Posts by: Doug Wicks

The new buzzword, gamification, is beginning to look suspiciously like an old one—synergy.

Earlier this week, Comcast’s subsidiary NBCUniversal announced the creation of UGN (Universal Game Network), a new casual gaming platform that will bring together its most popular online, mobile and social network gaming offerings.

The company is putting special emphasis on the latter, with an eye toward leveraging gamer data on Facebook and other, similar sites. “Social gaming is a fast-growing category that attracts a highly engaged and targeted audience,” Linda Yaccarino, president, Cable Entertainment and Digital Sales for NBCUniversal, said in a statement. “UGN provides NBCUniversal with a unique platform to connect with these consumers and offer our clients a distinct ad solution that taps into the 300 million social gamers active on Facebook and beyond.”

UGN aggregates NBCU’s gaming efforts around a single platform for the first time. Consumers can play games and accrue reward points, consume content, and challenge friends via Facebook.

What does this mean for companies making packaged games for home consoles and/or gaming-dedicated handhelds? Social gaming tends to grow the audience for games of all kinds, so the advent of UGN means more opportunities for packaged game companies to sell their wares. Casual gamers in this category don’t seriously erode the pool of console gamers; in fact, the success of Wii from Nintendo proves just the opposite.

The real deal here is that UGN extends NBCU’s content and advertising reach to critical targets watching less TV and/or multitasking while watching.

There is, of course, another benefit for NBCU—more consumer data. Per the NBCU press release, “The UGN platform also enables NBCU to track fan engagement, target content to specific audiences and create future experiences based on popularity and demand. Long term, advertisers will be able to take advantage of the integrated big data analytical capabilities of the system to maximize the reach and efficiencies of their buys.”

In other words, NBCU will be able to combine what they already know about TV viewers with data from UGN, Facebook, and a variety of other sources the company accesses.

So synergy, er, gamification is fun for you and me, and another way for NBCU and Comcast to ring their registers. Game on!

For years, consumers have been sold unlimited internet plans in both the wired and wireless worlds. “Eat as much as you want,” said the service providers.

But the era of unlimited data is fast coming to a close with the advent of streamed video. Networks are groaning under the weight of bandwidth-heavy movies, YouTube clips, live sports broadcasts and oh so much more.

In response, service providers are setting monthly limits on how much data consumers can use. They’re especially keen to clamp down on the notorious 1% who consume disproportionately large amounts of data.

The broader problem lies in consumers’ lack of understanding the hard realities of data consumption. The majority not only doesn’t know much about data consumption, but doesn’t really care, either.

In the name of education, service providers have published dry FAQs and tutorials. These learning aids could do the job—if consumers were willing to suffer through them. But as even the most dedicated student will attest, these kinds of mechanisms are marginally effective at teaching innately interesting topics, let alone something like data consumption.

Fortunately for us, the good people at NYTimes.com have injected a little humor into the issue in the form of a short-n-breezy quiz. Don’t be fooled by its light tone or brevity, though. This quiz is a real brainteaser. At the risk of sounding immodest, I consider myself well-versed on the topic, and I scored six of eight.  A sharp colleague scored four of eight.

The quiz demonstrates the virtues of “gamifying” an otherwise dull subject and hopefully, can serve as a model to companies looking to educate the broader public on decidedly staid but important technology-related issues.