Designing online contest game: how to motivate players to share personal information and to recommend the game

Designing online contest game: how to motivate players to share personal information and to recommend the game

This article focuses on how companies can cope with online contest games to motivate consumers to share their personal information with the brand and to recommend the game to others. Research results show that pleasure and enjoyment obtained through the game increase players’ game forwarding and personal data sharing behaviors. The value of rewards also motivates players to communicate with more people about the game, but it does not motivate them to share their personal data with the brand. Moreover, if players’ prior brand attitudes are negative, a higher extrinsic reward can increase their chance to forward the game to others.

The goals and challenges of the online contest game 

Marketers use games as an important part of promotional and advertising campaigns. Online contest game aims to increase consumers’ brand knowledge and improve their attitudes toward the brand. By offering contest games to consumers, companies aim to gather participants’ personal data (such as age, sex, and email address) and hope players send invitations to friends to make the game viral. Therefore, how to motivate participants to share their private information with the brand and to do online recommendations are two major challenges of online contest game designers.

Private information disclosure: Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of players 

Previous research on the disclosure of private information online shows that privacy concerns are context-dependent and situation-specific. Depending on the context, people’s privacy concerns might range from extreme concern to apathy. Intrinsic motivation such as pleasure received from the game leads to concentrated participation. Players are fully immersed and tend to forget their more conscious concerns, which would increase their tendency to disclose private information. In terms of extrinsic benefits, though previous research indicates that people are more likely to provide their personal data if they obtain something considerable in return, but in the case of online contest games, players are not likely to share their personal information with the brand. Players who are extrinsically motivated still have essential privacy concerns. 

Online recommendation: Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of players 

Online recommendation behaviors can be motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic benefits. Intrinsic factors such as players’ enjoyment of the game lead to more positive evaluations, which makes a stronger desire to share the game. Extrinsic benefits such as financial incentives are effective for increasing the likelihood of online recommendations. Companies use rewards to motivate players to forward the game, by offering them a better chance of winning a more attractive reward. 

Prior brand attitude matters 

Research also shows if game participants already have a positive brand attitude, reward value has less impact on players’ tendency to share the game with others. Inversely, if their prior brand attitude is negative, extrinsic reward levels increase game forwarding behaviors. 

Regardless of their prior brand attitudes, the pleasure gained during the game has almost the same impact on game forwarding and personal data sharing behaviors. Similarly, regardless of prior attitudes, the value of rewards has no impact on personal data sharing behaviors. 

Designing online contest game – recommendations to companies 

Companies that want to obtain customers’ personal data should focus more on game design elements than on rewards because the value of rewards does not seem to have a significant impact on personal data sharing. Games should be designed to trigger players’ pleasure and optimize their psychological immersion. 

Companies that wish to encourage players to forward their game should focus on both game design and reward placement, and rewards should be presented with different value levels, to bias players’ valuation of the rewards upward. 

Companies should also consider segmenting consumers according to their prior brand attitudes, to encourage certain behavioral outcomes. In the case of encouraging game forwarding, to appeal to consumers with more negative prior brand attitudes, brands should emphasize the value of their rewards. However, such a segmentation might not be necessary if companies seek mainly to obtain users’ personal data. For this purpose, companies can emphasize game design elements. 

Zhenzhen Zhao, Damien Renard, Viral Promotional Advergames: How Intrinsic Playfulness and the Extrinsic Value of Prizes Elicit Behavioral Responses, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Volume 41, 2018, Pages 94-103,

Zhenzhen ZhaoProfessor of Digital Economy, MINT Research Centre, SKEMA Business School

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Damien RenardAssociate Professor of Communication, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgique

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