How FAR will you go down the RABBIT HOLE?

Augmented reality games are generally overlooked when a casual internet user is looking for an entertaining online game. Most people opt to play games like Farmville, Words with Friends, or Mafia Wars because they are quick and easy to play. They are catchy and offer a short surge of entertainment, but don’t satisfy any user for an extended period of time. What if there were a different type of game that didn’t leave its players bored? What if there was a game which kept users engaged for months at a time rather than just 30 minutes. Welcome to the realm of augmented reality gaming, where the game itself is something to be figured out and distributed by every user.

The genre of these types of games will obviously vary greatly depending on the specific game you are playing. One type of game, Hashtag Killer is a social, mystery game which is ultimately geared toward engaging fans of USA Network’s show Psych. Players sign in and “become Shawn and Gus’s new assistant, communicating with them daily to help catch the elusive killer before he strikes again!” The benefit of this game is that the “more you play, the more points you’ll earn” which can then be redeem for points at Club Psych to get real Psych merchandise! (The Official Hashtag Killer Thread).  Throughout the 6 week time period of the game, players “can log into HashtagKiller.com to get clues and messages to try and solve the case as new content is posted each week” (Launches Social Game #HashtagKiller). Advertisements for the Psych show on USA Network encompass both in-game advertising and script placement, with most of the emphasis on script as per the nature of the game itself.

As a new user of Hashtag Killer, I found it rather confusing. My theory for this confusion stems from the fact that I am relatively unfamiliar with the show Psych. While I have watched it a few times, I am unable to pick up on the subtle clues referenced in the game whereas an avid Psych watcher would easily make those connections. As a consumer however, I am a fan of what USA Network is doing with this augments reality game. USA Network has successfully been able to reach their desired target audience with the help of this game.  Listed below are actual stats relating to the usage of the Hashtag Killer game:

  • In the first 12 hours, more than 13,000 unique visitors visited HashtagKiller.com
  • 10,000 of those visitors signed up for the game
  • the website fielded over 6,000 requests a minute at its peak on Wednesday afternoon
  • the average user spent more than 12 and a half minutes on the site
  • 22% of visitors returned at least once within the first 12 hours

These numbers clearly state that this game has benefited USA Network through the engagement of Psyche fans. The main people playing this game tend to be avid Psych watchers. Specifically, people who are into playing augmented reality games have to be self-motivated and interested in solving problems. For most players, the satisfaction of playing the game is simply discovering new information and successfully solving problems. It definitely takes a unique type of person to play an augmented reality game. Some people will start off the game, but get lost in the clues and strategy as they get farther down the “rabbit hole,” whereas others make their goal to reach the end of the game having solved every mystery presented to them.

There are many brands which could benefit from using augmented reality games. Audi has already successfully hosted a branded augmented reality game appropriately titled,

which promoted the reveal of the Audi A3. Other auto companies could benefit from the example Audi has set. There really is no limit to which brands can benefit from an augmented reality game considering that the nature of the game is to highly engage users while also creating an exciting “buzz” around the brand name. Specifically, Starbucks would be a brand which could successfully run an augmented reality game with great participation and success simply due to the size of their loyal following.

I foresee augmented reality games become more popular in the coming years as technology becomes increasingly more advanced and the interconnectedness of societies broadens. If you want to get involved in an augmented reality game now though, here are the augmented reality games which are currently being played: http://www.argn.com/now_playing/

Good Luck!

Cited Pages
USANetwork. "The Official Hashtag Killer Thread!" USA Network Forums. 28 Sept. 2011. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <http://forums.usanetwork.com/index.php?showtopic=455379>.
"USA Network Launches Social Game #HashtagKiller | The Realtime Report." The Realtime Report | Business on the Social, Mobile and Realtime Web | #RLTM. 5 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Nov. 2011. <http://therealtimereport.com/2011/10/05/usa-network-launches-social-game-hashtagkiller/>.
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About Emily Baumgartner

My name is Emily Baumgartner and I will be graduating Magna Cum Laude in May 2012, from East Carolina University, with a BSBA in Marketing. I am currently looking for a full-time position in the marketing, sales, or advertising related fields and am willing and able to relocate anywhere in the country for the right opportunity. ______________________________________________ For more information about me, please visit http://about.me/emilybaum

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