The explosive growth in the social gaming market has left brand and license owners for kids with an interesting dilemma.
On the one hand the vast number of new users, new revenue streams and new types of experience all present fantastic opportunities for kids properties. At the same time, the privacy, security and safety issues presented by the leading social networks make them inappropriate for children's brands.
However, the opportunity for brand owners is difficult to ignore. Social gaming is revolutionizing the whole entertainment market. The ubiquity of social networks and the critical mass of users are creating whole new audiences, while the increasingly sophisticated capabilities of the networks are allowing new forms of gaming, interaction and experience to be created.
Social networks are providing brand owners with a new way to interact with their fans, players and consumers. As growing numbers of people use their preferred social network as their entry point to their entire online experience, having a presence on that network becomes ever more significant.
Growing acceptance of social gaming meanwhile, is producing entirely new revenue streams for brand owners, with the sale of virtual goods, consumer subscriptions and access to exclusive content all pushing business models in new directions and bringing greater opportunities for intellectual property of all kinds, from games and interactive entertainment, through to music, film, television and 'other'.
All of which makes social gaming an ideal platform for children's brands. The existing stand-alone networks such as Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, and Animal Jam show the popularity of giving kids a safe and secure space in which to interact, compete, collaborate and play.
Yet creating an independent social network focused on kids is beyond the remit of all but the biggest brand owners, while creating a stand-alone game removes the social aspects almost entirely. While the possibilities of a social network specifically for kids, or a more child-friendly aspect being added to one of the existing networks remain an intriguing possibility, this is of little practical value to the brand and license owners currently working with properties for children.
Many kids brands are currently confined to their own isolated websites, or micro sites, offering one or more stand-alone games and some element of 'community'. This effectively isolates the brands and reduces their impact in terms of content and potential audience.
There are a number of reasons that simply having a website is no longer sufficient for brands to engage with players.
Single-player online games are losing ground to the more social titles on the market, thanks to the ability to play and share with friends and contacts. Social elements like sharing high scores and content and challenging other players to compete all help social games to 'spread the word', draw in new users, create repeat players and generate opportunities to apply revenue.
The online and persistent nature of social games also allows the introduction of far more narrative into the user's ongoing experience. Players can advance within the larger game, exploring the world, gaining experience, completing adventures, unlocking achievements and creating a far more compelling long-term engagement with the world.
The community element is one of the most difficult aspects to integrate into a property aimed at children. For many brands, 'community' has come to mean a forum, or message board which requires registration and restricts members to exchanging messages. This is an approach with little appeal for younger children and is already vanishing from a growing number of adult focused websites, as more and more users create their own 'distributed' communities across the existing social networks.
The increasing use of social networks as an entry-point or 'hub' of a user's digital life also has a major impact on stand-alone websites as destinations. Typing in a URL as a means of visiting a website is becoming rarer, as more and more users increasingly click through links which appear on their timeline.
All of which are combining to leave kids brands increasingly isolated. Even those which are tied into television and other media channels are finding it harder to draw users to their online destinations.
Huzutech has created a platform which brings together the best elements of virtual worlds, massively multiplayer games, social networks and online communities.
The technology allows wholly-branded virtual worlds to be created in which participants and players can collaborate, compete and play together. Running within a web browser and using ubiquitous web technologies such as Flash and HTML5 Huzutech's platform gives brand owners the means to create their own unique environment – rapidly, simply and securely.
Each world can contain multiple activities encompassing everything from exploration and education through to competitions, games and entertainment. Every aspect of the game can be created and customised to reflect and embrace the key brand values and give users an experience like no other.
Huzutech virtual worlds are inherently social and allow the creation, exchange and sale of virtual goods – creating new revenue streams and providing opportunities to provide narrative, new content and new experiences on an ongoing basis. This extends the life-cycle of the world and allowing new characters, activities and areas to be added and inserted, offering players far more variety and value than individual stand-alone games.
Every Huzutech world has the option for integration into chosen social networks, allowing the requests, achievements and success to be shared with friends and family through trusted channels.
This provides brand owners with the ability to create and control their own rich and compelling environment, giving users the content and experience they want to associate with their properties.
It gives users a safe and secure world in which they can participate and play. Tied into the main social networks, yet not reliant upon any one of them, Huzutech is giving brand owners the opportunity to be the architects of the next generation of online entertainment.