Banks Build an Online Arcade, But Are Consumers Game?

In recent years, more and more banks have created interactive, Flash-based online games. There’s everything from throwing pies and floating balloons to classic driving games. But can banks make online games that are any good? What do people think when a bank tries to make its message fun by rolling out a game?

Let’s take a look. The Financial Brand breaks down the following online games from financial institutions. (Note: It is presumed all these games were designed for adults, not kids.)

NAB – “Socceroos Celebration Dance”

Genre: Mimic a Specific Sequence

Summary: Your objective it to tap four buttons on your keyboard (up ^, down v, left <, right >) in a specific sequence. The sequence appears in a stream of symbols — ^, v, <, <, v, >, ^ — that fall downscreen. If you do it right, the Australian soccer hero of your choosing will do a victory dance.

It is a blatant rip-off of the Guitar Hero model. But so what? What better inspiration than Guitar Hero, the most popular cross-generational game of all time? The graphics are fantastic, and the overall vibe is very much in sync with the excitement of soccer. There was one down side: The load times were a little long. But for a bank game, Soccer Hero is about as good as it gets.

Brand Relevance: NAB is in Australia. Australians are nuts for soccer. NAB sponsors the national soccer team, the Socceroos. Enough said.

  • Concept: A-
  • Graphics & Audio: A+
  • Game Play: B+
  • Replay Value: B

Kiwibank – “Stop the Aussie Invasion”

Genre: Fixed-Position Aim-and-Shoot

Summary: You’re a proud New Zealander chucking pies in the faces of invading Australian bankers.

Brand Relevance: A patriotic game that could strike a powerful chord with a hypercharged audience.

  • Concept: A+
  • Graphics & Audio: B
  • Game Play: B
  • Replay Value: B

Computer Quote Insurance – “Ace Driver”

Genre: Driving Game

Summary: This is a classic driving game, similar to what you’d expect to see in the arcades of years gone by. You have three controls: left, right and forward. You drive down an infinitely straight road, dodging obstacles and on-coming traffic while also trying to collect discs worth points. It’s got the simplicity of a nostalgic Atari game, yet it doesn’t feel dated or dumb. Be careful, this game could suck hours out of your day.

Brand Relevance: What could be more relevant to an auto insurance company than a driving game where you have to dodge obstacles? The company also embeds ads for itself within the game — e.g., billboards on the side of the road. Any financial institution doing auto loans could also create a driving game.

  • Concept: A
  • Graphics & Audio: B-
  • Game Play: A-
  • Replay Value: A+

ING Direct – “Avoid the Neighbor”

Genre: Dodgeball

Summary: You must move your character (the ING Orange Ball) away from all your annoying neighbors in your apartment building. See how long you can avoid them.

Brand Relevance: ING Direct used the game to build awareness and interest in the bank’s home lending program. The game speaks to the unique pains of renting.

  • Concept: A-
  • Graphics & Audio: B
  • Game Play: C
  • Replay Value: B-

ING Direct – “Photo Hunt”

Genre: Photo Comparison

Summary: Find the differences between two similar-looking pictures. About 10 levels.

Brand Relevance: ING Direct used the game to build awareness and interest in the bank’s home lending program.

  • Concept: B
  • Graphics & Audio: A-
  • Game Play: B+
  • Replay Value: B+

Bendigo Bank – “It Starts with U”

Genre: Linear Left-to-Right

Summary: Your objective is to spell the word COMMUNITY. You drag floating balloons over to your character and she floats up. You pop balloons to make her drift down. Spelling a bank’s core value is a little boring, but the landscape is beautiful. You may get bored after 3-4 tries. It would be more fun if their were different words to spell.

Brand Relevance: The game ties-in with the bank’s “Community” advertising campaign, a major brand theme for the bank.

  • Concept: C+
  • Graphics & Audio: A-
  • Game Play: C+
  • Replay Value: C+

Zions Bank – “Cash Back Boulevard”

Genre: Treasure Hunt

Summary: You are given a “shopping list” of items to locate in a virtual world within a specified amount of time. You can choose from 6 different characters (avatars). If you’re any good, you can beat all three levels. (Warning: You only get 40 seconds. And it’s hard.)

Brand Relevance: Zions used the game to draw attention to its new cash-based rewards program, Cash Back Boulevard. The game reinforced the notion that wherever you go and whenever you spend money, you’re earning cash back with Zions. (Bonus: See why you can “donate” your game points to a local zip code.)

  • Concept: B+
  • Graphics & Audio: B+
  • Game Play: B
  • Replay Value: B

LaSalle Bank – “Crosstown Catch”

Genre: Catch Falling Things

Summary: Move your glove left and right to catch baseballs that rain down on you. (Bonus: Play the game, then try and explain what the players is doing on the “Congrats!” screen.) Compared to NAB’s soccer game, this falls way short. There are banner ads based on the same principle that are more creative.

Brand Relevance: LaSalle Bank created the game to show support for both Chicago baseball teams — the Cubs and Whitesox — but the crowds won’t be cheering for this one.

  • Concept: C-
  • Graphics & Audio: D+
  • Game Play: C
  • Replay Value: D+

Closing Thoughts:

  • Financial institutions can use online games to drive home a brand message or connect with a specific audience.
  • Online games can make your message more engaging and more fun than more conventional marketing methods.
  • Online games can help position your financial institution as tech savvy, progressive and “hip.” But be careful, because…
  • An online game can backfire on you if it doesn’t meet people’s standards.
  • Online games can be a huge distractions — for the financial marketer. Be clear about your expectations.

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