How Sponsored Video Fits Into Modern Game Design
I’ve been fascinated by the power of entertainment ever since video games and pop culture sent my imagination into flight when I was an Air Force brat in Northern California. That led me first to studying screenwriting from USC and then to the world of game development, where I was fortunate enough to work for companies like Activision, Disney and Scopely as well as multiple indie developers. While focused on creating quality entertainment for players that made enough money to keep the lights on at my studios, I also discovered a passion for finding the perfect integration of monetization and artistic expression in gaming.
The data and the challenges involved have been endlessly fascinating, but the Machiavellian way that many folks in space approach monetization has been disappointing. Far too often, the concern is with turning a quick and momentary boost in revenue than with producing fun experiences for players. By contrast, at my current company PlayerWON®, we’re on a mission to make video games more accessible for all gamers regardless of background with a unique engagement and monetization platform that rewards players for choosing to watch brand-sponsored video, which in turn drives lifetime revenue and in-game spending for developers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Because what we’re doing at PlayerWON is so novel and potentially revolutionary, it’s natural for developers who are accustomed to more traditional monetization models to question if and how sponsored video can fit into modern game design. So I’d like to take the opportunity to address some of the most common queries and concerns that we receive:
Does rewarded video hurt a game developer’s brand?
The sponsored video that PlayerWON delivers does not hurt the game’s brand. PlayerWON partners only with highly respected national and global companies that bring in their own brand equity and creativity. In addition, our sponsored-video platform respects players and rewards them for their time and attention with items that enhance their gameplay experience. In this way, game developers that partner with PlayerWON are viewed by their players as generous and gamer-friendly.
How does PlayerWON integrate rewarded video into gameplay without hurting the experience and making it feel less fun for players?
The key is to make sure that the rewarded video experience never breaks the intent of the player and fits smoothly into the core loop gameplay. Every game has a natural ebb and flow where areas of action are followed by cooldown periods where the player earns their rewards and can plan out their next action. These cooldown periods are where rewarded video works great. Players can chill out, earn some rewards and learn about high-quality brands. None of this breaks their intention so it does not feel intrusive to the player. We actually ran a controlled study to ensure that the experience was fun. The results unequivocally showed that the integration of rewarded video into a game improved all key performance indicators associated with player engagement and in-game spending. Player log-ins increased 17%, microtransaction spending increased 11%, and the amount of game sessions played increased 22%.
Will rewarded video spark a backlash against the developers who implement it amongst the core gamer community active on social media such as Reddit, Twitter and Twitch?
We know that’s a big concern, but our research (based on surveys of gamers active on these social networks) actually indicates that 77% of players would happily watch brand sponsorships for in-game rewards. It’s clear to us that players understand the value exchange between providing their attention and gaining in-game rewards, and often they feel that this is a fair way to compensate the game developer for ongoing support of the game. There will always be a vocal minority who firmly disagree with watching any sponsored content, which is why we have made the PlayerWON experience completely optional for players. More importantly, the opt-in offers no negative consequences to those that choose to ignore it.
Will rewards from sponsored video upset the balance of the free-to-play game economy?
We lean towards the experience of talented game economists and product managers who have dedicated their careers to designing game economies. The great thing about the PlayerWON sponsored-video experience is that rewards are completely under the discretion of the game development team. We recommend designs that use a flexible variable reward system so that the precise expected value of every sponsored video reward can be A/B tested on the backend. We also recommend rewards that scale and grow with the user so that they are always relevant within the context of the player’s experience.
What value can rewarded video add for a game that is already performing well?
Rewarded video is an engagement tool that is a great way to add supplemental revenue to the game without distracting from the gameplay. The secret is that the rewarded video monetizes all users instead of just the players that would be considered “whales” or superfans. Rewarded video is about incentivizing your players to watch high-quality sponsored videos in exchange for rewards they can use inside the game. In this way, you can add an income source that monetizes your players while also providing those players the tools to continue having fun in your game.
Keeping Games Free
When I was growing up, video games often felt like something only those with money could really afford. Disadvantaged people were stuck playing last-generation consoles and games that were on significant discount. Free-to-play gaming has changed all of that, of course -- now anyone with a PC, console or even a phone has access to hundreds of games, with many of them being super fun.
And that’s why I’m so happy to have the opportunity at PlayerWON to help keep those free games viable for game developers, and to ensure that the experiences are satisfying for the players above all.