Are You Ready for the End of the Flash Browser Plug-In in 2020?

Filed under: Web — Simon Walklate

The End is Nigh

It’s been on the cards for a number of years now, with Adobe essentially giving up on getting the Flash plug-in onto mobile devices some time ago and embracing HTML5. In fact it seems like forever since we’ve created any Flash based content for the web. But now the deadline of the end of 2020 has been announced. After this date Flash content will cease to work in the web browser.

The major browser vendors are also following this same timeline, in phasing out access to Flash content. Even the ones that have incorporated Flash technology directly into their browsers (removing the need for a plug-in installation) are not exempt. So there will be no continued support for Flash beyond 2020 in Google Chrome either, despite there being no need for the Flash plugin-in there.

This really is the end of the road for web based Flash. No web based Flash content will work after the cut-off.

That gives you three short years to plan and execute the conversion of your Flash based content to HTML5. Either convert it, or lose it after Flash is gone.

What Content is Affected?

Short answer is anything on the web that requires the installation of the Adobe Flash plugin.

Any remaining Flash content you care about is likely to be anything you consider “evergreen”. It’ll still get enough traffic/use to justify it’s existence and ultimately the time, effort and budget to convert and keep it. This could be:

  • Marketing content – Any web based multimedia content that helps drive traffic or get links/social shares. This could be anything from a simple interactive widget to a complex web based game.
  • Training/e-learning content – Web based multimedia content either for conducting training programmes as part of your business needs to be addressed.

Basically, any Flash content that is useful/entertaining to your users, that isn’t time specific and still provides value to your business, should be prioritised. Especially if you have lots of content that you need to keep, starting to audit and planning for content update and replacement is essential now.

The End of Flash Games

This will also mean the end of an era in web games development. Any web based games built in Flash will need to be converted and replaced or taken down before the deadline.

This might not sound like a huge big deal, but it is. Most of the big games companies on Facebook are still to this day using Flash based versions of their games for desktop computer users. These will need to go through the potentially expensive and time consuming process of being converted to HTML5, or taken down.

This doesn’t just apply to big games companies though. If you’ve had any Flash based games developed in the past now is the perfect time to start planning to get them converted. Building a brand new version using modern web standards also gives you a great opportunity for an update/redesign to raise the quality of any dated games.

A Great Opportunity to Finally Go Mobile Compatible

If you’ve been putting off the conversion process, now is a great time to think again. Converting Flash content to HTML5 will future-proof it for years to come and finally allow mobile users to access your content on their devices. This will further increase the reach and ultimately value of your content.

Budget and Time

Obviously, the more Flash content you want to keep, after the deadline, the more time and budget you’re going to need. This is why you must start assessing and planning now. If you have lots of content to convert, it could be a monumental task. Don’t put it off until 6 months before, because there may not be time then to get the work done. Also, if you start now, you’ve got three years to spread the cost over.

Does This Affect Adobe AIR?

There’s been a fair amount of confusion over the name Flash in relation to the development tools and the web based deployment platform. Because of this Adobe even rebranded the tools from “Adobe Flash Pro” to “Adobe Animate” recently. The tools will continue to exist long after Flash is gone from the web. (In fact we still use Flash Pro tools to help with animation and visual asset creation for our HTML5 games).

The Adobe AIR platform for building mobile and desktop PC apps will still exist and be updated and supported by Adobe. You’ll still essentially be able to use “Flash” technology to create stand-alone application builds for computers and mobile devices. No existing Adobe AIR based apps will be effected. It’s just the web based component that will no longer exist.

Should I Stop Creating New Flash Content?

There’s no easy answer to this. In general though (with a few exceptions), I would say you need to steer away from creating new Flash content for the Flash web player, if you haven’t already.

There are some limited instances where Flash content may still make sense in the short term though. For instance if you’re creating content with a relatively short shelf life (e.g. for a marketing campaign and needs to be accessible to older, HTML5 incompatible browsers on desktop computers only). These instances will be few and far between at this point though. So 9 times out of 10 you should use HTML5 for all new content going forward, in order to future-proof it.

What Now?

We’d highly recommended that you start thinking about and auditing any Flash content you may have ASAP. Prioritise your most valuable assets and start allocating budget to convert any critical Flash based content (that you know will definitely still be valuable to you in three years time).

Three years sounds like a long time, but it really isn’t. Especially if you have lots of Flash content, the conversion process can be extremely time consuming. So start now.

The ‘Build It and They Will Come’ Approach to Branded Games

Filed under: Branded Games — Simon Walklate

Branded games can be a great way to get huge exposure for brands, when integrated with your other marketing. The problem that I see more often than you would think (and I would like) is businesses insisting on taking the ‘build it and they will come’ approach, despite being strongly advised against it.

