I recently saw the game about terrorism. It looked like a game and to most users they thought it was. But after closer inspection, the game was really an educational activity. It was engaging enough however, that people felt compelled to take part in the activity. The message was tied into the activity in a clever and smart way. People passed it along to their friends and they told two friends, and so on.
The US Army has been doing some incredible work. They are taking the concept of Advergaming from a casual game environment to a console game level – which is asking a lot from the average internet user. Console games generally take longer to play and learn. The audience that the US Army is going for well suited for that. We even played the game.
Surprisingly, on a casual gaming level, we have people who play the games we produce for 30 to 45 minutes per session. A puzzle game we created for M&M’s has been played over 35m times and has generated about 15m hours of game play. However on average, people may spend five to eight minutes playing a game.
DME: You’ve been described as the ‘forefather’ of Advergaming. Where do you see the market for advergaming going in the future? Online advertising in general has seen something of an upswing in the last few months/year. Do you see this continuing, and what role does advergaming play in this?
Ferguson: It continues to grow and evolve. Our business has doubled this year and we see it continuing to grow. Our game site continues to gain traffic and registered users.
On the client side, they expect reporting and statistical information. We now track quite a bit of information and supply that to our clients.
Having a third-party distribution point for your advergame is crucial for a successful campaign. Putting a game on your site is great, but if you are trying to attract new customers, then you need to promote it outside of your circle of friends. We often kick start a campaign with an e-mail blast to a portion of our registered users.
Everyone has seen or played an Advergame. Now when we walk into a meeting we can ask if anyone in the room has played one of our titles, and we always get a huge show of hands. People love to brag about their scores or ask us for advice on how to play better. This helps emphasise the point that these games create a memorable and positive experience – which is usually what they are trying to attain themselves. We have several clients who use the games as community building tools They want their audience coming back, opting-in, and camping out. Having those community based tools are important.
On the user side, we have found they have a tremendous appetite for new, fresh content. Three years ago we were releasing a game every six to eight weeks. Now we are working on releasing a game every week or two, with a blockbuster game every quarter.
While advergaming is a core part of our business, we have recognised the demand for online entertainment and have produced over a dozen games which we syndicate to web sites that want sticky, revenue generating, and engaging content. These games do not have an advertising message, but they do have a value to the player. Users buy codes that unlock the full game. This is a big focus in our company right now. We are scheduled to produce over a dozen more pay-for-play model games over this year.
Ferguson: Our very first game was a political game. So as a tradition, we release one or two every US election. This year being no different. An advergame needs to have a purpose, even if it is to entertain. While most political advergames poke fun at the candidates, they do get people involved. People pass them on to their friends and hopefully they get people to talk about the issues.