Z/Yen Limited, the innovative Risk/Reward management firm, has released a new study of financial trading games that exposes how poorly executed and unimaginative most corporate games are. Internet games designed to increase the ‘stickiness’ of corporate websites are proliferating. These games range from shadow investment games to fantasy football leagues, trivia prizes or electronic one-armed bandits. Such games are often ‘tacked on’ to an existing corporate website in an attempt to increase time on site or to encourage people to return and some websites specialise in selling ‘sticky’ or ‘participatory’ content packages (e.g. www.myval.com). Z/Yen’s study focused on financial or prize-awarding games during the year 2000.
Z/Yen were disappointed with the quality of most of the games they examined. The study, "Online Financial Trading and Stock Market Simulations" examines over 150 on-line investment and trading games, assessing their potential as a tool for generating web site popularity. Z/Yen were particularly interested in finding out what benefit investment games could add to web sites.
Michael Mainelli, Director of Z/Yen says " These games soak up large amounts of time and investment, yet are often poorly thought out and executed. I may be showing my age, but where are the compelling games - where are the Space Invaders and PacPeople (sic) of the Internet?"
Research Consultant Mary O’Callaghan adds "In a busy marketplace, with a wide variety in game style, playability and above all creative opportunity, few games stand out from the crowd and very few seem to try and entertain."
Companies searching for ‘stickiness’ may be losing their way. A significant minority of Americans (almost 10%) with Internet access no longer plan to surf. Yet, having tried many other approaches, e.g. graphics, loyalty schemes, dynamic content, ASP services and referrals, companies could make more of gaming to increase ‘stickiness’.
Based on their research and experience, Z/Yen have categorised the gaming world in 4 ways, considering interactivity and time independence. They summarise these categories as:
Michael Mainelli goes on to say "Financial games were some of the least inviting and engaging. Too many were what we call ‘Trite Trackers’, games which are based on data streams from live exchanges, but do little with the information to make it interesting. Typically these games function as fairly basic paper-and-pen-style snapshots of a chance portfolio. There is little point in many people playing. If everyone buys BT, but BT drops in real-life, everyone’s gameplay is ignored. It’s hardly surprising that our research found sites using these games recording 50,000 extra hits in their first week, but less than 5,000 extra just weeks later as people realised how boring and static they are."
Among the many poorly thought out and executed games there were a few with significant potential for building genuine communities of loyal web users, such as FatCat, Studio Boss, Sports Trading or the Bollywood Stock Exchange.
In an increasingly competitive internet, games can make sites much more ‘sticky’, but companies cannot just tack these games on randomly. The entire marketing campaign, as well as the website, needs to incorporate and reinforce the game. Companies seeking to capitalise on internet games have two choices, to develop their own game in-house, or to customise an existing game template such as FatCat. Z/Yen were surprised that among the very large corporate sites, none had built a compelling game to support their brand. Z/Yen hopes to find some games it wants to play when the study is updated.
Download a copy of the Online Financial Trading Simulations Report