To the Thunderdome!
Jeff Lopez wrote a great article for The Gamification Blog a couple weeks ago that addresses the conflict between competition-driven and collaboration-driven gaming experiences. While his focus was mainly on work-place gamification, the same principle stands for branded gaming experiences: competition and collaboration don't have to be mutually exclusive. His analogy involving the two experiences squaring off in The Thunderdome a la Mad Max is pretty awesome, and we have to agree that it isn't the case.
While there is likely to be a lot less collaboration between strangers in the consumer market than in a workplace environment (and hopefully less leather and spikes than Mad Max), the fact that competition is not necessarily the driving force behind branded gaming participation should have a great impact on how we design these experiences. Knowing your audience is the most important aspect of pinpointing that force; the thing that will bring more people to your games and make them stay. In addition, you have to recognize the multi-faceted nature of gaming participation. In other words, people may come for one reason and stay for another.
With all the complexity involved, what's a company to do when trying to create memorable branded games that engage, retain and all-out delight their customers? Chances are you already know your target markets pretty well, but sometimes having an experienced partner on your journey to gamify your brand can be pretty helpful. We might just know someone...in the meantime, just remember not to put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to motivating your customers to engage and be sure to provide an environment that speaks to them on multiple levels.