PlayMob's Jude Ower explains how its charity API can save the world one in-app purchase at a time
But what if there's was an open platform for mobile, social, web and other games so all developers could hook up in-game item purchases to charities?
That's the plan behind UK outfit PlayMob.
Currently building out its platform, it's just announced its first campaign is live in PerBlue's MMOG Parallel Kingdom.
We caught up with CEO Jude Ower to find out more.
Pocket Game: Can you explain the inspiration behind PlayMob?
Jude Ower: We want to make a tangible real-world difference through games. Around three quarters of the global population plays games and by tapping into this community - doing what they do best (playing games and having fun) - we can raise awareness to a mass audience about real world issues and raise funds for on-the-ground teams to deliver tangible benefits.
For example, we started making our first game WeMonster, because our investor Bill Liao (co-founder of Xing.com), had set up a reforestation charity, Weforest. There's so much to learn about why we need more trees to halt global warming, and we wanted to get a lot of people involved, taking action by donating and getting motivated.
But, it's a balancing act when trying to tell people about causes that affect the whole planet and everything on it.
On one hand, you can make it so overwhelmingly scary that people try to ignore it or they can get stressed. We want to provide our audience with a message that gets the point across, gets people to take action and support causes taking action, and do it in such a way we can make a positive impact
Also, being able to tap into games that already exist, rather than make games for every cause out there, seemed the best way to do this.
Why do you think games are a good channel for charitable giving?
Gamers are a global community - they spend time online building, creating, learning. By putting causes in front of gamers, we have the chance to make a positive impact on our world and to help those who need it most.
Gamers are kind, considerate people, despite what some of the press might suggest. With the range of platforms, and especially the success of iPhone, Android, tablets and social networking games, the average age of a social gamer is 43, higher than it previously was.
This gives us an opportunity to get causes infront of a range of ages and demographics, and help people understand the different causes that they can support. Also, we are not asking people to change their behaviour; they are doing something they love, and if they can give some money at the same time, then the feelgood factor increases.
What do developers have to do if they want to get involved?
They have to contact us and we will send them the documentation to use our GiverBoard API. It's very simple and we also work with developers on the messaging and communications. We provide text for within the game, and for gamers, charity supporters and the press.
Initially, this is a manual process, but as we build up the tech and the templates, this system will become an automated way for developers to plug their game into our network and start raising money.
What platforms do you support?
We currently support iOS, Android and web, and are working on consoles too.
What's the deal in terms of revenue split?
We're asking developers to donate a minimum of 50 percent to the charity so a typical split is 50 percent to the charity, 30 percent to the developer and 20 percent to PlayMob - this is after any platform holder's cut. Of course, developer can donate more than 50 percent if they wish.
And how do they set up the system?
The developer selects one object or payment type within the game (i.e. paying to unlock a level etc), and can run a campaign for about 2 - 4 weeks.
In this way, as well as the charity payment, the developer can also drive engagement.
For example, in the current Parallel Kingdom campaign, the players demanded more interaction from the developer PerBlue, and even recreated in-game the areas of Kenya which would receive funds through the game, as a way to remember the campaign.
This turned non-paying players into payers, attracted new players and re-activated inactive users. We're busy pulling together metrics to show the direct and in-direct benefits.
How complex is it in terms of connecting developers with specific charities?
We have a number of charities engaged with us and we have been working closely with charities so we understand the way they operate.
Over time, as the technology becomes more automated, developers can use a search function to look for charities and campaigns they can link to specific in-game purchases, and charities that fit the game content or developers' core values.
We are creating guidelines on how best to choose a charity partner, but for now we offer a lot of help and support to make sure we get the right fit.
Why do you think the dynamic works best being linked to a specific virtual item rather than a general donation mechanism?
We feel it works best when it's linked to an item or benefit to the game player, especially if it's relevant to the game and the charity.
A key element is to engage people who wouldn't normally donate to a cause, so raising awareness of the charity to a new audience. If we can give them an item they need for a game and they can do some good at the same time, it's a double benefit.
What's the reaction been from developers so far?
We're testing with around five developers at the moment and have 12 more who are interested, and that's before we've been promoting it.
We want as many developers as possible to join us as the ecosystem we're building is like a discovery platform, whereby developers can get their games discovered based on the causes they've supported.
As part of this, our global GiverBoard gives players badges and trophies so they can keep a track of their good causes, no matter what games they play. We also want to start working with brands so there's extra revenue potential for both the developer and the charity via brand sponsorship.
Then we can expand to other transactions, both online and offline, giving developers a great platform to promote their games further.
This is just the beginning. We have high expectations for GiverBoard and feel it can support the game development community and also show how games can have a positive effect on the world.
Thanks to Jude for her time.
You can find out more about a PlayMob via its website, or get an idea how the system works in the following video.