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In the Time of Covid-eo Games

In the Time of Covid-eo Games
Start Something

Start Something


12 Aug 2021·5 min read

In today’s post, I want to start thinking about how immersion permeates through our lives, especially during this turbulent time of Covid-19.

Games Are Spreading Fast

We’re probably not shocked that the gaming industry is seeing a sharp boom during the turbulence of Covid-19.

As the lockdown continues in many countries across the world, we’re still seeing major titles being released throughout the season. Marketing is still aggressive, albeit without the fanfare of literal street releases, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Just last month, we saw Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII Remake hit 3.5 million downloads on its first day of launch. Insane. That beats out every single Playstation exclusive title record in the past 2 years for first day launches. Sure, this was a highly anticipated game, so of course nothing’s going to stop fans from getting their hands on it. But just think about it — these are just the digital downloads alone.

That’s not the only game that beat records during this pandemic.

Nintendo landed on a monster of its own with Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

A whopping 13.41 million units sold across Japan, America, and Europe, in its first 6 weeks, making it the most successful Animal Crossing game ever.

So what’s going on here? Is it simply that we’re inside more often, and therefore we modern-day consumers need entertainment? And how is this even relevant to most of our businesses that aren’t even within the game development industry?

Well, it’s all about the medium. And I’m going to take this time to dissect it for us, because I’m starting to believe that businesses (and by extension, brands) can learn a thing or two about leveraging interaction — and that’s something which games do by design.

Locked Down but Not Locked Out

We’ve turned to games for our dose of social interaction. This isn’t newsworthy per se, but it’s worth thinking: is this going to be the new norm of interaction? Accordingly, we’ve seen apps like House Party gain a surge in downloads and user base. On platforms such as Steam, we’ve seen party game titles like the Jackbox Games series see a spike in sales as well. And I’ve already mentioned Animal Crossing where reports of students celebrating their graduation ceremonies in the game itself has come to light.

The advantage that games pose for the modern-day consumer is immersion — the ability not just to interact, but to be a part of the action. Compare this to the passivity of watching Netflix, there’s enough credible scientific evidence out there that suggests that the act of interaction in games activates and changes parts of the brain that deals with attention and visuospatial skill.

If anything, what we get out of immersing a consumer can be framed as a marketer’s dream. The mere act of interaction ensures that our attention must be held for that moment. With traditional ads, even in the digital sense, we’re slowly becoming desensitized. The big question businesses ask usually include: are my marketing efforts effective anymore?

Part of the allure of games is that we’re never locked out of an experience. Playing is more than just consuming the media, it’s becoming in-sync with the media. There are actions and outcomes, all of which can be seen as a guided experience.

Press Start to Begin

So where does that leave us — the businesses? Can we mobilise games as a way of outreach?

The simple answer is yes. And we’re starting to see a lot of bigger brands riding the wave, to a rather memorable effect if I may say so.

Let’s go over two case studies: one deployed in Indonesia, and the other in America.

1. KFC Hot Bucket Challenge

This campaign’s objective was simple: generate hype for their in-store promotion. The results speak for themselves, but let’s break it down a little more. Specifically, with a 39% replay rate with an average of 10 times per person, KFC managed to hold the attention of these people for about 3 mins on average. Compare this to Microsoft’s study that the average human being’s attention span is about 8 seconds. Yeah, that’s a gap.

The gameplay wasn’t complicated either. All you had to do was feed the Colonel chicken from their new Hot Bucket.

At the end of the day, not only did KFC Indonesia have a 36% lead generation, but there was also an 11% conversion rate where people actually went down for the in-store promotion.

2. Chipotle Love Story – The Game

Some of you may have watched this beautiful animated short put out by Chipotle Mexican Grill. Not only did the 4-minute clip touch the hearts of viewers, but according to market researcher Ace Metrix, the film was the highest-scoring quick-service restaurant ad it ever tested.

But videos don’t always lead to conversions, and it’s much harder to track these things.

Luckily for Chipotle, they also made a tie-in game with their film with a buy-one-get-one-free promotion to not only give a tangible reason for folks to go down to their stores, but also provide valuable, trackable data.

What this game does best is amplify the brand commitments, which in this case is to provide food that is only made with real, unprocessed ingredients. The game (and the overall campaign) displays the company’s emotional intelligence and this is an effective way to resonate with customers.

In this case, it’s all about the positive user experience, and then utilising a game to bring it full circle.


Just based on what we’ve looked at today (and by no means is this an exhaustive list), games give businesses new avenues for engagement and interaction in meaningful ways. Some of them include:

  • Stronger brand messaging
  • Emotionally connecting with customers
  • Tracking and collecting valuable data
  • Better sustainment of attention

We’re starting to see that it’s not that difficult to create games (even slightly more intricate ones) in this day and age.

So if we’re going to be kept indoors physically, let’s remind ourselves not to keep our vision insular as well. We might be on lockdown, but we’re also finding new ways to be closer now more than ever.

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