The digital world provides a type of programming in our heads, since each device follows its programmed codes that human beings have to follow as well, if they want to operate the equipment. This means that every user has to deal at least with the basic functionalities of the applications to make use of the services. With our input we just control the system of zeros and ones, are moving through the software, and encourage the system to do what we want it to do. The programmed codes work in the background only if we know what we have to enter. The point is, that we are adapting slowly to the machine, without even realizing it.
Nowadays, players have extensive opportunities to enjoy games on various mobile devices, game stations or in online networks. Especially, the iPad is a prime example. Most gamers know each other over the Internet, they see themselves as friends - in a virtual world - in which they struggle with virtual opponents, fight for virtual experiences of success, and eventually for building up a virtual life.
Game communities: user loyalty through recognition
If you take a closer look at the games industry, it becomes clear that the basics of Web 2.0 have been understood many years ago, without giving the phenomenon a name. The world of "World of Warcraft" is not just well known in player communities, but even to many people who buy no online games at all. The game combines all the things that sum up Web 2.0: not just good and evil as playful components, it also provides success and entertainment, and is managed by a creative community of developers that create the wide variety of extensions for the game. Separate groups and fractions can be formed within the game, goods are bought and sold, there are a number of forums, links, recommendations, competitions, events, widgets, uploads, downloads, points, mashups, etc - in short, World of Warcraft is a small Web 2.0 universe in itself, as it reflects all the features which Web 2.0 offers, in addition to the user’s activity in forums, chats and networks.
Game developers are constantly creating new, very sophisticated parallel universes to the real world with their online games, increasing the fun and at the same time sales. In the segment of social games, social networks and interactions between users play an essential role as they are the ones that strengthen the community component, and thus the user loyalty and the additional depth of game. Indeed, the gaming industry knows perfectly to develop games in such a way that they demand a lot of time, energy and concentration from users, attracting players with always more sophisticated games - again and again. The "value" for the player lies in the virtual heroism that he has worked hard for. By rapidly penetrating deep into the game, he wants more of these successes to become the hero he usually can’t be in his everyday life. It is not a coincidence that many processes in the virtual world are borrowed from the real life, tying the player to the virtual world.
Social media is becoming social games
Not just the traditional gaming industry sees an advantage in the digital gaming world, but the entire economy is benefiting from the many new possibilities. This is, among other things, due to changes in user behavior. For online users today, it is simply not just enough to realize only part of their life on the Internet, rather they want to live their virtual life and organize it within the Internet. Actual tasks, mixed with playful elements and the virtual community, become a second home.
Therefore, the most successful games today are those that integrate real life. It's not just about entertainment and fun anymore in escapist galaxies, it is about transferring real life into the digital world. The development and maintenance of friendships is equally important in real life as in cyberspace, thus, modern games need this component as well. Keep in mind that gamers are not playing alone anymore, but across many platforms with their friends, even during short breaks from work or on the road - due to smart phones. Playing has turned into a proof-of-friendship-tool long ago, by helping others to achieve their set goals. In short, social media is about social gaming.
Marketing mechanisms in social games
Since user attention is shifting more and more to the virtual game world, it will be increasingly important for brands to follow them there in the future. From traditional in-game advertising (e.g. banners in sports games) over branded virtual items (the avatar is wearing clothes of a certain brand) - the possibilities are almost limitless. Entire branded play areas are being implemented nowadays. One advantage is obvious: in a playful environment, such placements are perceived as less disturbing by users. So far, however, there are only few platforms that have a degree of innovation that could exploit the potential of social games to its fullest, as this requires an entirely new thinking and approach.
The gaming market of the future
The gaming market has changed completely. The times where computer games had to be installed in a complicated way are long since gone, now is the time of the browser game which can be played on any computer or smartphone at any time, everywhere. Regardless which target group considers the gaming market, one thing is certain: social games will affect the market over the next few years.
The cooperation of people, which is reflected in social media, will find its way into the gaming world and the major focus “interaction” will be the determining element. Not to mention that in the spirit of "proof-of-friendship-tools", games allow small tokens as give-aways, such as a virtual item with real brand or product reference, which are beneficial for a breakthrough.
Last but not least, the games of tomorrow are the games of personalities, not avatars. Games will become a unifying element between those who indulge in a pastime. And in such a complex virtual society, the presence of brands and products is here to stay. The early adopters of social games marketing will emerge soon and many more will follow in the medium term.
By Daniela La Marca