Kempt on web games and digital marketing

Kempt on web games and digital marketing
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

May 12th 2011 at 3:00PM

UK specialists in advergames discuss the ultimate in impulse gaming

Free-to-play web games are the height of playful diversions: Impulsive, instantly gratifying and certain to consume your free time before you know it.

And the potential to reach millions of web users through interactive mediums has become an important strategy for smart advertisers.

Kempt has been creating Flash-based web games and digital marketing since 2003.

Based in Hertfordshire, Kempt have worked on projects for major clients in the music and film industries, including EMI, RCA and 20th Century Fox.

Some of their work includes Freeway Fallguy (an arcade driving game promoting the lead single for Raygun), Sex in the City Shopping and, most recently, Tinie Tempah - The Game (a Canabalt-style 2D platformer, complete with iconic lyrical hooks).

Develop contacted Kempt’s founder and managing director Chris Kempt to hear some of the secrets behind creating games for audiences that aren’t necessarily intending to play anything.

How competitive is the digital marketing game space?
It varies, but on the whole our clients tend to be quite loyal. We try not to pitch too much as it’s a very costly exercise but sometimes it’s unavoidable. I don’t like pitching against our direct competition as, generally speaking, we’re all pretty good at what we do.

What’s the general process like once you’ve been set a project by a client?
It varies hugely depending on the developer and the client. Sometimes a really strict specification is required up-front, but generally we don’t like to. Games are a complex beast with lots of variables, as a result, what looks fine on paper can often turn out to be flawed in reality and therefore the development process is more successful and efficient if we can approach the project with a bit more freedom.

What are the most important things to consider when making web games for music artists and films?
With the music industry, the key thing is that budgets are invariably very tight. It’s important therefore to use time as efficiently as possible, focus on the core attraction of the game and make sure that’s produced as beautifully as possible.

As your games are made for audiences who aren’t necessarily looking to spend time playing a game, what types/genres of game do you find yourselves designing to accommodate them?
I’m not sure there’s a strict genre as such, but we often say that people should know how to play the game before they even get to it. In other words, the game should be as familiar and approachable as possible and the content should delight and entertain.

What are the advantages of making free Flash games over retail games?
Well, there are advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, we’ve never done a project that we’ve lost money on, which in eight years is a good result. On the down side, there’s no upside. However, flash games can be very rewarding to produce since you don’t need to get bogged down in specs and iterations. The project might be complete in four to eight weeks.

Who are your primary clients, and why are they looking for promotion through web games?
Every client is a primary client! As for why? Well, the reasons can vary, but generally clients want to engage an audience and either capitalise on an existing investment, like a sponsorship of some kind, or amplify their overall marketing message.

How do feel about transmedia, the idea that media content is converging, enabling audiences to consume stories across a multitude of platforms? And what part do web games have to play in it?
I always thought it was something that was just happening. Games in general have a big part to play in that kind of reality, but I wouldn’t necessarily limit it to web games. It’s just that the online space is currently the most accessible forum for both users and developers.

As for why this is, well, human being play games. It’s just what we do. It’s how we learn as children, how we conduct our careers and love lives, and how we spend our twilight years - except that solitaire is now a bunch of pixels on a screen and not bits of card on a table. I don’t think it’s any more complex than that. We play, therefore we are, therefore we create and capitalise on that instinct.

How do you feel about TIGA’s commitment to the causal sector with their ‘Casual Games Committee’?
I’ve been a huge fan of TIGA and their activities for years and they’ve been immensely supportive of Kempt.

However, the establishment of the CG committee puts a name and a structure to their support and I’m extremely confident that with the hard work of the TIGA team (not to mention the legendary Mr Mike Hawkyard who’s bravely stepped in as chair to get it moving) this initiative will be supremely successful in ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of what’s going on in the sector. I plan to support them with fervour, gusto and relish!