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How the video games industry can promote an eco-friendly future with PlanetPlay

CEO Rhea Loucas and head of business development Felix Bradshaw discuss how collaborating with PlanetPlay helps the planet and ups your game
How the video games industry can promote an eco-friendly future with PlanetPlay
  • PlanetPlay aims to work with the games industry to promote a greener future through its continuous collaborations and partnerships
  • A recent partnership with mobile metaverse game Avakin Life not only created a positive player sentiment but also uplifted in-game sales all whilst being for a good cause

Climate-conscious games marketplace PlanetPlay has been partnering with forward-thinking game studios to fight the climate crisis and show how the video game industry can play an important role in creating a greener future.

One such tie in with Sybo's Subway Surfers saw the release of music artist J Balvin into the game, with players able to buy his limited-edition, playable character with the proceeds heading to the environmental initiatives that PlanetPlay was supporting.

Another, a partnership with Lockwood Publishing, the creator of mobile metaverse experience Avakin Life, saw recording artist and entrepreneur Fat Joe promote show his eco credentials with a series of exclusive in-game and physical merchandise with a portion of the proceeds being donated to PlanetPlay to fund global climate projects.

We discussed current and future partnerships with PlanetPlay’s founder and CEO, Rhea Loucas, and the head of business development at the not-for-profit games marketplace, Felix Bradshaw. We find out how these collaborations go towards a good cause by promoting a greener future while also player satisfaction and metrics, and how more studios can get involved. First, can you tell us a little about working with mobile metaverse experience Avakin Life to create a more climate-conscious space? How did the collaboration come about originally?

Rhea Loucas: The project first emerged from conversations we had with the Lockwood team in San Francisco while we were all at GDC last year – the potential to incorporate eco-consciousness into a virtual world like Avakin Life was just so compelling. The social aspect of the game delivers a lot of experiences to players that are rooted in real life. One of the key things borne out by both our own and third-party research is that Gen Z and Millennials care deeply about the environment and will engage enthusiastically with media that support the sustainability causes they are passionate about.

Post-GDC, we picked up the discussions in London with Pete Lovell, the Chief People Officer at Lockwood, who was excited about bringing the company’s wider workforce into a green collaboration. In fact, we’ve since learned in GDC’s own research that 27% of studio employees feel their companies should be doing more to support the environment, so there’s also a case that green activations boost morale and give product teams opportunities to work on new and meaningful projects.

Further discussions with the product team crystalised the concept of providing a climate conscious space in Avakin Life for players to visit. This included the creation of a new category of in-game fashion items branded ‘Save The Planet’, with revenue for sales shared directly with verified green projects via PlanetPlay.

“Every metric matters at a time when margins are being squeezed across the industry, so we were pleased to see such a wide uplift across the board.”
Rhea Loucas

Felix Bradshaw: Meanwhile, in the background, we had already started to explore opportunities to facilitate cross-entertainment experiences as part of PlanetPlay partner activations, incorporating musicians, artists and popular pop culture IPs into our ‘Making Green Moves’ initiative. The aim is to ensure green projects really resonate with gamers through better experiences that make a bigger impact.

The rapper Fat Joe was one of the artists we talked to in 2023, and it transpired that Lockwood’s Senior Marketing Director, Ouni Kwon, was a huge fan! Since then, we’ve rolled out several different eco-consciousness campaigns in Avakin Life, including the one with Fat Joe - and all have been well received by players.

What were some of the results of the collaboration? It was the highest-performing event on Google Play at the time, so what other impact did it have on users, downloads, and other metrics?

Rhea Loucas: Every metric matters at a time when margins are being squeezed across the industry, so we were pleased to see such a wide uplift across the board. As discoverability is a key challenge right now, perhaps most noticeable was a 6% increase in Avakin Life downloads on the Google Play store over the launch period, plus a 104.8% uplift in new user acquisition. When you factor that in, alongside a 58.7% uplift in re-activated players, you start to get a sense of the genuine and profound impact these sorts of green collaborations can generate.

My favourite stat was a 1,600% uplift in sales of one particular in-game item and a further 458% increase in sales across 30 other items when comparing the first seven days of release as a Green item vs the previous seven days.

Felix Bradshaw: I’d also add that some of the best results aren’t captured by metrics but by player feedback and sentiment. There was huge positivity through combined social channels, with many volunteering to translate everything into their own language to support other players, as well as helping them to understand the cause. To me, that illustrates just how far games have come – to a point where they’re a social convergence of all media, community and communication.

