The Company Game Experiment
Here at the New Normal Group, we wholeheartedly embrace the definition of “The New Normal”. That is, being something previously abnormal that is now the standard. This often leads us to hire individuals who are specialized in skill sets that you wouldn’t normally find in our types of companies. As a result these companies are given some unique but very cool jobs! This is where the “Company Game” experiment comes in.
The Big Idea
After finishing Bill Kill, a gamified banking app that promotes fun and healthy budgeting practices to teens, we had an in-house game designer (Hi, that’s me!) open to apply gamification and game design theories to our products. We held a meeting and came up with an idea of creating a fun little game using all of our company brands within the New Normal Group. The goal is to simply provide something fun to put on our website that our visitors can enjoy.
This game is geared to show that we aren’t a bunch of suits trying to take your money, because honestly, we are far from that! We’re willing to spend our own time and money to develop and create fun ideas or products just for the sake of exploring new things and for everyone’s entertainment! It also does service as an ad for all of our businesses involved in a non-intrusive way through a bit of immersion.
We had no interest in shoveling ads promoting our products or companies down the throats of our player base, but we saw that we had a lot of content to work with if the game’s mythos and universe used the material our companies owned. I knew that if I was the player I’d be turned off the game if it was just one big ad directed towards me, so I wanted to make sure that the gameplay takes center stage. That is when a discovery came about by accident, the players were both playing as characters and within worlds based on our brands, which in turn caused them to speak about our companies’ intellectual properties in a very positive light, even if it wasn’t specifically about their products.
I have realised that these people have been returning to play the game, again and again, giving them positive experiences, memories, and stories with our brands that they felt compelled to talk about with others. For video games is this very normal, fandoms and communities are built by people grouping up around commonly enjoyed media all the time. The part that struck me as this was something new (or at least something additional) to the normal was that these brands are not part of the entertainment industry, at the end of the day they’re still businesses with products and services to provide but now they’re also the subject of a lot of positivity! I can only imagine how this can serve as a better advertisement than most ads that are often seen and then quickly forgotten or just flat out ignored. It is almost like how the Super Bowl commercials are always trying to be dramatic and funny to be the subject of discussion long after the commercial has ended, whether or not it even served to explain anything about their product. Essentially making our players unintentional walking talking advertisers for us.
The Advergame Challenge: Surviving Marketing
As much as this has been an unintentional eye opening experience for me, using games as advertisements isn’t anything new, in fact, these games have a name, “Advergames”. The thing is, they rarely get any positive attention because they’re mostly horrible games! Since usually the primary focus of these games are just to be an advertisement, the companies behind them either don’t care if they’re terrible games or don’t understand what it takes to create a good gaming experience. Unfortunately for anyone attempting advergaming, the odds are stacked against you. Sticking marketing into a game is practically a lethal injection to any entertaining qualities the game might have had. Those who want to create an advergame must have an additional objective and that is to have your game survive the marketing that will be put in.More Ad Than Game - Again, companies often don’t want the risks and time involved in making a proper game and instead build the game like an ad. Companies need to understand that if the game isn’t fun, this is a failed advertisement! Build and test game prototypes first, then explore and develop concepts that were the most fun. After that, you can find where you can place your intellectual properties within. Try to immerse them in your properties without ever stealing the focus away from the game. It might sound counter productive but allow your advertisements to be secondary and the game to be the main focus. The players aren’t playing the game FOR your advertisement, they’re playing it for the game.
Without getting into too much detail, here are a few examples of how marketing harms a game:
- Breaking Immersion - No matter if your game is Tetris or an epic story driven RPG, there is always a level of immersion that is required to take the game to the next level of enjoyment. Even if it is just a simple theming of the art, audio, and in-game vocabulary. Mentioning real world companies and products will pull the player out of their immersion and break their suspension of disbelief, which often ruins the experience.
- Lack of Innovation - One thing that has always been key to making a great game is innovating. When a genre or formula becomes stale, innovation is an absolute requirement in producing a successful new title in that genre or a sequel. Without innovation the game will not hold player attention for as long as the games that came before it did. Companies who want to create a game just to advertise commonly avoid hiring game developers and will hire the cheapest programmers who will do the bare minimum to call their product a game. This is why a lot of advergames are exact copy and paste clones of other games or phone apps and lack any innovation of their own.
- More Ad Than Game - Again, companies often don’t want the risks and time involved in making a proper game and instead build the game like an ad. Companies need to understand that if the game isn’t fun, this is a failed advertisement! Build and test game prototypes first, then explore and develop concepts that were the most fun. After that, you can find where you can place your intellectual properties within. Try to immerse them in your properties without ever stealing the focus away from the game. It might sound counter productive but allow your advertisements to be secondary and the game to be the main focus. The players aren’t playing the game FOR your advertisement, they’re playing it for the game.
But… Is It Worth It?
Making a good game is hard. Making a good game that doubles as an advertisement is even harder. Even the best game developers make bad games now and again because games are entertainment and creating good entertainment is more art than science. There is no winning formula to follow to create a good game. The risks, testing, and development that is vital to increase your chances at developing a successful game may or may not actually be worth it in the end for advertisers.
Even our “Company Game” is still unreleased and being developed at this time, so it is definitely too soon to make any claims of what real worth a Company Game might bring. So join me in this experiment by staying tuned to these blogs, as I will be posting new information every step of the way, explaining more about what I mean by “Immersive Advertising”, as well as including the actual data that follows from the game’s release! I hope to make the information clear enough so that you can come to your own opinions on creating a Company Game!