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Five tips for transmedia game development

By on February 3, 2012

The Mobile Games Forum featured three speakers from studios that carry out brand extension and advergaming projects: Michael Schade from Fishlabs, Celia Francis from WeeWorld, and Ray Sharma from XMG. Their success stories all share similar points of advice about transmedia game design:

Justin Bieber on WeeWorld

  1. Use established intellectual property – whether it’s taking up old ip that is unlikely to cause legal trouble, or taking on a contract from an established entertainment brand, established ip is essential. Advergaming cannot attract new customers, but it will increase brand engagement.
  2. Make participation frictionless – no downloads, simple gameplay, and easy interfaces that allow the user to feel like the co-creator of the media product. For example, XMG’s project with Teen Nickelodeon’s Degrassi allowed users to create music videos and mix karaoke versions of songs from the show using a simple, intuitive interface.
  3. Create engaging brand experiences – you’re not using the game to promote the name or image of a brand. Advergaming is fundamentally different to poster design. High engagement levels are essential to what you’re offering to ip owners, so make sure that your game brings players back time and again for more brand experience.
  4. Focus on action as narrative – in order to create meaningful brand experience, don’t simply plaster the brand name and image onto an arbitrary game mechanic; identify the key actions performed in the narrative of existing products using the brand’s ip, and turn those into your game mechanic. For Degrassi, it was making music. For Volkswagen, it was driving. For the celebrities featured in WeeWorld, image and identity are the primary activity.
  5. Mirror how the audience already interacts with the brand – some audiences will balk at signs of obvious product placement, but for other audiences this is okay. Middle-aged women who watch American soap operas might not find product placement so unusual, and could respond more positively to it.

For more advice on creating games under contract from entertainment brands, read the GAMESbrief guide to Marketing and Games and Transmedia: is it just brand extension?



About Zoya Street

I’m responsible for all written content on the site. As a freelance journalist and historian, I write widely on how game design and development have changed in the past, how they will change in the future, and how that relates to society and culture as a whole. I’m working on a crowdfunded book about the Dreamcast, in which I treat three of the game-worlds it hosted as historical places. I also write at and The Borderhouse.