Why Content Marketers Should Get To Know Game Designers…

I’m going to share two little secrets.

The first is that I’m a huge Falling Skies fan. I don’t usually have much time to watch television between work, family, and various side projects (a word game solver and other experimental sites). But these guys managed to hook me during their first season. How is the interesting part…

The second dirty little secret is the embarassingly large amount of time I spent playing the browser game on the Falling Skies micro-site this past winter. The game itself was pretty simple: a basic tower defense game where you set up your “defenders” and watched them duke it out with a column of alien attackers. The artwork was decent but not very deep: a two dimensional board with “arial photography” style tiles. The game probably had about five to ten hours of “real gameplay” between its environments and difficulty levels.

But as a marketing tool, it worked quite nicely. Once you start really playing the game, you’re going to be looking at the page for a minimum of 10 minutes. The first several levels were fairly easy, followed by a shakeout at level 5 (unprepared player would usually lose), prompting the player to repeat the process. I spent a couple of evenings figuring out the order I needed to build and place the defensive units to stop the bad guys.

From a marketing perspective, you draw the player into the world of your brand and provide them with some highly shareable content. After playing the game for a few hours, I had a much better idea of what the show was about. And it probably helped TNT’s SEO performance as well, due to the following three factors:

  • Visitors will stay on site for a longer period of time (fewer “fast” repeat searches)
  • A certain fraction of this will turn into low bounce-rate repeat traffic (eg. a repeat visitor searching for “falling skies game” – with a high CTR and low bounce rate).
  • Opportunity to generate backlinks and social shares from the game itself

I’m sure TNT invested a decent amount of money in the production of the game. That being said, you could create an adequate version of the game for a modest amount. From a logistics perspective, you need code and art. The code could be adapted from an existing tower defense game. The art could be adapted from an existing tileset – tweaked to incorporate your brand. Managed properly, you could create a decent game for about the same cost as several high quality blog posts (eg. with original research behind them).

But the real win here is engagement. That amazing series of blog posts will retain your audiences attention for generally no more than a minute or two. The vast majority of them will bounce back to search. Games provide you to draw them deeper into the world of your brand, offer something to share with their friends, and give them a reason to return.

You can even have some fun with this. Trying to promote a solution to a leaky basement? Why not turn plugging leaks into whack-a-mole or tower defender?

Promoting Children’s Dentistry? A Pac-man clone with cavity monsters!

How about Mug the Payday Loan Guy? A Heroic Quest for a home mortgage?

We’re not looking for the Sims here. Just something better than the typical five page “business website” with an insincere article about the virtues of slanted roofs…

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