FEB. 28, 2014 • Through the end of this year Target Corp. plans on releasing six free-to-play mobile game titles. The content is fun and accessible, strictly promotional in design, and available for only a limited time. The retailer has released its first two titles this year in partnership with brand partners. Snack Bowl was launched in January to coincide with the Super Bowl. Players earn points by keeping their friends well fed with snacks. Brands participating included Coca-Cola, DiGiorno pizza, M&Ms, Ore-Ida, Reese’s, Ritz Crackers, and Stride gum. In February, Target published a singular cross-promotion with Purina called Pop It! to promote the latter’s new Beggin’ Party Poppers dog snacks. In this game players must get non-treats out of the way in order to select dog treats coming down a conveyor belt. The title marks the first time Purina has been involved with a mobile game promotion, although the company made promotional games before, such as 1983’s Chase the Chuck Wagon for the Atari 2600. In addition to high scores, consumers are also rewarded with SMS coupons for discounts on the featured products. These time-sensitive discount codes are designed to drive in-store traffic. Upcoming titles will be tied to either marketing campaigns, product launches or seasonal events. Consumers can find the games at Target’s mobile site or mobile app landing pages. When Target promotes its mobile games within its newspaper inserts, consumers can scan a QR code with their smartphones to quickly download the titles.
Impact: Promotional games are nothing new. The car industry has long used sponsored games to promote their new models. Mostly these tended to be either browser-based or downloadable PC games, however. Now that mobile games are ascendant, we are seeing new twists that just were not possible five years ago. Sponsored titles, if done correctly, always were good vehicles to boost brand and product awareness. How that awareness translated into showroom or retail traffic was much harder to quantify.
But with the platform of choice moving to smartphones and product discount codes as exhibited by Target’s new games, tracking what promotional pitches work from those that don’t work is a much easier proposition. These codes also have a much better chance of pulling people into the store. Much depends on whether consumers actually are interested in the products being promoted, but with experience, a retailer such as Target will learn quickly what pitches and gameplay return better results. Because we have become inured to such intrusions, neither would we be surprised to learn that redeemed codes will be tracked in conjunction with the smartphones that received them, and perhaps GPS tracking of consumers within Target stores. Such tracking may or may not be the case, but the technology is available. Regardless, mobile games are the perfect platforms for these kinds of promotional product games. So far what Target has put out there is pretty tame, but if they can embrace some outrageousness as is seen in the best Super Bowl advertisements, then we can see a scenario where consumers actually clamor to get such F2P titles before they expire. As Amazon.com gets further along with its own digital hardware and content, neither would we be surprised to see them jump in with similar promotional games. All of which could be a big payday for mobile developers.