Engage, Play, Watch: The Gamification Transformation in OTT

The digital revolution has re-imagined how we engage with content – audio or video. Beyond the passive consumption of content on OTT apps (primarily one-way), today’s audience craves dynamic interactions and hyper-personalized experiences.

OTT platforms across the world have sensed the shift in their users’ needs and have emerged as the entertainment era’s front runners. 

Spearheaded by prominent OTT platforms, the integration of gamification into streaming has become more than just a trend; it has become a new standard. Be it points, rewards, games, or interactive story-telling, OTT platforms have begun experimenting and bringing new experiences to their audiences to gain loyalty and stickiness, reduce churn, and ultimately win the streaming wars.

Join us as we navigate the transformative journeys of these platforms, highlighting the nuances that propelled their success in today’s digital narrative landscape.

Netflix’s Foray into Gaming and Interactive Content

Always a pioneer in OTT, Netflix recognised the potential of blending traditional viewing with interactive experiences early and forayed into creating interactive content.  

In 2018, Netflix presented “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” a groundbreaking interactive film. This choice-driven narrative allows viewers to shape the story’s narrative and the protagonist’s fate, Stefan. 

bandersnatch in netflix

At different stages of the movie, the user was given a choice to decide what the next scene (and the rest of the movie) should be. The viewer is given 10 seconds to decide, or a default decision is taken for them. This became a massive hit with multiple story lines, possibilities, paths, and endings! 

The success of this venture was evident as over 90% of viewers engaged with the decision-making aspects right from the outset.

Beyond entertainment, this format provided a novel method for Netflix to gather user data. 

This data covered everything from basic choices like breakfast cereal selection to more significant story-related decisions, giving Netflix a clear picture of users’ preferences. 

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Gamification in the Bandersnatch Movie on Netflix (Credit: Netflix)

Gaming and Further Interactivity

Netflix expanded its horizons by venturing into gaming, launching titles inspired by its original content. Currently, they house 35 games, with over 55+ titles under development.

It further solidified its commitment in this domain with acquisitions of gaming studios, such as Spry Fox and Boss Fight Entertainment.

Not to be restricted to visual gameplay, recently, they launched their first text-based game on Discord, inspired by the movie “Heart of Stone”, starring Gal Gadot and Alia Bhatt.

To further enhance its gaming portfolio, Netflix is set to launch a new gaming experience named “Netflix Stories: Love is Blind” on Sep 19th, taking cues from its renowned reality show. 

“Netflix Stories” offers users a unique chance to delve deeper into their favourite shows and movies. They can interact with beloved characters in a gaming environment, make decisions that influence the storyline, and fully immerse themselves in a world filled with love, drama, friendship, and beyond.

Also, Netflix initiated beta testing for its game streaming service in specific regions, making it available across various TVs and devices, marking the next phase of interactive content delivery.


The outcome of Netflix’s Gaming Initiatives?

In merely a year since their debut, Netflix’s games have achieved 34.1 million downloads across the globe. Of these, the United States accounted for 16%. The games also attract an average daily user base of 1.63 million, roughly 0.7% of Netflix’s premium subscriber count. 

While this number is significant in itself, it’s the potential for further interactive content bolstered by the success of ventures like “Bandersnatch,” which promises an intriguing future for Netflix in the realm of immersive entertainment.

Netflix’s product decisions are a testament to its commitment to immersive experiences, allowing users to dive deep into their favourite shows. Interactive content has the potential to span a myriad of genres, including:

  • Trivia shows
  • Whodunits or Murder mysteries
  • Bigg-Boss style reality shows
  • Sports-themed games (football, cricket, F1 racing, shooting, and target practice.)

Bringing highly thematic games into OTT platforms signals the conjunction of pure-play OTT, user-generated content, gaming, and e-commerce – all highly engaging markets!

Hotstar’s Watch’NPlay

Disney+ Hotstar is one of India’s most popular OTT platforms that, until recently, possessed digital rights for the Indian Premier League. That is, it had the streaming rights until 2023, when JioCinema won the rights and took over the IPL streaming (but more about that later).

When we look back at Hotstar’s streaming journey, publicly available data indicats that 202 million viewers tuned into Hotstar to witness the T20 spectacle in 2018! This marking an impressive 55.3% surge compared to the previous year’s 130 million viewers.

It is also to be noted that the 11th edition of IPL in 2018 set the stage for Hotstar’s innovative journey into gamification with its newly interactive game, “Watch’NPlay.”

Hotstar’s “Watch’NPlay” was the centerpiece of their gamification strategy. A blend of quiz and prediction, this feature enabled live viewers to participate actively, answering game-related questions to earn tangible rewards. 

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source: blog.hotstar.com

This initiative improved through collaborations with renowned brands such as Paytm, PhonePe, and Cadbury, adding more value and making the feature more rewarding.

The outcome was groundbreaking. While Hotstar recorded 10.3 million concurrent viewers during the season finale of IPL 2018 (purely due to the popularity of cricket in India), the introduction of “Watch’NPlay” enhanced app stickiness and propelled a larger audience to engage with IPL 2018 on Hotstar.

Under continuous development, Hotstar saw a surge in user engagement during VIVO IPL 2019, especially with its interactive game, Watch ‘N Play. 

Data from the platform indicates that about 64 million viewers participated in the game, a substantial increase from VIVO IPL 2018. The enthusiasm was evident as fans used approximately 6 billion emojis and shared an impressive 44 million comments in real-time during match play.

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Hotstar’s strategic initiatives paid off, bolstering its user base and engagement and setting a precedent for others in the industry. 

