Game developer hits players on diverse social nets with single shot

Should you be on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, or some other social networking site? It may seem hard to choose, but as the social Web grows in size and influence it becomes more important for organizations to have a presence in one or several social networking sites.

Yet for many small and medium sized business (SMB) operations with limited resources, developing interfaces for multiple platforms could be daunting. Until recently this was the experience of Inspirado Grames, an upstart British Columbia-based video game developer which bills itself as a company focused on “meaningful gaming.”

Meaningful gaming

Early last year, the five-man team headed by CEO Rick Davidson and chief technologist and lead programmer Owen Wiggins unveiled the company’s first game, Garden Mind – a multi-player, brain training game that enables players to work as teams in solving challenges tied to real-world issues such as ecology and saving endangered species.

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As they solve the challenges in Garden Mind, players are also informed of the work done by organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and are given opportunities to donate to these groups via online micropayment. “We think a game is meaningful if players look back at 20 to 30 minutes of their game playing time and are able to say ‘hey that wasn’t a waste of time’,” said Wiggins.

Early on, the team realized that the nature of their game required tapping into the social media connections of potential players. However building interfaces for the frequently changing APIs of a growing number of social networks was taking its toll on Inspirado Games’ already stretched team that also had to focus on game development. That was when company turned to Gigya, a social media optimization firm headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif.

Gigya Real-time Social Chat Application, MuchMusic Canada from Gigya, Inc. on Vimeo.

The real-time chat application developed by Gigya for Canada’s MTV channel Much Music.

“Essentially, Gigya let us write to the interfaces of various social nets and enable our players to connect or use our game on these platforms,” Wiggins told ITBusiness.ca.
 “Write once, connect to all”, is the tagline on Gigya’s Web site.

This was work that the Inspirado team could have done, but it would have meant eating into the game development time of its small team. “We would have had to dedicate at least one developer to cover a wide array of platforms that includes Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Skype and others. Gigya allowed us concentrate on developing our game,” said Wiggins.

Social optimization

“Think of our services as a ‘send it and forget it’ service,” David A. Yovanno, CEO of Gigya told ITBusiness.ca when he explained his company’s operations.

Gigya, he said, provides a business with access to 25 social major social media providers by giving that business a unified application programming interface (API). This allows the business’ customers to connect to their social net of choice through the business’ Web site.

“This gives a company only one guy to deal with. Their developers no longer need to deal with multiple APIs or ongoing maintenance, we handle all that,” said Yovanno.

Apart from helping SMB start-ups like Inspirado, Gigya also has helped larger organizations such as Much Music and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation raise its social media profile. In the United States, its clients include Home Depot, American Eagle Outfitters, CBS, Fox Sports, Answers.com and the New York Daily News to name a few.

Gigya’s services start about $1,700/month plus a set-up fee of about $5,000.

Connections to major social net platforms are not the only service that Gigya provides. Apart from providing a single sign-on for customers to sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and more, Gigya also helps drive traffic to websites by providing dynamic referral logins.

Gigya provides its clients’ site with tools that have social features that encourage users to increase time spent in the site and encourages online community building.

Finally, Gigya also delivers analytics tools that help clients track and analyze traffic to their site and gain insight on profile information of users and their friends.

Demonstrating ROI

“For a typical SMB, the services and tools we offer can save them time and money equivalent to having two or three developers on the job,” said Yovanno.

He said on average Gigya’s clients report a 20 per cent increase in customer registration, 16 per cent spike in site traffic and about 20 per cent increase in page views and time spent on site.

Recently Gigya also added to its offerings social optimization tools for mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad and Android.

For companies like Inspirado which is still building its user base, the instant connections facilitated by Gigya are vital.

For instance, players of Garden Mind are provided with multiple choices of channels to use in playing the game with friends, posting accomplishments, opening conversations with players from other locations or inviting other friends into the game.

“It’s so simple players don’t need to leave our site to open another window. They can invite friends on Facebook directly from our site,” said Wiggins.

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