Anyone who shops at a major retail chain knows that, at this time of year, corporations often embark on charity drives. But online games portal Big Fish’s charity drive this year didn’t ask its customers for a cent.
The company donated a fixed amount of $225,000 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, while getting its player base involved at a more communal level. Players of Big Fish’s casual games were simply invited to celebrate the charity drive by competing against one another.
Each Big Fish community, clustered around one of seven individual game brands, took part in a “game-off” in which they competed to pull the most hours of play time. Players of the free-to-play mobile games could also earn in-game rewards.
“The majority of our players are women, and over the years many have shared stories about how our games have helped them through tough times, like cancer treatments and recovery,” explained Big Fish president Jeff Karp in an interview with Polygon. “We set out to bring an issue meaningful to them to our games.”
Big Fish’s casual online games include Gummy Drop, Cooking Craze and Big Fish Casino. But the game that saw the most drastic increase in player-stats was fantasy RPG Decurse. “Decurse players are used to working together and rallying behind larger community goals as they progress through the game. We suspect that this experience likely helped,” said Karp.
He added that the charity drive had been initiated by employees.
“It started with one employee’s idea for an event within a single game,” Karp said. “When word spread that we were creating a charitable-giving program focused on breast cancer awareness, more and more employees joined in.”
The company also assembles hope kits for breast cancer patients. Karp says its charity work will continue. “With this campaign we set out to create an experience that would unify our community around a cause relevant to so many of us. Its success was not tied to traditional business metrics; it was all about community sentiment and impact. So many players shared their stories, and it’s been powerful to see how players supported each other with words of encouragement and hope through social posts.”