Google's Pac-Man craze cost businesses 4.8 million hours of lost work

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man, last Friday, Google changed their homepage logo to emulate the classic arcade game. However, unlike logos of the past, Google made this one a little extra special--it was playable. As Neowin reported last Friday, the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button had changed to say "Insert Coin" and people around the world played Pac-Man Google-style, marvelling at its brilliance. While people around the world enjoyed the fruits of Google's tribute to what is arguably the greatest game of all time, businesses were, unfortunately, feeling the back end of the paddle.

As pointed out by Geek.com, RescueTime, a company whose business is to help companies understand how they spend their time, has attempted to figure out just how much time employees wasted playing Google's online version of Pac-Man. Using a large (11,000), but random subset of its users, RescueTime determined that last Friday, the average user spent 36 seconds more on Google than normal. Assuming that 75% of the people who saw the Pac-Man logo didn't realize it was playable, combined with Wolfram Alpha's data, which shows that Google had 504,703,000 unique visitors that day, here's what was inferred (below is a direct quote from RescueTime):

  • Google Pac-Man consumed 4,819,352 hours of time (beyond the 33.6m daily man hours of attention that Google Search gets in a given day)
  • $120,483,800 is the dollar tally, If the average Google user has a COST of $25/hr (note that cost is 1.3 – 2.0 X pay rate).
  • For that same cost, you could hire all 19,835 google employees, from Larry and Sergey down to their janitors, and get 6 weeks of their time. Imagine what you could build with that army of man power.
  • $298,803,988 is the dollar tally if all of the Pac-Man players had an approximate cost of the average Google employee.

Thinking about how large of an impact Google can have on the world by doing something so small can really change your perspective of how influential the search giant has become. With a hidden game posted on their homepage, Google was able to cause over 4.8 million hours of lost work, resulting in approximately $120 million of wasted pay. It's pretty mind-blowing if you think about it.

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52 Comments

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Hmmm... just imagine how much money business lose when users read articles, say like here @neowin.

I suppose we better put on eye mask (you know, like what they did to you back then when NOT eating grapes while harvesting for the big fat landlord) and work brain dead. This is what we are born to do, right? Calculate how much they lose so then we know how more overtime...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, i get it. When we don't work over internet, some poor guy's wife doesn't get to ... her pool maintenance boy(s). Or others like that. Boo hoo hoo.

RescueTime seems to have more calculators than brains. It's silly to assume that a person who was going to Google was going there for work purposes and was diverted by the fancy logo. People who heard about it otherwise must have found out through some kind of gossip channel in their office or social networks they check from the office instead of working.

Of course, this raises the question - does it make people more productive to fret about how much time they're spending doing this and that? This hasn't been my experience.

At my current position I'm working on a project that has a deadline, but managment realizes that we're people, not robots, and a mental break from challenging workplace tasks can actually increase productivity (read up on Pomodoro Technique for a more structured take on this concept).

One of my recent employers was obsessed with "utilization". They ran reports and hinted at a need for every developer to be coding 100% of the time. That's about as stupid as a toll road operator viewing success as "a car occupying every square inch of pavement". Anyone who has experienced gridlock knows that 100% utilization is not the most efficient use of a roadway.

So who cares how much time was "wasted" not slaving away in the daily grind? I care a lot more about the net result. Maybe the Pac-Man break resulted in epiphanies that will save billions of man-hours down the road?

I doubt that the additional few minutes caused anyone to miss an important deadline.

The data isnt accurate, since they dont have the times that each person went onto Google; it is VERY possible that most of these employees, if not all of them simply played the game on a 15 minute paid break or on their lunch break(s). Although, assuming all these employees were being paid...then this information is accurate.

Hahaha.. I was saying to a coworker that I figured a study/article would surface a few days after the pacman doodle about how much time was wasted on it. I know everyone in our IT department spent a few minutes checking it out. Then a few of us wasted a few more minutes checking to see if it would work on the iPhone (which it does btw).

kInG aLeXo said,
people actually visit google.com to do search ? why is the search box then ?

Thought the same, but looking at older getting generation of computer users (take my dad for instance ), he goes to google.de every time he wants to search something despite me telling him that there is a search box on the right upper corner

I don't use the browser search boxes. I always head to Google.com. Not sure why, although that way I don't miss these kind of things.

There was about half a dozen people doing work at one of the comp labs at uni. All of a sudden someone mentioned pacman and we all stopped working for a quick competition. Yeah... no time lost.

lol, that's awesome. To be fair though, at 36 seconds longer per user its really nothing for a single user/business.

and if you multiply that by the square root of zen and take a pinch of salt and throw it in your left shoe then my estimates say their estimates are full of ****ola

Assuming that people would have work 36 seconds more - and not surf the web more or what else - is making the result absolutely pointless...

Also replace "Pac-Man" by "washing your hands after going to the bathroom" and you can make same argument of millions of dollars wasted ... still pointless.

The loss of hours is there, most likely not concrete, but still there. I'm pretty sure there's no easy way to get around something like that.

Tarrant64 said,
The loss of hours is there, most likely not concrete, but still there. I'm pretty sure there's no easy way to get around something like that.

The question is do you want to get around it ???

I do not own a company but my dad owned one for almost his entire life. Small company with 5 employees.

Of course you don't want an employees to lose 4 hours a day talking (back then there was no internet). But it's not realistic to think someone can work 3 to 4 hours straight without beeing distracted couple of minutes. Everyone needs a break here and there.

There's a lot of IF's and BUT's in this article, nothing really concrete to really prove the loss of working hours...

.Markus said,
There's a lot of IF's and BUT's in this article, nothing really concrete to really prove the loss of working hours...

Think of the man hours wasted doing this survey, and for what; did it prove anything?
No. It too was a waste of time. So a few million people got to play a game; big deal.

Pam14160 said,

Think of the man hours wasted doing this survey, and for what; did it prove anything?
No. It too was a waste of time. So a few million people got to play a game; big deal.

+1

Pam14160 said,

Think of the man hours wasted doing this survey, and for what; did it prove anything?
No. It too was a waste of time. So a few million people got to play a game; big deal.

Exactly. It isnt specific to google. Google has this impact because its not blocked. Ask the IT admins to unblock the gaming website and then we will see how bigger impact that will be.

People are just crazy these days. They will believe everything that comes their way without giving a second thought.

Pam14160 said,

Think of the man hours wasted doing this survey, and for what; did it prove anything?
No. It too was a waste of time. So a few million people got to play a game; big deal.

+1

I work for a school and for the entire school day, every time I walked past a computer lab the pacman music was all i heard. The teachers sure were not amused.

Great success! I loved the pacman logo/game! Nice one, just shows how essential Google is to so many people's lives.

vipwoody said,
0_o

How are they so sure all or even most of the people playing it were at work?
I was the only person in an office of 200 who actually played it. Even then it was only for 1 game.
Great game, thanks google.

PatrynXX said,

o_O uh..... I spent 30 seconds on it. No sound and it's pac man, always prefer Ms. Pac Man.


did you have you speakers switched off?
i really enjoyed it, google should do that more often.

philcruicks said,

did you have you speakers switched off?
i really enjoyed it, google should do that more often.

Mine has no sound.

PatrynXX said,

o_O uh..... I spent 30 seconds on it. No sound and it's pac man, always prefer Ms. Pac Man.

I just hit the "insert coin" button twice...A second player joined, and they played as Ms Pacman