POP Leveraging Brand Power To Engage Windows Gamer Audience Says Art Director Thiel

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popSeattle-area creative shop, POP, recently collaborated with Microsoft to create a Games for Windows Marketplace as the digital agency was tasked with engaging the frenetic audience of online games. Read the release.

Nick Theil, art director on this project for POP, discussed the ins and outs.

AdExchanger.com: From a creative standpoint, how do you balance between creating excitement and interest for the end user, and getting them to buy something?

NT: This often depends on what you're trying to sell. Nike focuses on the exhilaration of competition and the thrill of the victory. Apple highlights beautiful and accessible design that will make your life better. In this case, Games for Windows (GFW) uses the brand power of the game titles to engage the user and a simple, clear interface to give them the most direct access to buy. Oh and offering some great prices definitely helps.

What are you trying to accomplish with the big images on the home page?

Great products usually speak for themselves, however the brand selling the product can sometimes get in the way. In this design the Games for Windows brand stepped quietly into the background in favor of elevating the individual game titles by making them larger than life. Ultimately the GFW brand accounts for only a fraction of the overall page design. Utilizing Microsoft's "Metro" visual style (seen in the new Windows Phone 7), the content, in this case the game titles, became the design.

How much usability testing did you do with gamers? Any learnings you can share?

Unfortunately the project schedule did not allow for extensive usability testing however POP has a culture rooted deeply in gaming having worked for over ten years in the gaming vertical on hundreds of game titles. We have intimate knowledge of the core demographics from both hard-core gamers and, in the past few years with Nintendo Wii and now iOS, the casual gamer.  The challenge can be speaking to both audiences and ultimately satisfying their unique needs in the same experience.

We also know that we have to create a way for gamers to talk and share. Word-of-mouth is a major force in the video game industry, which is something The NPD Group recently highlighted in their report series, “Gaming Device Profiles.”  In it, they found that 41% of video gamers relied on word-of-mouth to get information about games.  And more than 3 in 10 learned about video games by playing them in person at a friend or relative’s home.  Consumer-facing brands rely heavily on the organic sharing of content through its user base, so simple mechanisms to share on major social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter on each page are essential.

What surprised you during the creation of this site?

What surprised/excited me was Microsoft's new Metro design approach. Historically Microsoft hasn't been considered a bastion for great design and user-centered experiences, however the recent releases of Windows Phone 7, recent site updates to Xbox.com and the release of Xbox Kinect demonstrates how Microsoft is truly putting the users first by focusing on the content. As Microsoft steps up their game by adding really thoughtful user-centered design it will force their competitors to do this same.

By John Ebbert

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