Mischief managed: How WoW created the gamification of giving

When WoW introduced a small cat called Mischief to its game, it raised $US 2.5 million for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Will video games be a viable way of donating to charities in the future?

For those of you who are unaware of the massively successful MMORPG computer game World of Warcraft (WoW), let me fill you in.

World of Warcraft has over 5.5 million subscribed players around the world, all of whom pay a monthly fee to Blizzard Entertainment to play the game. The game's premise is an eternal war between the factions of good (The Alliance) and evil (The Horde) and revolves around creating and leveling up a character that fits within specific player classes such as paladins, hunters and rogues. Within the game, players can customise the look and feel of their characters weapons and armour, the mounts they travel on, and what pets they have following along behind them as they journey through the hostile world.

It is these pets that are most relevant to this article.

The majority of WoW pets that the player's purchase are bought with in-game currency that is earned by either completing quests, killing NPCs or selling loot. However at the end of 2016 Blizzard introduced a new pet to the World of Warcraft universe, a small cat called Mischief. Player's buy Mischief with real money, $10.00USD to be exact, and as a result they end up with a new pet that is present across all current and future characters on their account. While this sounds expensive for a small collection of moving pixels that follow along behind a larger grouping of humanoid-shaped pixels, the impact of Mischief is profound. Mischief helps people in our world.

With the introduction of Mischief, Blizzard Entertainment created a unique and bespoke way of donating to a charity that both rewards the players and costs Blizzard very little. With every purchase of the demonic looking fur-ball, Blizzard raised more money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, culminating in a final donation of $2.5 million.

The genius of the strategy is that all three parties benefit in different ways that are individually specific to each of them. For Blizzard, they have made an enormous charitable donation of over $US 2 million to an internationally recognised charity at very little cost to themselves. Players of the game who purchased Mischief effectively gain a badge-of-honour that they can wear with pride while they play, letting other players know what they did. And for the Make-A-Wish foundation, well they received a donation of $US 2.5 million.

The success, and simplicity, of such a program, does lead you to question whether or not video games represent a viable way of donating to charities in the future?

Internationally the interactive entertainment industry is worth over $99 billion, and those games whose players number in the millions - especially those that have become e-sports such as DotaLeague of Legends (LoL) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - have enormous potential from a charitable-giving perspective given their enormous reach. For example, in 2015 more people tuned in to watch the LoL final than the NBA. While 1.76 million unique viewers tuned in to watch the NBA final (breaking WatchESPN records in the process), an estimated 36 million people tuned in to watch the LoL final at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin. The reach of e-sports is huge, and so is their potential to impact charitable giving.

Charities can use the enormous growth and exposure of the interactive entertainment industry to reach a whole new generation of potential donors. By partnering with game developers to design bespoke in-game articles such as weapons and armour, weapon skins (e.g. below) or in-game companions, charities have the potential to unlock and create a whole new category of charitable giving.

Someone just needs to take the leap and follow Blizzard's lead.

This was originally published on de Monchy's blog. For more Previously Unavailable ideas and innovations, check out previously.co