Recognising Hotstar’s success, platforms like Jio Cinema, after acquiring IPL rights from Hotstar, were motivated to launch their own interactive gaming experiences.

Jio Increases User Engagement with Interactive Contest

Viacom18, a joint venture between Network 18 (owned by Reliance Industries Limited) and Paramount Global, made a significant move in June 2022 by acquiring the streaming rights for the men’s IPL edition at an astounding Rs. 23,758 crores (approximately $3 billion).

Seeking to revolutionise the IPL viewing experience, Jio introduced ‘Jeeto Dhan Dhana Dhan’, a contest that allows fans to win prizes every match.

The game’s concept was while watching the IPL on JioCinema, and viewers are prompted with a question before every over. With the phone in portrait mode, they can answer via a chat box at the screen’s bottom. The more correct answers viewers provide during the match, the higher their chances of winning prizes. 

The idea was to transform passive viewers into active participants, elevating their engagement levels. 

A Viacom18 Spokesperson commented on the initiative: “By integrating interactive features into JioCinema, we aim to offer fans unparalleled engagement and personalisation, making us their go-to platform for the Tata IPL. With ‘Jeeto Dhan Dhana Dhan’ and other initiatives amplified by figures like Alia, we’re dedicated to enhancing the viewer’s experience throughout the season.”

Being free-to-play, the ‘Jeeto Dhan Dhana Dhan’ further enticed viewers with its lucrative prizes, solidifying JioCinema’s reputation as a leading platform for interactive sports engagement.

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source: naxontech.com

ZEE5’s Gamification Journey

ZEE5, one of India’s prominent OTT platforms, identified gamification as a strategy to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace and offer users an engaging experience.

In collaboration with Gameloft, ZEE5 launched “PLAY on ZEE5“, a diverse gaming segment catering to various age groups. Furthermore, their PLAY5 tool was introduced, focusing on interactive branded polls and quizzes. 

Several prominent brands have harnessed ZEE5’s PLAY5, including Colgate, Asian Paints, CEAT, and Fortune Premium Kacchi Ghani Pure Mustard Oil, during Dadagiri Season 8, a ZEE5 reality show. 

Moreover, Birla White Wallcare Putty, Goodknight, Kinderjoy, and Bournvita leveraged it for Dance India Dance – Battle of Champions, another ZEE5 reality show.

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Games on Zee5’s app

A notable success story of PLAY5 was its collaboration with Tuborg. The objective was to engage younger audiences through a gamified karaoke platform, complete with scorecards. 

The campaign witnessed massive participation, yielding impressive results. Through such gamification strategies, brands experienced an 80% surge in audience engagement.

HBO’s “Join The Realm” Campaign for “Game of Thrones”

Game of Thrones” third season was on the verge of its release. Anticipating its ascent from a hit series to a global sensation, HBO initiated the “Join The Realm” campaign.

In collaboration with Definition 6, HBO developed the “Join the Realm” sigil creator, allowing fans to craft house banners. The campaign was further amplified by influencer engagement and Comic-Con activities.

The campaign garnered over 1.2 million visits and 750,000 sigils on social media. This surge in engagement played a role in the record viewership for the series premiere.

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source: alistdaily.com

Starzplay’s Fantasy Football Experience

Starzplay, a leading MENA streaming service, recently unveiled Starzplay Fantasy Sports, aligning with the Serie A 2023/24 season.

The game, exclusively on Starzplay Sports, allows viewers to make real-time predictions for Serie A matches. They can forecast scores, possession percentages, and even the first goal-scorer. 

A standout feature is the in-game currency, Starz$. Users can earn this currency and exchange it for NFTs, vouchers, and more. Additionally, an NFT marketplace allows trading and showcasing collections.

Starzplay Fantasy Sports offers various rewards, from subscriptions and merchandise to match tickets and interactions with football personalities. As Alessandro Masaro, Starzplay’s Chief Strategy Officer, emphasised, “STARZPLAY Fantasy Sports is the first-of-its-kind blockchain service in the region, giving customers a new dimension to engage with sports while competing to win incredible prizes. We aim to make STARZPLAY a hub for sports entertainment and provide users and rights holders with more opportunities to interact and build more robust and more valuable relationships.”

This is the first step of a larger plan to see STARZPLAY Fantasy Sports expand into other leagues and sports soon.

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OTT Extends the Entertainment Boundaries

In the ever-evolving digital entertainment landscape, OTT platforms have emerged as pioneers, pushing the boundaries of traditional viewing.

Through strategic gamification, rewards, and interactive content, industry giants like Netflix, ZEE5, Hotstar, Jio, HBO, Starzplay, and Zee5 are setting stellar examples of how technology can amplify user engagement and redefine entertainment experiences. 

The platform’s move to offer points, prizes, exclusive merchandise, and other tangible rewards is a novel way of enhancing interactivity and a strategic move to retain users and foster platform loyalty.

As these platforms evolve from mere content providers to immersive entertainment hubs, they herald a new era where viewers transform from passive spectators to active participants.

This shift signifies a promising future where OTT platforms will entertain, engage, innovate, and inspire, setting unprecedented benchmarks in digital entertainment and ensuring lasting user attachment.

Ragul Thangavel
Ragul Thangavel
Staff Writer

With over nine years of diverse professional experience, Ragul has made significant contributions across various domains, including Media Operations, OTT Technologies, Video Production, Ecommerce, and Social Media.

Holding an Engineering degree, Ragul's career took an unconventional turn when he discovered his passion for writing, leading him to begin his journey as a content writer.

His career has been exclusively dedicated to the growth and development of startups, where he has played a pivotal role. His unique blend of technical knowledge and creative prowess has enabled him to drive innovation and success in every venture he has been a part of.

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