Matmi started 14 years ago because I thought the internet was hideously boring. I had no money and decided to write a game called Monster Poolside Sumo. 5 million people played it within 2 months and we soon realised that this was a brand new way of spreading brand awareness. At first these games were called ‘virals’, as they spread like a virus. We used to place the games on sites that were desperate for content, such as Miniclip in the early days. Millions of people played the games and sent them to their friends.
As the years went by, virals turned in to advergames. The main reason for this was the fact that many of them did not virally spread but instead sites were paid to publish content. Becoming more like an advert. This wasn’t great for us producers, but was great for the ever-growing media buying agencies. It became more costly and harder to get the plays, however it did become more targeted. During these periods we made some of the busiest of virals/advergames in the world; including our famous Let It Flow for Comic Relief, Brilliant Brushers for Phillips and Flight 666 for Iron Maiden.
Along game Facebook and the iPhone…
Then the iPhone appeared and everything changed again. Realising the potential of a touch device and the intuitive usage, we knew that we needed to adapt to this new medium, so we quickly made a game called Monster Pinball for the iPhone to see if we could succeed. The game was a hit, it was featured by Apple in their Valentines TV adverts, and was voted game of the year at the Roses Design Awards. The problem was, on the web most of our games were made with Adobe Flash, but on the iPhone we had to learn a complete new language and platform, as Flash would not work.
Around a similar time, the rise of the social networks took place and social gaming became a growing concern. We produced some very successful social games but when Zynga and Facebook ignited their relationship it destroyed discovery of games from other developers, and probably damaged social gaming forever (see: Farmville). All of a sudden we were confronted with different platforms and technologies, but rather than allowing this to destroy the advergame market, it just changed it. We decided to spread campaigns across multiple platforms and realised at that stage that content should not belong to a device, but should belong to a person. It’s at that moment our strapline ‘magic across media’ was born.
How did Matmi adapt to multiple platforms?
Our Gorillaz campaign Escape To Plastic Beach was a world first, as we produced a three chapter advergame. The first two chapters were made in Flash and were available for free online, the third chapter was made in to an iPhone/iPad app and was a paid for game, even though it was essentially an advert for the album. The campaign was an amazing success. On the back of this success, United Airlines asked Matmi to produce a series of games to talk about their travel options, we took a similar approach and made some games available online and some games available on mobile. As these games were truly ‘mobile’ we realised that gaming didn’t have to be stuck to a location, and realised that a prominent spot to get people to play a game was in an airport while waiting for a flight. So we advertised the games in the airport and built a mechanic that allowed players to win on the spot travel upgrades. This made us realise the importance of cross platform branded entertainment. And the importance of physical location in gaming.
More recently we have produced The Smiler campaign for Alton towers, which is purely based on mobile platforms. It is the world’s first to promote a rollercoaster with elements specifically designed to be used within the theme park, enhancing the user’s experience – blending gameplay, competitions and location-based augmented reality in a completely new package for theme parks. We now have our own dedicated R&D department for building unique digital experiences, using technology such as the Microsoft Kinect.
So, are Advergames a thing of the past?
The days of making a Flash game and expecting millions and millions of players are limited. Advergames are not dead, they’ve just grown up and become more targeted, thus performing better. Throwing mobile and physical locations in to the mix provides results we could never have dreamed of 10 years ago. We now like to call this ‘branded entertainment’.
Jeff Coghlan, CEO
If your brand or agency are interested in what Matmi could produce for you, please give us a call +44 (0) 1625 560771 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org