terça-feira, 17 de setembro de 2013

Candy, fans and profit

I’m an old school true gamer. I really like to play everything. I can have fun playing The Last of Us in the survivor mode and I can have equal fun playing Zombie Tsunami. One important thing in gaming research is looking at all kinds of games (and players) without prejudice. And this piece is about players, passions, casual games and fans.

Recently I started to play Candy Crush on iPhone. The simple game catches me. Not for the game mechanics (that is nothing new if you’ve played Bejeweled sometime in your life), nor for the thematic/aesthetics (I really don’t like candy) but the game has an excellent idea of business model and how to engage the users in the experience transforming great part of them in fans of Candy Crush.

The video below shows the game mechanics idea and the colourful interface:



King.com
– the studio behind Candy Crush - is the largest site for free games online. But “free” requires a good strategy to earn money from other sources and other formats. The most part of King.com games works on a “freemium” model.

Freemium (free + premium) is a business model by which a proprietary product or service (typically a digital offering such as software, media, games or web services) is provided free of charge, but money (premium) is charged for advanced features, functionality, or virtual goods.

In Candy Crush, King.com puts lots of efforts to create a balance between entertainment for players, sharing in social media and selling of virtual goods (extra lives, special powers, etc.). The game offers limited lives to the player and when they are finished the user has two options: 1) wait a few minutes to gather more lives or 2) pay with real money to get new lives (or powers) immediately. The addictive game mechanics create the perfect ecosystem to sell virtual lives and powers that facilitate the journey in the game. Players can also gain new lives sharing Candy Crush features on Facebook (bonus in exchange of advertising).



King.com is trying to create an intense relationship with the players to achieve more profit. More than just users, the company needs fans to grow. As Sandvoss and Harrington (2007) remark, for better or for worse fans tend to engage with their passions not in a rationally detached but in an emotionally involved and invested way.

Jenkins (2006: 41) reinforces this idea about the role of the fan in contemporary participatory culture. Although the author examines television shows and other kinds of fan activity, we believe his ideas may help us make sense of what goes on in the social networking service in question. Let us quote what Jenkins has to say about the way one becomes a fan:

One becomes a “fan” not by being a regular viewer of a particular program but by translating that viewing into some kind of cultural activity, by sharing feelings and thoughts about the program content with friends, by joining a “community” of other fans who share common interests. For fans, consumption naturally sparks production; reading generates writing, until the terms seem logically inseparable” (…)

As we know, fans have a special role inside social media communities. A community of fans that surrounds a specific platform becomes a fandom, and this audience deserves special attention. A well-structured fandom can become an effective marketing tool for any specific social media platform.

It seems that companies like King.com must understand how to motivate and activate the fandom audiences, as well as how to bring them closer. Meaningful experiences are important in this context because it’s a key for players to spend money inside the game experience. The idea of freemium is surrounded by strategies to engage the player as a fan.

And now let me try to finish the level 89 of Candy Crush.



References:

GRAY, J.; SANDVOSS, C.; HARRINGTON, L. (eds.). Fandom: identities and communities in a mediated world. New York: NYU Press, 2007.

JENKINS, H. Fans, bloggers and gamers: exploring participatory culture. New York: NYU Press, 2006.

King.com official site (link here)

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