Always Choose Custom Branded Games Over Reskinned Games

Filed under: Branded Games — Simon Walklate

Off-the-shelf, reskinned branded games can be tempting due to the seemingly much lower cost vs custom built solutions. A game is a game, right? Wrong. Here's why you really should steer well clear.

Quality is Generally Lower

This isn't always the case, but generally companies relying on bulk sales of off-the-shelf games, at a much lower rate and offer a much lower quality product. As with everything, you get what you pay for. Do you want to commission a developer who's having to speculatively churn out endless generic games for repurposing with no guarantee they will make any money, just to make sure they have everything covered in advance, or a developer who knows they're guaranteed fair compensation for their work and will carefully craft your game from the ground up, with your brand in mind?

When having to take the former approach, corners inevitably get cut and the bare minimum of work ends up getting done. So you can end up with not only a lower grade product, but a product that's missing much of the functionality you might expect.

Lack of Extra Features to Increase Engagement and Spread

Many off-the-shelf brandable games only include bare bones core functionality and lack many of the additional features you may want, need or expect. This stems from the fact that the game needs to be created in a generic, reusable form as well as needing to complete production as fast as possible.

Features like global scoreboards, social media sharing, Facebook games platform integration, or integration with your own custom backend system will likely be off the table without significant (and costly) custom modifications/additions. So by the time you've actually got everything you need added to a prebuilt branded game, the costs involved are nowhere near as low as you first thought.

You May Be on Your Own When It Comes to Support

When you buy a non-exclusive license of a pre-built, reskinnable game, you're usually going to get the final package ready for uploading and posting on your website. However, this isn't always as easy as it sounds. Especially now HTML5 is being used more and more to cover mobile compatibility. For instance branded HTML5 games usually include a number of files (code and assets) needed to make them work and an iframe is the usual way to embed into a web page. If you're not comfortable doing this, you really need to make sure a base level of support is included to help you get you up and running. Unfortunately, a cheap reskinned game license is unlikely to mean someone is there to guide you through every step of the process and troubleshoot any potential problems you may have.

Don't Settle for "That'll Do"

Your brand deserves better than settling for a ready made game that isn't exactly what you want, but is the closest fit you can find. You wouldn't do it in any other areas of your marketing, so why do it here? Would you pick an off-the-shelf TV or print advertisement and just put your logo on it? Imagine having the exact same advert as ten other companies, just with the logo changed.

Although there's no such thing as a truly unique game, there's a world of difference between say, having two car racing games, both built from the ground up and just swapping out some basic visual elements (or worse, just adding your logo) on one game to create another virtually identical one for a different brand.

When it comes to creating any form of content to help promote your business, making it as unique as possible is of the utmost importance and generic pre-made content should be avoided.

Each New Version Offers Diminishing Returns

Each time a new version of essentially the same game is released it becomes a harder sell, in terms of the promotion needed to get in front of players, in the first instance. Less players will be interested in playing and less websites, publications and individuals will be interested in linking to or sharing your branded game on social media. Players have already played it and websites that have already linked to or featured a previous version are unlikely to again.

We don't generally offer reskinned games for these reasons, but one project required a series of advergames to be produced for a client (the original, then 2 more reskinned versions for the same client, to promote other events).

The end result was that each subsequent version ended up doing less than half the daily play numbers of the previous version. It was on a severe downward spiral and I'd expect any additional versions of essentially the same game to follow the same path, to the point where they failed to move the needle at all.

In this case it really wasn't a problem, because they were all for the same client (in order to maximise their return on the initial investment), anything extra we could squeeze out of the two subsequent partially reskinned versions of the game was a bonus. Using a ready made game from the start, is another story. You don't know how many other brands have used it previously. You could be the 100th business to use a game, then you have a problem. Also, bear in mind these were fairly significant reskins, not just a logo swap. I'd expect the drop to be significantly greater when just the logo changes.

Custom branded games don't have this problem. You're guaranteed to be the first business in that line, so maximising the potential exposure for your brand.

Think Twice Before Going for the Cheaper Option

I hope this makes you think before using a cheaper, off-the-shelf game for your brand. It really is a false economy.