social media endeavors, if the community feels you are trying to take advantage of them, they will quickly shut you out. Advertising in games is nothing particularly new, but most of it was in the form of a billboard placed next to a race track and summarily dismissed as the player drove by at a good 200 mph. At least you could say it was nonintrusive on the experience. Social media, mobile applications and online gaming are changing all of that, and there is a much finer line to walk.
Social media changed the way companies interact with their market, in part because it gave them the opportunity to finally start understanding their market. Never before has it been so easy to gauge the feelings and reactions of the target market, and never before has there been such an opportunity to engage the customer. This leads us to games as a marketing medium, which are, by nature, about engagement and interaction.
The major difference between social media games and the more traditional sort is that social games (especially the ones with mobile components) don’t usually have an “endgame status.” In other words, there’s no final goal to reach — no Dark Lord to defeat, no world to save and no evil regime to overthrow. There’s just a crop of corn that needs to be dealt with one more time.
It’s not the casual nature of growing corn versus the more hardcore goals of dispatching that Dark Lord that attracts people to social games, though. It’s the system of challenge and reward that keeps millions of people coming back for more.
Marketing to gamers
In-game product placements are, at best, barely noticed and, at worst, an annoyance that immediately reduces the level of immersion the game was trying to achieve. In the latter case, companies will alienate more consumers than they create. In order to make the most of the social and online gaming opportunities, you have to remember that it’s not about the game, it’s about the player.
Social media game players are responding well to that system of challenge and reward because it fills certain needs. If there is no endgame status to achieve, they have to find achievement in some other ways. This could be in the form of status, special access or even more special stuff. If your marketing message can provide one of those three rewards, you’re on your way to building an effective social media game and a better online reputation.
The gaming landscape has changed a lot over the last few years. Now you’re just as likely to see someone playing online games on a phone as you are a specialized gaming laptop, and this means that marketers can engage more people in more places. And if they do it right, there’s a huge opportunity to engage and communicate with your target market.