Marketers have been using electronic tools for many years, but the Internet and other new technologies created a flood of interesting and innovative ways to provide and enhance customer value. Every day, countless new articles, videos and blogs are uploaded to the Internet. Most of these languish in relative obscurity. But a few go viral, they explode across the web, attracting the attention of hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of people in short order. Viral marketing has also much in common with online games and online industry has experienced rapid growth recently. In this article I present elements of viral marketing and new trends in online gaming.
Keywords: viral marketing, online marketing, social media, elements of viral marketing, online games.
What is viral marketing?
The principle behind Viral Marketing is that it encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others. The advantage of getting individuals to pass on a marketing message is obvious – these people become your marketing team, and do it for free. 
Picture 1: The dissemination of information among people 
Viral marketing has generated a lot of excitement recently, that’s because it seems to be like the ultimate free lunch. The main idea is to pick small amount of people that will seed your product, message or idea. Then get it to go viral and just watch how it spreads widely to reach thousands, millions or even billions.
Elements of viral marketing
Some viral marketing strategies work better than others. Few work as well as the simple Hotmail.com strategy. But below are the six basic elements you hope to include in your strategy. A viral marketing strategy need not contain all these elements, but the more elements it embraces, the more powerful the results are likely to be. An effective viral marketing strategy:
- Gives away products or services;
- Provides for effortless transfer to others;
- Scales easily from small to very large;
- Exploits common motivations and behaviours;
- Utilizes existing communication networks;
- Takes advantage of others’ resources. 
Historically, many on-line viral marketing activities were generated more by accident than by design and, as with so many activities on the Internet, the theory appears to have developed after the practice. Indeed, the better known viral successes have required good business people to spot and develop the activity, rather than initiating it. 
1. Gives Away Valuable Products or Services
“Free” is the most powerful word in a marketer’s vocabulary. Most viral marketing programs give away valuable products or services to attract attention. Free email services, free information, free “cool” buttons, free software programs that perform powerful functions but not as much as you get in the “pro” version.
Wilson’s Second Law of Web Marketing is “The Law of Giving and Selling”. “Cheap” or “inexpensive” may generate a wave of interest, but “free” will usually do it much faster. Viral marketers practice delayed gratification. They may not profit today, or tomorrow, but if they can generate a groundswell of interest from something free, they know they will profit “soon and for the rest of their lives” Free attracts eyeballs. Eyeballs then see other desirable things that you are selling, and you earn money. Eyeballs bring valuable email addresses, advertising revenue, and ecommerce sales opportunities. Give away something, sell something. 
Picture 2: 100% FREE stamp 
2. Provides for Effortless Transfer to Others
Viruses only spread when they’re easy to transmit. The medium that carries your marketing message must be easy to transfer and replicate: email, website, graphic, software download.
Viral marketing works famously on the Internet because instant communication is easy and inexpensive. The digital format makes copying simple. From a marketing standpoint, you must simplify your marketing message so it can be transmitted easily and without degradation. Short is better. 
3. Scales Easily from Small to Very Large
To spread like wildfire, the transmission method must be rapidly scalable from small to large. Marketers must realize that if the virus multiplies only to kill the host before spreading, nothing is accomplished. Marketers must therefore take care that servers, for instance, can be expanded quickly 
4. Exploits Common Motivations and Behaviours
Clever viral marketing plans take advantage of common human motivations. What proliferated “Netscape Now” buttons in the early days of the web? The desire to be cool. Greed drives people. So does the hunger to be popular, loved, and understood.
The resulting urge to communicate produces millions of websites and billions of email messages. Design a marketing strategy that builds on common motivations and behaviours for its transmission, and you have a winner. 
Picture 3: Road sign with word “Motivation” 
5. Utilizes Existing Communication Networks
Most people are social. Nerdy, basement-dwelling computer science graduate students are the exception. Social scientists tell us that each person has a network of 8 to 12 people in his or her network of friends, family, and associates. A person’s broader network may consist of scores, hundreds, or thousands of people, depending upon his or her position in society. A waitress, for example, may communicate regularly with hundreds of customers in a given week.
