The 30sec Feedback loop

In the early 2000s there was a huge shift in video game design and philosophy when the now famous game, Halo, was release by Bungie studio for the original Xbox. The game was slated to be a Mac only release until Bill Gates and Microsoft came in and bought the studio on a near 10 year contract. When Halo was released, lead game designer Jaime Griesemer, when asked what made Halo so wildly successful, coined the phrase "30 second gameplay loop"— the creation of a complex and dynamic loop of fun in 30 seconds. Game developers have been trying to replicate this feedback loop ever since. 

A 2 minute rollercoaster ride is great fun, but what about a 30 minute ride?—Exhausting.

American Football is largely based on a similar principle and is a big reason for the sport's success in the United States. Football is centered around 30 second plays that add up to one big exciting game full of spectacular moments we bring to the water cooler the next day. Not only could the players not be able to last the duration of the game if it was nonstop, but fans would be too exhausted by end as well. The break in-between plays creates great flow for the players and fans.

The Stretch

When you think about this principle, it is not that unlikely to find some way this can apply to business and marketing (it is focused on human behavior after all). Marketing takes principles and ideas from all sorts of businesses, industries, and specialities—why not gaming?

The success of this feedback loop is important because it calls down to a few key, that may or may not be obvious, elements we can bring into many aspects in our relevant business fields:

  • People better enjoy experiences in manageable, small pieces.
  • Focused, quality, and tightly-built experiences are the best. 

This 30 second feedback loop allows gamers to take in high quality experiences in small bites that, over time, make up a really big bite (an entire game). A 2 minute rollercoaster ride is great fun, but what about a 30 minute ride?—Exhausting. This type of experience is similar to what Marketers are always trying to achieve: creating an ad piece or content that is a engaging, tightly packed, and gets the message across when we only have a brief moment of someone's attention. However, understanding the concept of the 30 second feedback loop can help marketers to focus on digestible nuggets to create highly focused content.

The 15sec Apple Watch ads

In the instance of the Apple Watch, if it takes the consumer too long to understand what the watch is or what it does for you, your ad will have missed the mark. Apple could very easily create a 1-3 minute ad laying out everything great about their product, but how helpful or engaging would that be? The Apple Watch ads are carefully designed to show you exactly what it does in a very simple, looping experience. This matches, what I assume, is apple's core consumer expectation:

  • "I expect to do things on my iWatch quickly otherwise I will use my iPhone."


How easy is it to watch all of these ads back to back to back? Super easy. Each 15 seconds are digestible and they are super focused. This focus allows the viewer to pay attention to one core point without multiple points diluting the message. These points are then crafted around a relatable story.

The other success of these 15 second ads is the focus on really relevant stories. They cheekily illustrate a use case where the value is clear. Using the analogy we discussed earlier, if you take each small bite and then combine all the small bites, you get a great full product demo (one big bite) and maybe all those ads combine to show a day in the life.

The success of the feedback loop depends on a strong level of relevancy: A 2 hour movie with non-stop action is exhausting but a 2 hour classical concert is more relaxing. Take the idea of the feedback loop and see how it applies to the way you are creating content and engaging with your customers.