The very best advergaming is actually a playable, interactive game that happens to include promotional messages.
Video games are designed to keep you in that sweet spot between happiness, frustration and progressive skill development. You just want to keep playing and playing. So, naturally, hardly anything would be more frustrating than advertisements plastered all over the screen, annoying promotional pop-ups or full-screen video commercials interrupting your gaming flow. That’s why you might think that marketing and video games don’t mix well. Yet advergaming exists and is very much alive.
The difference between gamification and advergaming
Gamification is the combination of marketing strategies with classic gaming techniques to keep you engaged with the brand or product. When you compete with your friends for Foursquare Mayorships, collect points for My Starbucks Rewards or play McDonald’s Monopoly, you’ve been lured in by gamification.
Advergaming might sound similar, but it’s not the same. It means developing an actual game for the purpose of marketing. There are three main types of advergames:
1) Advertising inserted into an existing game
Have you played Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U? Did you notice how you can race with Mercedes cars in the game? That’s product placement right there. Back in the 90s, the rising wave of popularity of video games had advertisers salivating over all the possibilities to place brands and products in your favourite video games. What followed were games like Zool, a platformer where an alien ninja ant fights its way through a sweet world of candy — sponsored by ChupaChups — and Cool Spot, which had players jumping and running around…with the 7-Up mascot.
2) Full games for desktop computers, consoles, or mobile devices
The restaurant chain Chipotle released a free iOS game called The Scarecrow in 2013. Marketed as an enticing game in which the player breaks up a monopoly, it not-so-subtly promoted the company’s values. Regardless, The Scarecrow was a huge hit with fans. Players downloaded the game more than 250,000 times in just four days.
3) Games on a company’s website
You might think of these as branded mini games, which you’ll find on sites like Candystand. But successful advergames on the web go beyond throwing together a bit of flash animation. Ubisoft’s video game Watch Dogs is set in a dystopian future where players hack cameras and mobile phones. To promote the game, Ubisoft produced the website WeAreData*, which offers infographics and real-time visuals of geo-data from Paris, London and Berlin.