Nokia phone game hits big

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[london] After four years in Europe, Nokia is debating bringing to the U.S. market its Nokia Game, a wildly successful interactive adventure game that involves cellphone users in an intense three-week multimedia competition.

"All options are still open," said Wibe Wagemans, senior marketing manager, Nokia Mobile Phones Marketing Services EMEA, who is keeping Nokia's rumored U.S. plans under wraps.

The Nokia Game started in the Netherlands four years ago with 10,000 players. In December 2002, Nokia closed registration at nokiagame.com at one million people playing in nine languages across 25 countries in Europe and the Middle East. The 200,000 hopefuls who were turned away are already lining up for the next game later this year.

Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide is Nokia's European agency, but Havas' Human-i Euro RSCG in the Netherlands invented the game and runs it for Nokia. "Connecting People" is Nokia's global tagline.

digging

Thrown into a mysterious mission, players have to dig out clues and messages daily through a variety of media, including e-mail, the Internet, TV, radio, newspapers, text messages on cellphones and even live concerts. In the 2000 Nokia Game, for instance, participants assumed the role of a young Finnish snowboarder who had lost his memory. In the latest version, players pretend to be a start-up band competing in the cutthroat music industry to publish their first video clip via a multimedia message to cellphones.

The adventure game combines detective work and luck. Events in the daily music world are determined by the rolling of two huge dice on a daily Web video, and players then look out for daily clues. Players in Belgium, for example, got a text message telling them to look for a clue in the free newspaper Metro. In Finland, McDonald's Corp., a sponsor, helped register players. Many of the game's 1,950 winners are now using the top prize, a Nokia 3650 phone combining a camera, video player and camcorder.

"The game is a very suitable [choice] for Nokia as it's within its core competence and very close to its offering: connecting people," said Tomas Conradi, co-founder of Stockholm-based brand management consultancy Differ, who believes the game should work in the U.S. "There are always cultural differences, yes, but these could be worked around."

Marco Boender, chief operating officer at Human-i Euro RSCG, said one possible barrier is that text messaging, still underdeveloped in the U.S., "is one of the big communication vehicles in the game."

With handset sales contributing less to bottom lines, establishing long-term relationships with customers is crucial for cellphone companies. Follow-up research with Nokia Game players found that 60% regarded the Finnish company as a more innovative brand after playing the game, while 65% wanted to receive future marketing information from Nokia.

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