Got Game?

July 20th, 2007

Watch out Google. Microsoft has significantly stepped up its game, and is fast becoming a major player in the search engine market. In fact, last month, Microsoft lifted its share of the US online search-market to more than 13 percent, the software company’s highest level since it launched its own search engine more than two years ago.

So how did Microsoft suddenly win this new ground? Was it a clever advertising campaign that won the hearts of new users? Or a secret technology that only Microsoft could introduce to the marketplace? Or perhaps a lucrative search engine optimization campaign resulting in increased consumer interest?

Wrong. Wrong. And wrong again. Microsoft’s boom was actually the result of something much less “dynamic” – and frankly not at all technologically advanced. The jump was due to the addition of games. That’s right. Simple, uncomplicated, good old-fashioned games.

They’ve created a new game site, Live Search Club, with a collection of low-tech, online word games such as crossword puzzles, designed to show off various features of the Microsoft search engine. So, for example, the crossword game may bring up maps or pictures when a player asks for a hint. The prompts carry out a search on the Microsoft engine.

Some of the more notable games include; Chicktionary, where you select from a roost full of letters and peck out as many words as possible; Clink tests your skills with an extreme phrase matching game; and Dingbats challenges players to crack the puzzles with vowels and consonants.

Microsoft’s rise in activity came in a time of need. Two years ago, Microsoft’s web sites accounted for around 13 per cent of internet searches in the US. By the beginning of this year, that share had dropped to under 10 per cent. By adding the new game features, Microsoft’s online services group can now show its third consecutive quarter of increased revenue growth after four quarters of decline.

The site was initially designed to encourage more users of MSN to conduct their searches on the Microsoft network rather than on Google or Yahoo. But lucky for Microsoft, they tapped into something that lies deep in the hearts of all people. They tapped in something that transcends all ages, genders and geography. Microsoft tapped into our desire for fun. They tapped into the great pleasure we all get from enjoyable problem solving, when the only competition we have is with ourselves.

So Microsoft, give yourself a pat on the back. In a space ruled by technological evolution, you turned to an old pastime that existed long before the Internet, the iPod or the Wii – to something that will never become outdated. There’s one thing I know – I don’t want to live to see the day when fun becomes passé.

Posted Under: Digital & Social Media, Innovation & Technology
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