Advergaming has been increasing in popularity since inception, and the market is projected to continue its growth. No longer a niche market, Gartner research says 20 percent of global tier-one retailers will have some form of marketing presence in online games and virtual worlds by 2010. Many of these companies are experimenting with advergames with great success.
Sometimes considered an arena for tweens and techies, advergames have been steadily and quietly building an audience of women between the ages of 35 and 49 -- a coveted demographic for advertisers.
Before jumping in and launching an advergame in the hope of gaining additional interest in your product or service, do some homework first to know your audience and what makes an advergame effective.
Creating an advergame without advanced planning may leave you with little traffic and no return on investment. When planning an advergaming campaign, marketers should keep in mind several steps that could keep their game from missing the mark.
Building the wrong game
When planning a game, keep your target audience in mind. Don't build a shooter game when your target audience is gun control activists or your campaign may not be as effective as it could be. To elicit good memories and feelings, you can start by repackaging older games that are traditional favorites by adding a new spin. Some users will enjoy reliving their youth, while younger users will see games as retro and cool.
The main goal should be to increase awareness of your brand and ultimately sell your product or service. Keeping that top-of-mind when creating the game will help you build traffic and interest while starting to create a loyal following of customers.
Simple is better with an advergaming campaign. Products can be integrated into the game itself, such as a game where the user takes a spoon to scoop up cereal to gain points, or with ads surrounding the game on the perimeter of the screen, or dynamic ads within the game such as a message appearing on a billboard during a driving game.
However, too many ads can turn away potential players and future customers. Gamers want to play the game first, knowing that advertising is secondary and is likely paying for the availability of the game. They will view -- and expect to see -- advertising in exchange for playing a fun game, but they will be turned off if the advertising is too dominant and interferes with the game.
Just because you create a game doesn't mean people will find it and play it. Understand that the advergame is the centerpiece to the campaign. To get consumers interested in playing, it will need a call-to-action. This is where an integrated game can work well because consumers become familiar with your brand when it is an essential and relevant part of the game. Other advergame campaigns offer players incentives or a discount after playing the game.
Simply just building a branded advergame and expecting people to play won't be successful. You'll need to promote the game through your website, e-newsletters and through sites and forums that are of interest to the target audience.
Limiting your audience
Advergames should be fairly simple for the user to learn and play. Make sure that the game is not too complex. There's a reason why casual games such as Solitaire and Mindsweeper have persisted so long on PCs and mobile phones. People can relate to easy-to-play games that they can come back to repeatedly when they have a few moments of free time.
Don't create an advergame that requires advanced gaming skills, too many rules or controls, and too many hidden or secret ways to earn additional points. Advergames are vastly different from traditional video games and so are the players. Games should be fairly straightforward, reminiscent of the classic days of video games, and they should not take much time to learn how to play.
Skimping on the visuals
Don't use poor graphics. On the one hand, the game needs to be simple to play but it also needs to be visually appealing. Gamers of all types are familiar with cutting-edge graphics, high-speed internet service and gaming systems such as the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3.
Today's gaming systems are not limited to the hardcore gamers. In fact, the Wii has been noted as a crossover success for women and seniors.
To create an advergaming campaign that translates well, there is a need to create an interesting game that fully utilizes graphics to draw in users and tantalize them with a cutting-edge, creative-looking game.
Confusing your customers
When making an advergame simple to use, the directions should be kept as simple and fun as possible. Avoid long-text directions that take several pages to explain. Instead, use common keys and directions for game playing such as X for shooting, Y for blocking and the arrow keys to move.
Knowing what to avoid can help you build an advergame that looks great, appeals to your target market and generates interest in your brand, subsequently building brand loyalty.
The advergaming industry is moving to mainstream advertising as an increasing number of companies move their budgets online. Staying ahead of the curve and giving your customers something they cannot find elsewhere will increase retention and loyalty.