The No. 1 activity on Facebook isn’t looking at friends’ photos—it’s playing online games, and it’s enjoyed by 53 percent of Facebook users on the site, according to Market research group Lightspeed Research, Warren, New Jersey.

Gaming is also the top activity for smartphone users.

With games ranging from Minecraft to FarmVille and Words with Friends, this social pastime is popular with all ages, though different demographics and groups play different games.

“It’s the new soap opera and is what housewives do during the day. They bake virtual cupcakes and keep a virtual home,” says Lindsey Port, founder of Glo Gaming, New York City.

Fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s are already involved in gaming. Given the games’ popularity, should your restaurant be involved too?

There are two ways to be involved, Port says.

  • You can run your commercial while games are loading, so instead of it running on TV, it runs on a handheld device or computer. One of the benefits of this is that you can choose which game to run your commercial with, ensuring it is distributed to the audience you want to attract. You can even choose a game that’s highly relevant, like Restaurant City. This is the most popular option for restaurant owners and operators
  • You can ‘own’ a game. You could sponsor a game and ‘skin’ it, which means that you wouldn’t have to program a game, but an existing game could be recoded with your restaurant’s branding—signage, logos and colors, etc. “This is more expensive but drives deeper engagement,” Port explains.

Gaming is perhaps a better way for restaurants to market these days. “It’s a great way to reach a mass audience,” Port points out. “People are engaged; you can run it before the relevant people. And if you run [your commercial] before a game, people are less likely to click off.”

Marketing with games is also very fast. A campaign can be launched in around 48 hours, Port explains.

There’s an entire market out there that you could capture. According to eMarketer, a digital analytics company, 290 million people play online games every month. And gaming is only going to grow. According to Nielsen, the mobile gaming industry is predicted to reach $54 billion by 2015.

By Amanda Baltazar

To read more about how your restaurant can be involved in gaming, look out for our first print issue, available in the late fall.

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