When Coca-Cola introduced Vanilla Coke, they wanted to reach a particular segment of the market. Vanilla Coke was aimed for the young, sophisticated and experimental, with a female skew. The internet was young, social media did not yet exist, and the cultural craze was American Idol (sponsored by Coke). Coca=cola wanted to gain some exposure by sponsoring a branded web game.
At that time, most games on the internet were more kinetic than cerebral. (And the cerebral one were irredeemably nerdy.) Coca-Cola marketers wanted a game that would comfortably challenge and entertain someone who would never call herself a gamer. They wanted a puzzle, heavy with personality and humor.
GamesThatWork delivered a detective game. You are investigating the theft of a precious can of Vanilla Coke. (The product placements were shameless.) You were in a sophisticated cafe, At each of five tables there were three diners. Starting with an initial clue from Chazz Palminteri, you would go to a table and ask a question that all three diners answered. Your clue would tell you which diner was most correct. That diner would give you the next clue, which would help you at the next table. When you got to the fifth table, you knew one of the diners had the stolen goods – and you had the final clue with which to identify that culprit.
A new game was released every week during the 16 week season. A clever structure allowed the engine to present all 16 games from the same limited pool of prerecorded speech and procedural animation. The structure ensured that a player who made few errors would experienced little repetition of content – the winning path went through fresh content in every puzzle, but this content served to fill the ‘wrong path’ experience in other weeks.
The game was successful: After reviewing the analytics, Coca -Cola ordered a second season of the game the following year. By year three, unfortunately, Vanilla Coke had been discontinued. (It was reintroduced years later.)