Monday, December 24, 2007

$9 Bi: Microsoft's Conservative Estimate For The Serious Games Market

Microsoft Gets On The Serious Games Bandwagon

Via: BusinessWeek - Microsoft's Games Get Serious
Innovation December 21, 2007

Following my prior post Microsoft Shaping The Serious Games Movement Into A Multi-Billion Dollar Market, where I state that "by no means would Microsoft join either a current $ 150 million dollar market or a to-be $ 1 billion market only in 2011" (as projected by a few sources), BusinessWeek has published an article this week where David Boker, senior director of the Business

Development Group at Microsoft's Aces Studio, one of Microsoft's game studios where ESP was developed, says Microsoft conservatively estimates this market at $9 billion.

Contextualizing the $ 9 Billion Market Size - Under MS Perspective

"Up until 2007, we haven't had time or energy to invest in that sort of thing," Boker says. "However, we knew the market was there. And it became clear how we could capitalize on that." The strategy—to explore new ways of finding a new revenue stream for an old title. It is an interesting, lateral leap for Microsoft—or any entertainment game maker.

The Serious Games market is currently valued at about $150 million, according to Ben Sawyer, president of the Portland (Me.) consulting firm Digitalmill and co-director of the Serious Games Initiative. While not huge, that's nearly three times more than in 2005, according to Sawyer's estimates, and growth looks set to continue.

Then there's the larger simulation and 3-D modeling market (which includes military training sims, design prototyping, and educational software for a variety of corporate and school settings).

This market does overlap with Serious Games, and it's so vast that it's hard to quantify, so it poses a much larger, tempting potential revenue stream. Boker says Microsoft conservatively estimates this market at $9 billion, based on its internal tally of various analyst forecasts from Frost & Sullivan and other sources, as well as proprietary research.

In theory at least, Microsoft ESP can be used by designers working on digital prototypes of, say, cockpits, and not only companies working on flight simulations. That's just one way the platform might cross over.

Easy Customization

The Microsoft ESP product is meant to appeal to designers and non designers alike. The familiar Windows-based environment allows for easy customization of scenes to include immersive 3D visuals. This snowy crater illustrates the level of detail that's possible with the software-without writing any code.

Microsoft's New Market Entry - A Threat To Smaller Studios?

It's the first time a major software company has entered the Serious Games arena with a product to help other corporations build their own employee-training video games in-house via a simple, Windows-based program.

And priced at only $799 per license, Microsoft ESP poses a cost-effective
threat to smaller studios that develop custom games—at a cost of $500,000 and up per game—for corporations, hospitals, and the armed forces. NOC) had contacted Microsoft, asking if they could license the game engine for Flight Simulator.

"Since the late 1990s, there have been ongoing inquiries to our game studio by various companies who ask, 'Can we use this for training? How can we make it do this or that?'" recalls David Boker. But at first, Microsoft wasn't interested.

MS Concluded Serious Games Are Worth Pursuing

By 2006, Boker says, Microsoft employees in the enterprise software side of the company started paying attention to increasing buzz around video game industry events such as the Serious Games Summit, a semi-regular conference on educational, military, and staff-training games. Boker adds that many of his colleagues also frequently discussed research on how people under 40 have grown up with video games, and how games could potentially be used as a learning tool.

These incidents, along with the ongoing requests for Flight Simulator to be licensed or adapted for corporate and other non-entertainment uses—and a series of 250 interviews Microsoft conducted with members of the U.S. military and various international governments and academic institutions—convinced the software maker that the market was real and Serious Games were worth pursuing.

In the Cockpit

Microsoft hopes that designers of airplanes will gravitate toward its ESP platform. The company is pitching it as a way to create quick three-dimensional mock-ups of dashboards and instruments, as well as lighting schemes, so they can experiment with ideas for a pilot's environment.

MS New Involvement - A Possible Tipping Point For Serious Games, Saving Time & Money

Observers see Microsoft's new involvement as a possible tipping point for Serious Games—and as a sign that entertainment video game developers, publishers, and designers could also repurpose their products and game engines to generate new revenue streams.

Using Microsoft ESP could also pay off for the companies that opt to use it in terms of time and money saved when creating employee-training games.

