API’s or Application Programming Interfaces are fast becoming the new driving force of the internet. API’s are essentially a way for software to talk to each other without the need to be part of the same system.
Think of an API as a doorway into a vault of information, that once you have access to you can use for whatever you want (within the rules set by the API owner). The way that the API is protected is with a key, and this key only works for defined sets of information. An example of an API is the Google Maps tool. People are able to get a key to access the data that creates Google Maps and then manipulate or mashup (mix) it with their own information to produce an all new maps e.g. http://www.walkjogrun.net/
The effort that would have been required to produce map data of the standard available to Google would have taken millions of dollars. Now with an API call you can access it instantly and use it to create entirely new maps, resources and tools.
There are currently an estimated 2443 Mashups of Google Maps on the web and Google themselves have over 5 billion API calls every day, though Twitter leads the API chart with over 13 Billion calls a day.
I make games not maps…
If you have an established game or franchise chances are you already have a large group of people that like what you do. You may have big user database and strong following on Twitter, Facebook etc. Wouldn’t it be great though to give these people more, more tools and more ways to interact with your game and franchise?
You probably have lots of ideas how you might do this but just haven’t the time or resource to invest in building things like apps or game specific social tools. Well by opening up your business with (and indeed to) API’s you can outsource your ideas and literally set your fans free to create the tools they want and need to grow your community.
Let’s say you have an MMO with lots of players stats, rankings, Guilds etc. You hold all this information centrally and players have to come to the site to get their stats and manually lookup their friends info. Now imagine you allowed access to all this information via an API. This means that fans can now use that data to produce all manner of things without any input from you.
They could produce leaderboards for their guilds, track top players and how they progressed, and get instant updates on new items that were relevant to them. They could do this within web communities or even produce their own apps. Imagine letting your community be able to utilize and create brand new ways to interpret your data.
You could even take this further. Let’s say you have a store within your game, ordinarily only accessible via the game environment. With API’s you could open this up to your community or affiliates and let people create apps and curated stores relevant to them. This is something Amazon has been doing in retail for years with its affiliates.
Of course there is risk involved in opening up your business and you must always fully understand what access you are giving and to who.
However API’s don’t necessarily need to be shared with any external parties to be successful additions to your business.
Let’s imagine you have a store as part of your game or company set up, selling either your games or perhaps in game items. People wanting to buy a product have to go into the store to purchase your items. With API’s however you can effectively have that store wherever you want. If you have a franchise website you could use API’s to create a mini store on that site, still powered by the normal store but pulling product information, prices and possibly even the cart itself through to your franchise site.
It’s this flexibility that API’s create that could radically alter the way you think about how your game could and should interact with your players.
API’s could also work for you as a resource as well and chances are you are already utilizing them. If you have ‘login with Facebook’ or a twitter feed on your site you are already harnessing API’s from these social network to further enhance your offering. These are literally the tip of the iceberg as far as options go and for the marketers amongst you a really exciting prospect.
More and more marketing companies and tools are offering API’s, this gives you almost instant integrations into your own tools and platforms. This means you could plug API’s directly into your CRM or ecommerce setup to create marketing mashups of your user data and these outside tools and resources. The possibilities for these marketing setups are equally limitless giving you the ability to layer in analytics, retargeting, and paid search, social tools, testing and email directly, without having to export your user data into other systems.
API’s could be your greatest marketing and content marketing tool, empowering you and your players so don’t ignore the possibilities.
API Info Links