The ultimate winner in all this, of course, is the planet. What the Fat Joe x Avakin Life collaboration shows is that it’s possible to create a not-for-profit system that is 100% dedicated to making the world a better place by unlocking what we call the ‘passive activism’ of players. All that gamers need to do is continue playing the games they love, with no change in style or habit required to contribute to amazing sustainability causes.

So, not only are collaborations like this for a good cause, but they also seem to boost player sentiment and metrics. What advice would you offer other game makers to get involved in promoting a greener gaming community while also potentially benefiting their game overall?

Felix Bradshaw: People care about this stuff. Gamers care even more – sustainability is something that they want to influence and change but often don’t know how to. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see game studios running hugely successful campaigns, resulting in happier player sentiment and players that then stay in your ecosystem?

We have multiple levers we can use to engage with studios. For example, we can run advisory sessions to help a studio assess its own ‘green’ baseline, then work with the team to create a plan for achieving the goals they set. This is something that will become more regulated across all sectors, so it makes sense for studios to get ahead of the curve now, whether that’s via a partner like PlanetPlay or by becoming a B-Corp, or with multiple partners and initiatives.

“Ultimately, we’d love to go huge by running integrations in games alongside famous Hollywood stars, musicians and sports personalities too.”
Rhea Loucas

Rhea Loucas: We also encourage non-invasive in-game player surveys to help studios understand their players on a whole new level. This can sometimes influence or even dictate aspects of game design based on sentiment: show players that you care about what they care about – it’s a movement we are increasingly noticing.

Then, we can run green activations in-game, providing coherent messaging and opportunities for players to participate in and donate to in-game events. This can be as varied as a fishing challenge in Fishing Clash, which was designed to clean up waterways, or a new electric vehicle launch in Nitro Nations. Ultimately, we’d love to go huge by running integrations in games alongside famous Hollywood stars, musicians and sports personalities too.

Regardless, the best campaigns are designed by the game teams and informed by our research and guidance – this ensures we choose the right Calls To Action. Nobody understands a game better than the team that made it and the players that play it. That ensures authenticity, which is critical to the success of any green activation.

Finally, we have an eco-donate web store where we provide thousands of games, items, IAPs, skins, or even physical merchandise. This is important as it allows for a player journey that loops back to the game economy, providing even more opportunity to go green – players can track their favourite studio and game contribution to Co2 offset in real-time, as well as their own individual stats.

Are there certain types of games that you feel are an ideal fit for a partnership with PlanetPlay? What do you look for in a partnership?

Rhea Loucas: We focus on players, studios, narrative and metrics first. By building something cool and genuine, the green magic happens at the output phases, if not later. A game may not have any green credentials within it historically, but there will always be a fit, so eco-activations can, in theory, work within any genre of game across any platform. It’s a fantastic way of invigorating back catalogue titles too.

Right now, mobile games are ideally suited to green activations as iteration times are shorter, and we can provide more dynamic campaigns that monetise through in-game items or ads. It’s also easier to measure the success of mobile campaigns as we can pinpoint the items or the CTAs which had the best responses and output. ARPDAU is a slightly better metric than DAU/ MAU in terms of monetisation here, as you might expect.

“As well as everything being genuine, authentic, and real, we see our partnerships as being continuous.”
Felix Bradshaw

Are there any games that PlanetPlay is partnering with or is keen to partner with in 2024? What results would you like to see over the next year?

Felix Bradshaw: As well as everything being genuine, authentic, and real, we see our partnerships as being continuous. For example, we are in an ongoing collaboration with Avakin Life, and we have some huge events planned for the year ahead. We want to focus on working with studios that want to do big things in sustainability, make profound impacts and create change. That way, everyone wins.

Rhea Loucas: We certainly have a wish list, and we sometimes approach new studios based on our IP relationships – certain stars may want to feature in particular games, so that can be our starting point. As we can work in many ways – advisory, surveys, collaboration and store – we hope to fit right in with any studio at any stage of development.

Crucially, as the UN-endorsed Carbon Credits framework underpins everything we do, PlanetPlay is governed and audited to the same standards as a corporate bank, such as Goldman Sachs. We are effectively a real endpoint to retiring those Carbon Credits and are very specific about the green projects we work with. That way, we can be 100% sure the Co2 stops with us. The carbon offset project we support is the Hongera cookstove, which lowers carbon emissions as it requires less wood/fuel to operate, in turn reducing the amount of trees that are cut down and directly supporting families and the environment in Kenya.

With so many depressing stories in the news, both in the industry and with global affairs, we would love studios to join our not-for-profit cause. The time is right for us all to ‘make green moves’, as we like to say!