As with most bad ideas, it comes from a lack of knowledge and experience and it’s definitely not the client’s fault for thinking this way. People see the hype around branded games and think they’re something magical, where you build this piece of content, post it to your website and all of a sudden (by some sort of psychic link?) millions of people will suddenly know about it, visit and play it. Although branded games can be quite magical at times, in terms of just how many people they can reach, there’s nothing magical about the hard work that goes into launching one successfully.

The fact is, very little content goes truly ‘viral’, this equally applies to other forms of multimedia content such as videos. For something to be truly viral and grow in popularity exponentially, every person that sees it needs to pass it on to more than one other person, which rarely happens. If that was the case, you could literally tell just a handful of people about the content you’ve created and watch it spread out of control. In reality, banking on this is only going to lead to failure and that’s what you’re pretty much guaranteeing if you don’t do everything you can to promote a piece of content.

Now that isn’t to say producing a branded game is a waste of time and money and it’s doomed to failure from the start, far from it. They can be a brilliant hook to gain exposure within your industry, via your own marketing and PR channels. We’ve seen clients use press releases to really push their branded game and get great, targeted exposure by doing so. It goes without saying that a high quality game will serve you much better (in increased engagement, spread and ultimately exposure) than a poor game, but you need to be aware of the realities of launching a branded game. Whether it’s a game posted on your own website or on a third party platform such as Facebook or a mobile app, spending some time planning and effectively making use of all the channels at your disposal will only benefit you in the long run.

The process of launching a branded game involves getting as many eyeballs on the content as possible from the start, much the same as promoting any other piece of content. The most successful branded games we’ve produced have been successful because the client has been passionate about promoting the game and really gone the extra mile. We take care of production of a quality, engaging game, but that’s only part of the equation.

If you’re a small business without a good, targeted mailing list (and/or an extensive following on social media) and the means to promote a branded game to potentially get exposure in industry specific media then, in all honesty, a branded game (or indeed any multimedia content) may not be for you. But as long as you have those things (plus, put in the work to take advantage of them) and are able to fully integrate a game into a current marketing campaign to drive even more players, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t see good results from a branded game as an engagement tool.

I won’t go into specifics about what you should do to promote a branded game here, but it should definitely be fully integrated into your overall marketing campaign to see good results, not just left in isolation. It’s also worth noting that it’s possible to maximise your return by thinking about other ways you can use the game from the start. E.g. we’ve had clients have branded games produced for inclusion on their website, but also have a slightly modified version built to take to trade shows and events. This may increase the production costs slightly, but will allow you to maximise use of your game for a relatively small additional cost.

Long story short, to maximise exposure and return from a branded game takes some work on the client’s part. If you really make the most of the opportunity and think of creative ways to use your branded game as a promotional tool, instead of just seeing the game as the end of the process, you’ll undoubtedly reap the rewards.

Things Every Brand Should Do to Promote Their Branded Game

Filed under: Branded Games — Simon Walklate

Branded games really are the king of premium content that can help engage your audience, give your PR the hook it needs to get coverage in online and traditional media, help your SEO efforts and more. But like with any content, your branded game can be the most amazing piece ever created, but if few people know it’s there, it will fail.

Without a promotion strategy to drive a good number of players in the first instance, you’re fighting an uphill battle and will likely be disappointed with the results of even the most amazing branding game. On the other hand a good promotional strategy, implemented well, can produce great results. But it does require some work, above and beyond just producing and posting a branding game.

I’m not going to go into every single creative method you can use to promote a game, many of these are likely to be industry specific, or even specific to your particular brand. What we’re going to go after here is the low hanging fruit. The easy stuff that every brand can and should be doing as a bare minimum to promote a branded game in order to dramatically increase their chances of making it a success.

Most of them seem pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how many brands fail to do even the most basic promotion and end up missing out on potentially huge amounts of exposure. Anyway, here we go:

Leverage Your Existing Audience

Existing Website Traffic

This is the most obvious one and it can make a huge difference, especially for brands that already have good amounts of traffic to their website. Promote your game with a link from your homepage (or some other high traffic page).

If it’s a web based game sitting on a page on your website, it’s not enough just to put it up and not give your visitors an easy way to find it. Same goes for a mobile app, or a game that sits on Facebook or some other external website. Link it from your homepage.

A nicely designed image link is obviously preferable, but you’d be surprised how many brands don’t even promote their game with a text link (either to the game, or games index page, if you have more than one) on a high traffic page of their website. If you don’t do this, you’re missing out on a great, extremely easy opportunity to give your branded game a promotional boost  and dramatically increase play numbers.

Social Media

I’m going to assume your business is active on social media (Twitter and Facebook at least). Anyone that’s chosen to follow you on social media is already interested in your business. So make sure you promote your branded game to them.

I should also mention, this isn’t a once and done thing. Now I’m not advocating spam, but if you have a reason to post again, do it. E.g. if you do an update to your game, tell people about it.

It also depends the social network. Twitter for instance is very much in the moment and tweets “expire” very quickly. So if you have a very active business Twitter account, why not consider promoting your game there more frequently (maybe once a week).

