How to Put Gaming to Work for Your Business

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Contrary to the popular stereotype, computer gaming is no longer a hobby restricted to teenage boys in their parents' basements. Rather, the mobile phone is increasingly the device of choice for gaming, and the pastime is enjoyed by a full one-third of mobile phone users.

That's according to the results of a survey recently conducted for PopCap Games by Information Solutions Group. In fact, the overall usage and frequency of mobile game playing are increasing rapidly among U.S. and U.K. adults, PopCap reported on Monday, with smartphone owners by far the most avid users. For many, mobile phones have now even surpassed video game consoles and personal computers as the device of choice for gaming purposes, according to the study's results (PDF).

What does that mean for you and your small business? Plenty, I would suggest. Gaming is on the rise as a business tool as well as a fun pastime for consumers, so you'd do well to consider how you can make it work for you.

Smartphone Users in the Lead

Fifty-two percent of PopCap Games' 2,425 respondents said they had played a game on a mobile phone at some time in the past, with more U.K. respondents than U.S. ones reporting that they had done so.

In all, though, a full 33.6 percent of all adults across America and the United Kingdom have played a game on their mobile phone handset in the past month, qualifying them as "mobile phone gamers" for the purposes of the survey. Nearly a quarter, in fact, have played in the past week, qualifying them as "avid mobile phone gamers." Among smartphone users, that proportion was 83 percent.

"Mobile games are, along with social games, the hottest sector of the video game industry by far," said Dennis Ryan, executive vice president of Worldwide Publishing at PopCap, which says it derives nearly a third of its overall revenues from sales of popular mobile games like Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies. "As more people purchase smartphones and the entire process of finding, purchasing and playing mobile games becomes as simple as browsing the internet, the mobile games market is going to accelerate even more."

Rewarding the Sales Staff

Given this increase in mobile gaming, it's not too surprising that businesses and organizations are increasingly trying to tap into consumers' growing gaming interests. Digitalkoot, for example--a joint project run by the National Library of Finland and distributed work platform Microtask--now offers two games on its site to crowdsource help on a national archives indexing effort, according to a report on the Springwise blog. (Full disclosure: I write for Springwise as well.)

Similarly, EpicWin is an iPhone app that converts consumers' to-do lists into games, while Deal Machine uses game mechanics to motivate and reward corporate sales staffs.

How can you bring an element of gaming into your own offerings? You might try a platform like Gamify, which recently completed its beta period and can now be used to incorporate game-like reward programs, customizable game mechanics and widgets into any Web-enabled service or application. Using Gamify, you can add a "game layer" to any site, service or application, for example, offering a fun, branded experience for users, with real-time analytics for your own purposes.

Seems to me it's a rare business indeed that couldn't incorporate rewards for loyal customers or Web site visitors, or turn select online offerings into a game. If you're among the majority, mobile gaming could be a relatively low-cost way to help increase engagement with your brand.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk .

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