Network marketers have long understood the power of these human networks, both the strong, close networks as well as the weaker networked relationships. People on the Internet develop networks of relationships, too. They collect email addresses and favorite website URLs. Affiliate programs exploit such networks, as do permission email lists. Learn to place your message into existing communications between people, and you rapidly multiply its dispersion. 
Picture 4: Logos of social networks 
6. Takes Advantage of Others’ Resources
The most creative viral marketing plans use others’ resources to get the word out. Affiliate programs, for example, place text or graphic links on others’ websites. Authors, who give away free articles, seek to position their articles on others’ webpages. A news release can be picked up by hundreds of periodicals and form the basis of articles seen by hundreds of thousands of readers. Now someone else’s newsprint or webpage is relaying your marketing message. Someone else’s resources are depleted rather than your own. 
New trends in online gaming
Five trends that are influencing growth of the online gaming industry
1. Free-to-play (F2P) business model
The F2P model will remain popular in 2015 and beyond. Free game distribution provides a marketing and business approach for developers and publishers to monetize games. With so many entertainment products available, F2P helps attract new gamers and allows them to try new things with zero commitment to buy. People can pay absolutely nothing and still enjoy the game, or they can choose to spend money and customize their experience by purchasing items through micro transactions during the game. The flexibility of this pricing model benefits online game publishers and consumers alike.
Developers are increasingly deploying the F2P model across all platforms, including mobile and consoles. F2P is already the most popular type of game for mobile users, and this trend will continue to increase. Also, next-generation consoles will soon provide much more support for F2P games than in the past; for example, Sony’s new PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One will offer more F2P options than before. In 2015, SMITE will be free to play on Xbox One. 
Picture 5: “Play for free” ad by League of Legend company 
2. Games as a service
In the days of yore, games were purchased in a box from a retailer and played at home by yourself. When a new game was released, it marked the “finish line” for development and management.
Today, most games are delivered digitally and are available in a multiplayer format. Games as a Service, or cloud gaming, allows gaming companies to provide regular updates, including new content, events or options for downloadable content (DLC). This requires on-going management and makes a new game release seem more like the “starting line” for developers to continue updating the game.
The user state is saved in the cloud and available on multiple devices, allowing gamers to easily pick up where they left off. This type of game delivery requires a more sophisticated Internet infrastructure with ultra-low latency to ensure a highly available game experience for users, regardless of location or device. 
The popularity of video games as a spectator sport has grown dramatically in the past two years. Esports fuse the multiplayer game experience with real-world physical sports, and attract large sponsors including Red Bull and Coke. Originally popular in Asia, the main enabler for the growth of Esports was Twitch, which was acquired by Amazon for just under $1B.
Professional gamers like Matt Haag are earning a comfortable living through competitive careers. Four game franchises have now had Esports events with a prize pool of more than $1M: League of Legends, DoTA2, Call of Duty and SMITE. TheSMITE World Championship event will take place in Atlanta in January, and the prize pool has already grown to more than $1.4M. 
Picture 6: Player streaming the game 
4. Going global
The shift to digital game distribution and broader global access to the Internet has encouraged franchises to expand beyond North America. To gain global appeal, online game developers are incorporating more diverse themes and genres into their games to attract worldwide audiences and global appeal. In the case of SMITE, this includes Greek, Norse, Mayan and Chinese mythology.
Achieving global domination is easier than ever before with cloud-based technology. Online gaming companies need to plan ahead and put the right infrastructure in place to make sure their games are available for a worldwide audience — poor online performance will only lead to game abandonment. As a result of increased global reach, 2015 should see increased global revenues as well. 
Revenue from mobile gaming is predicted to surpass console gaming in 2015. Games are the most popular apps on smartphones, and developers need to plan for this.
Smartphones and tablets, with help from social media apps, are changing the demographics of gamers. The audience is broadening to include more young gamers and more females, also known as mom gamers. The flexibility of multiple devices makes games more accessible to audiences that previously were not associated with video games.
These online gaming trends will continue into 2015 and beyond. Game developers need to be prepared for these shifts, so they can benefit from opportunities that will arise from industry growth. 
Picture 7: Online game on smartphone 
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Autor: Jakub Ševčík