Mailing lists

If your business has a mailing list (email or snail mail) use it to tell people about your game. Once again, this is a prime opportunity to target people who’ve shown an interest in your business, or have even been past customers/clients. Not leveraging your mailing list to promote a branded game is a big mistake.

Integrate With Your Other Marketing Activities

A branded game usually ties in with a specific marketing campaign, yet many brands forget to cross-promote their content.

Advertising

Whether you’re a huge multi-national corporation, or a small business, I’m guessing you’re doing some sort of advertising to promote your business. Whether online or offline and no matter what the scale, why not at the very least mention the game in your other advertising? Otherwise it’s a missed opportunity to generate interest in your game and ultimately promote your business.

PR

Same goes for your PR activities. Businesses (particular smaller, less established ones) often struggle to get media coverage. Without a good hook, it can be difficult to stand out from the mountain of similar, bland press releases received by media each day.

If you have a branded game, that may very well be the hook you need to stand out from the crowd and get the coverage your business needs, and deserves to help promote your brand. Unfortunately, many brands squander this opportunity by either not doing this at all, or not doing it effectively.

Increase Your Chances of Success

Don’t be one of the businesses that takes the “Build it and They Will Come” approach and forgo these easy steps to promote their branded game. It almost never leads to success, with any form of content, however good it is.

Make sure you go through this checklist and at the very least do everything on it. But don’t stop there, I’m sure you can think of many more creative ways to promote and drive even more traffic to your branded game.

5 Ways Games Can Help Your Business

Filed under: Serious Games — Simon Walklate

Video games are still often seen as a frivolous pastime and the domain of kids. But did you realise they can and are being used for serious applications by businesses all over the world? Helping them not only accomplish a multitude of goals, but accomplish them more effectively. So the big question is, are you using games in your business and if not, why not?

Games can be used to make training fun, help you engage with customers and clients (past, present and future), increase productivity and more. With options of deploying online, on mobile devices, via PC hardware and more. I’ve written this article to highlight and give you a flavour of the top 5 ways your business can start using games.

1) Marketing, Advertising & PR

In the offline world, traditional advertising methods are still the go-to way to get the word out about your company. Online, Pay-Per-Click advertising is still the number one method of generating highly targeted traffic. But, what happens after people find you? How do you go about keeping visitors engaged on your business website, as well as giving them a reason to return.

Content marketing is really gaining more traction than ever in the online world. It essential serves two main purposes, providing “sticky” content to keep visitors engaged on your website and helping promote your website and business by getting links and social shares that ultimately drive traffic.

Getting natural links and social shares is more important than ever to any company looking to get more exposure online. When most businesses think about a premium piece of content to help their SEO and PR, they think video. But what many don’t realise is there’s a much more engaging alternative available to businesses for a comparable production cost.

The problem with video is it’s only ever a passive medium, your audience doesn’t really participate. This can make scope for re-engagement limited – once they’ve seen a video, it’s unlikely to offer anything new on repeat views. Then there’s the problem of so many businesses using video now that it’s become increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd.

Despite the fact they’ve been around for at least a decade and their use is growing, branded games used for marketing are still only being used by a minute percentage of companies. Unlike video, they’re interactive, so the viewer directly participates. They also offer an incentive to go back for repeat plays (beat that high score, complete that level, etc.), so overcome most of the drawbacks of corporate videos.

2) Business Promotions

When most people think business promotions, seasonal or otherwise, they think traditional physical promotional items and corporate gifts. Printed T-shirts, pens, mugs, corporate greetings cards and the like. Although they serve their purpose, are these really helping your business stand out in a crowded marketplace?

When sent out to customers and clients past, present and (hopefully) future, an interactive promotional game can really help your company stand out and add the wow factor to your business promotions.

3) Employee Training

Whether it’s learning basic business practices or complex internal systems in the workplace, employee training isn’t usually the most exciting of things. Serious games and simulations provide a unique way to break through that and make corporate training fun, providing a truly engaging medium to get the information across and help it sink in.

4) Staff Rewards to Boost Morale in the Workplace

It’s been proven time and time again, a happy staff is a productive staff. If you want to go the extra mile in injecting a bit of fun into the workplace, creating a branded game for employees to play can be a great reward around Christmas time, any other significant occasion, or just for no reason at all.

It can live on your company intranet (behind an employee login), up on the web (to play outside the workplace), or even make a great, fun addition to your break area.

5) Exhibitions and Live Events

If you’re the kind of business that exhibits at a lot of trade shows or use live events and experiential marketing to promote your products and services, you’ve probably tried to come up with ideas of how to stand out and draw a crowd.

A game on your exhibition stand could very well be the solution – providing an enjoyable, free experience and encouraging competition over the course of the event with a high score board. Plus, you can use it at multiple events to maximise the benefit for your business and make sure you get your money’s worth.