The whole process is completely natural, 100% visual, and dare I say it, fun! I bought a Katamari Damacy t-shirt there, which is not the kind of purchase I usually never make, but the whole process was so engaging that it brought down my guard and let me just spend. Now why a Mac software company has a page for selling Katamari Damacy t-shirts is beyond me, but regardless, they got money from me–and I don’t even own a Mac.
This very conveniently brings us to Katamari Damacy, the original motivation for my article. Katamari Damacy, for non-gaming-philes, is a Japanese PS2 game by Namco (the makers of the venerable Pac-Man) that has found surprising success both in the United States and Europe. It relies on the very simple concept of using the analog sticks on the PS2 controller to push a large ball around the world and roll things up. Whatever the ball touches gets stuck to it, as long as the object is not too big. As the ball accumulates more objects, it grows in size and can eventually pick up larger objects. As the player progresses through the game, they eventually roll up a ball (the Katamari) that is large enough to pick up things like office towers and stadiums.
It is an incredibly easy-to-learn, addictive experience, which reveals a fascinating way of interacting with not just plain objects, but more engaging branded objects.
Katamari Damacy has thousands of different things to pick up, and most of them are the very mundane items you find around the house, like paperclips, cans of soda, foodstuffs, dolls, cars, etc. After a round, the game unfurls an ingenious menu system that offers 3 different ways to browse over 100 different categories for the growing cache of objects you have rolled up in your Katamari. You can go by size–which is divided up into 11 sections from smallest to extremely large–, location of pick up, or type of object.
I’ve personally spent hours just browsing through all the little 3-D models getting a closer look at all the neat stuff I’ve managed to pick up. It is amazing what a little fun organization can do for product browsing. Besides, that is what the players are essentially doing when they browse through their catalog of rolled of objects–and it is actually fun.
So imagine if you will a shopping environment where a multitude of branded products exists larger than life and the user’s primary interaction with this environment is acquiring these branded products in a fun and simple way that denotes a “game.” After all the products are picked up, the player can then browse through everything in a variety of fun and intuitive categories like size, product segment and price point, and at any time, drop the product into their shopping cart.
Now, for the non-gamers out there, this may seem a complicated, roundabout way to go shopping. But from the gamer’s perspective, this is speaking to us on our own terms: fun. Not only that, the shopping game environment enriches the brands it features and adds another facet to the consumer’s experience with the product. As a consumer’s interaction with a product and/or its brand increases, so must the consumer’s investment in that product. And that is our endgame, is it not? What better places to look for the next big thing in shopping than the interactive virtual environments so many of us now go to for play, but at the moment not shopping.
Not yet, anyway.