These days, Kevin's the senior vice-president of entertainment and games strategy for Dave & Buster's. The popular chain restaurant and entertainment business offers food, drink, and an incredible array of arcade games—all under one roof.
I invited Kevin to Marketing Smarts to discuss how the company's using free mobile games as part of its marketing strategy.
Players earn virtual tickets that get loaded onto their existing "Power Card." The next time they're at a Dave & Buster's location, they can redeem their tickets for real prizes (or earn more tickets playing on-site games). The free games also enable in-app purchases, serving up additional revenue for the company.
Here are just a few highlights from my conversation with Kevin:
Use mobile games to enhance your brand's real world customer relationships (07:30): "One of the things that I started looking at when I first joined the company...was how we could...stay connected to our guests and allow them to continue to enjoy the Dave & Buster's experience when they weren't inside one of our stores. It very quickly occurred to me that there haven't been really good translations of modern arcade style games into the mobile space. If you're like me, you've probably played around with some of the classic conversions of Pac Man, Space Invaders, and Atari games and things like that. But what I wanted to do was to create a series of games that encompass some of our best-known, best-loved games, and do it in a way that felt very natural.
Don't just jump into mobile games: Develop a strategy based on your brand's unique appeal (08:11): "We've seen a trend where a number of app games—Cut the Rope or Fruit Ninja or games like that—have been translated into arcade games. Much bigger screens, the ability to win prizes, that sort of thing. Some of them have been successful, some of them less so (particularly those that...stay too close to the original game), because, when you go out to Dave & Buster's, you want a new kind of experience. You want something you can't get anywhere else. I didn't want to repeat that the other way. I didn't want to just take a game that you've played at Dave & Buster's and just shrink it down onto a mobile screen, because I thought that would get pretty boring pretty quickly.
"We went back to the drawing board and thought about the basic principles of the game. If this had been a game that never existed in an arcade, that was designed from the beginning to be a mobile game, what would it be like? How would it play? What kind of strategy elements? What kind of level progression? What kind of things can you do in a digital version of a game that you can't do in a physical game because the laws of the physical universe prevent it? And so that's what we did, and then we...stepped it up by allowing you to...win real Dave & Buster's tickets that are automatically loaded onto your 'Power Card,' which is a card that you use to activate the games...so the next time you come to Dave & Buster's, you have a bunch of tickets that you can redeem for prizes."
Know what you want mobile games to do for your business, but be open to the possibilities (24:15): "First and foremost, it's about staying connected with the guests, so that they will come more frequently. I think that, with all the different entertainment options that are available to someone, having our name front and center causes them to think about us when they're thinking about what they want to do that evening, or weekend. That's important... If there was one thing that I was looking to do with this, it would be to increase the frequency of visits to our stores. That said, if this becomes a compelling product on its own, and it generates its own revenue through the in-app purchases that we make available...that opens up all kinds of new avenues for things that we could do and new ways to interact with our guests."
Kevin and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.
Kevin Bachus, senior vice-president of entertainment and games strategy at Dave & Buster's, an entertainment destination featuring food, drinks, and arcade games. Check out the free mobile games and follow the company on Twitter.