As the pitch for one of the two final candidates in Apprentice 2016, gamification has gone mainstream. The process uses our enjoyment of gaming to better ourselves or make the mundane more enjoyable. Vana Koutsomitis, runner up in the latest series of the UK Apprentice, wanted Alan Sugar to invest in a start up which would combine gaming with online dating and her assertion that both are massive and growth industries is correct.
Lovin’ the Single Gamer
According to Pew Research one in five 25-44 year old Americans have used online dating. There are 80m digital gamers, in the same age segment in the US. So Koutsomitis has a popular product in profitable demographic. She was right to point out that 350m people are glued to mobile phones and to paraphrase, whether it be on the tube or sofa, are playing Candy Crush Saga or other King games ignoring any other popular studios out there.
But does online dating lend itself to this lucrative segment of the gaming industry or vice versa? The appeal of mobile games as electronic time-passers is clear and done well, much like the edu-tainment software of my youth could improve the lives of users through using gaming as a self-improvement process, see Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training.
The idea of underlying biometric tests plugged into dating algorithms and addictive gaming is theoretically sound, but whether it is a product sustaining a pool of profitable pool of users is debatable. Through the few episodes I watched, twinned with a very impressive sounding résumé, I do not doubt that Koutsomitis understands social networking particularly as a business, I don’t. But I do understand the appeal and business behind gaming.
Finding Moby Dick
Mobile gaming as a big industry is no different to gambling, in fact the systems are modelled on this. The bulk of revenues are derived from a small pool of gamers, the ‘Whales’; who finance the free limited gaming of other users. The long term success of Clash of Clans et al is dependant on retaining these Whales, whereas the way I see it retaining users is the antithesis of a successful dating website.
Successful free-to-play titles use in-app purchases to improve the successes of the gamer. Multiple micro transactions are made by Whales to finance the studio and ‘improve’ the users chances at any given level. If Dateplay retains its own Whales, its failed at online dating.
It may have only been reality TV, but Koutsomitis proved she can successful operate a business. I’m sure what I’ve written highlights the obvious, or I’ve missed the point of Dateplay. The challenge for Koutsomitis will be how the app/game is monetised given that it cannot rely on Whales.
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