Facebook Mini-Game Advertising
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Overview:

Free social networking mini-games have become an integral part of Facebook and a unique way to challenge friends online. These mini-games which started to take off in 2009, reached a billion dollar business in 2010 and have since transformed the way millions socialize online helping to change the media landscape.

Social game developers have created media platforms that house a variety of different games from virtual worlds to puzzles and everything in between. The $750 million acquisition of Playdom by Disney, Playfish’s integration across Electronic Arts, the continued growth of Zynga, the recent rise of CrowdStar and Kabam, and the continued venture investments in social games are impacting businesses demands for virtual goods.

Social gaming is most definitely on the rise and this represents an unprecedented opportunity for game play and viral promotions online. The most popular game of 2010 was the mini-game Farmville, which has over 11 million daily players and lets users virtually supervise a collection of farm animals in a management-like setting.

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“The growth a year ago came from games like FarmVille,” he said, outlining its power to propagate through viral marketing. “But viral growth is over. Future growth is in meaning. What we thought before as social is actually viral. To grow you need real meaning - real-world connection with players’ passions.” ~ Playfish CEO (from Social Gaming Summit)

Reasons for Using:

The reasons for using Facebook social mini-games are mainly for personal enjoyment. The user can choose from thousands of mini-games and pick one or many based on personal preferences. Most games can also be highly personalized and the user can create an avatar or personal game player unique to that individual’s specific wants and needs.

Another incentive for playing these mini-games is competition between friends. In a finding reported by insidesocialgames.com, online friends can increase playing time, encourage social interaction, and create competitive elements that contribute to spending (insidegames.com, 2010). The amount of fun each user has playing a specific mini-game increases game awareness as well as the amount of money a user spends purchasing extra content within the mini-game. Active users are also seen as “social currency” for other current users, as the amount of investment put into a mini-game increases so does the amount of achievement in a friend’s game.


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Facebook game platform's 'game-centric' loop of acquiring new players. (developer.hi5.com, 2010)


Limitations:

The limitations for social mini-game use is mainly found within the constraints Facebook places on the mini-games through its new viral policies. Facebook limits the amount of viral content a mini-game can generate on a newsfeed and the notifications a user receives from friends playing a mini-game. Users who do not wish to participate in game playing are often bombarded with notifications about various mini-games and Facebook has started to eliminate the user-focused clutter. Traffic is another limitation of mini-game content. This constant clutter resonates with spamming and the overabundance of ‘likes’ that can flood any facebook page.

Cost of
Advertising:

Advertising on Facebook mini-games is unique to the particular game. Each major gaming site offers ad incentives, but most of the advertising itself is taken up by advertisements for other mini-games the gaming house offers. When advertising for mini-games Facebook offers two options bidding (price per click) or a daily budget. The bidding option is open to particular ad ranges, in which the potential advertiser pays per click (CPC) or pays per impression (CPM). The other option advertisers have is the daily price alternative where advertisers have complete control on how much they spend on a daily basis.

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(facebook adsmarketing, 2010)

Reach and Frequency:

The reach of mini-game advertising is the number of people touched by the advertisement, therefore those who log in and play the mini-game. The number of people exposed to the message is the reach and pull of the advertising message, creating reach in a mini-game is based solely on how many users download and play the application. Achieving reach through advertisements in mini-games has a positive correlation with the addictive nature of the mini-game, as well as the frequency. Frequency is the number of times your advertisement touches each user with your message. As users continue to build points within their mini-game the advertisement frequents the users brand awareness more often. The frequency of the advertisement is based upon the amount of times a user logs into the mini-game on a regular basis.

Scheduling Advertising:

Facebook allows advertisers to choose when they want to advertise and the scheduling of their advertisements. Any advertiser who chooses to showcase their product on a Facebook mini-game has the opportunity to choose between continuity, pulsing or flighting advertising. When choosing continuity an advertiser would evenly distribute their ad throughout the year, continuously reaching users who log into mini-games on a regular basis. If the advertiser chose to use the pulsing effect on Facebook the ads would not be evenly distributed and some advertisements would be featured more heavily in some months and in other months ads would be featured on a lower scale. The flighting effect is used when advertisers heavily platform their product in a certain season or a few months and spend no funds in the other months.

Impact of Advertising:

The impact of advertising on Facebook mini-games creates brand awareness for the advertiser each time a user logs in to play the mini-game. The effect the user has when logging in further increases the chance the advertiser has to reach its potential consumer. The more the user logs in, the better chance the advertiser has to reach brand conviction, as well as action in purchasing the product. Since most game platforms advertise other mini-games when a user is playing a mini-game of choice; the user has the opportunity to be directly linked to other mini-games that the platform has and introduces on their gaming site.

Audience:

The general audiences of mini-game advertisements are the users who frequently participate in mini-game play. These players are active Facebook users, the largest audience being representative of Generation Y. The most populous technological-savvy users represent an age demographic of 18 to 25, with the second most user-heavy age group being 26-35.

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Demographics from top Facebook applications
Responsiveness of Audience:

The responsiveness of audience mini-game advertising is measured by the response the users have to the ads. Mini-game platforms often integrate advertisements for other mini-games into the game the user most frequents. This process draws upon the creation of new mini-games by research platforms and it helps to promote the new game even further. Several methods are used to measure the amount of traffic an advertisement gets when featured by a mini-game. Gaming platforms can survey the amount of gamer traffic they get when they introduce a new game; this is created by activity on Facebook and observation from beginning to end. Users can also generate feedback from what they ‘like’ on Facebook and what they suggest to their friends.
Interesting Qualities:

The seven success factors for social mini-games in relation to advertising purposes, features a review by socialtimes.com. Gareth Davis a platform Manager for Facebook discusses the factors that lead to successful social gaming, ultimately leading to an increase in advertising revenue.
The Seven Success Factors for Social Games (Davis, 2010):
  1. Analytics: Dashboards for every designer
  2. Iterative Development: Update it every week
  3. Design for discovery and distribution
  4. Engagement: Why is your player coming back every day?
  5. Retail Level Merchandising: Use the principles of retail to price your virtual goods. Theme your items, make introductory sales.
  6. Global Deployment: Ensure that you’re hitting the fast growing markets like Indonesia or India player. “Most games under index globally.”
  7. Social Design: The “secret sauce” is to design how people interact.

Successful Advertisers:

The list of successful advertisers and competing gaming platforms:
- Playdom
- Meteor Games
- Arkadium
- Perfect World
- Glu Mobile - Playfish - PlaySpan- Zynga - CrowdStar- KabamReferences:


Smith, J. (2010, Nov. 17). Tracking Innovation at the Convergence of Games and Social Platforms [Msg Highlights This Week from the Inside Network Job Board: Playdom, Meteor Games, Arkadium & More]. Message posted to http://www.insidesocialgames.com/
Dybwad, B. (2009, Oct. 16). Top 10 Games You Can Play on Facebook. Mashable Entertainment, (106), Retrieved Nov. 15, 2010, from http://mashable.com/2009/10/16/top-facebook-games/
Facebook adsmarketing, (n.d.). Retrieved Nov. 16, 2010, from http://www.facebook.com/adsmarketing/index.php?sk=cost
Gossman, B. (2010, Nov. 5). Retrieved Nov. 17, 2010, from http://www.hi5networks.com
Järvinen, A. (2010). Notes On The Design and Business of Networked Play. Games for Social Networks,