Northrop Grumman, for instance, has been beta-testing the ESP platform and its early incarnations for the past several months. It saw significant slashes in budgets and schedules. One team used ESP to create a prototype of an aviation simulation training game—in only three days.

"Typically, the same type of simulation would have taken six to 18 months to make from scratch," says Randy Schmidt, a technical director at Northrop Grumman. "I was surprised." Schmidt says the Windows-based platform and the easy-to-use interface of the software made it simple to choose from a library of cockpit, terrain, and other design elements—all originally created for the Flight Simulator video game—and combine them with Northrop Grumman's own visuals and software.

Multiplayer Mode

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mapping The Serious Games Industry Within The UK

Showcasing the innovative credentials of the West Midlands Serious Games industry

Via: SGI - Serious Games Institute Projects - West Midlands the most active region in terms of Serious Games

The West Midlands (UK) region is fast becoming recognized as one of the key EU regions with regard to the development of Serious Games.

Coventry University has taken the lead in two projects that are about:

a) showcasing the innovative credentials of the West Midlands Serious Games industry, called Diversify the Games Industry and

b) carrying out a mapping of the Serious Games Industry within the UK, and take a global snap shot to map where the UK fits into the worldwide perspective, called Serious Games Exposed.

Results so far have shown the West Midlands to be the most active in the UK in terms of Serious Games.

A variety of new Serious Games products are currently in development within the West Midlands region which will be available to purchase in the near future.

David Wortley, Director, SGI says the "Diversify the Games Industry" project is an initiative to create opportunities for electronic games and related digital media companies to develop their business by involvement in the Serious Games sector.

The Serious Games Exposed project is funded by AWM (Advantage West Midlands) under the Interactive Digital Media Project Digital 2.0 has partnered with the Serious Games Institute to carry out the project, and shall complete it by March 2008.

This project has been defined and set up through the recognition of gaps in the Serious Games market which required attention in order for the industry to grow.

By investigating companies defining themselves as serious Games companies, and those who will compliment the sector, readily available products will be sectioned out to create an on-line brochure, allowing ease of use for prospective buyers.

The final part of this study is to carry out an effectiveness study on select games.

About the Interactive Digital Media Project

The Interactive Digital Media project is managed by Birmingham City University and funded by Advantage West Midlands.

The project main objective is to establish the West Midlands as a key player in the emerging industry of Serious Games. The partners, Birmingham University, Coventry University and Warwick University, all have strong links to the Serious Games industry. This coupled with a strong group of games developers, puts the region in a position to drive the industry and is fast become the centre of the emerging industry in the UK, if not for Europe.

The project is actively pursuing organisations, both private and public, that wish to partner with and benefit from the region’s wealth of talent, resources and commitment to growing the Serious Games industry.
Advantage West Midlands is the Regional Development Agency (RDA) for the West Midlands. They are one of nine RDAs in England that were established to transform the English regions through sustainable economic development.

Their role is to lead the economic development of the West Midlands, working alongside a wide range of public, private and voluntary sectors partners to help our region to prosper - building upon their many strengths and addressing their unique challenges.

Advantage West Midlands has an annual budget of more than £300 million to invest in the economic development of the West Midlands and, at any one time, is managing around 2,500 projects which are changing the lives of people right across the region.

About Digital 2.0

Digital2.0 exists to help people understand games, and games technology, primarily for serious purposes.

Digital2.0 helps to make this less complicated: they understand how games, games technology and virtual 3D environments, could be used to solve business issues.

Digital 2.0 has worked with a range of clients from public to private sector and have experience at all stages of Serious Games development.

 About Advantage West Midlands

Advantage West Midlands is the regional development agency (RDA) for the West Midlands. We are one of nine RDAs in England established to transform the English regions through sustainable economic development.

Its role is to lead the West Midlands region towards greater economic prosperity. We work alongside partners to build upon our region’s many strengths and to find solutions which address its unique challenges.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

GDC08: Newly Expanded Summits Broaden Serious Games Coverage

Two out of six focused summits at GDC08 are Serious Games related

Via: Worlds In Motion - GDC 2008 Debuts Summit Speaker Details

Game Developers Conference, the major industry-only event dedicated to the advancement of interactive entertainment, has revealed session details for its newly-expanded lineup of single-track summits that take a closer look at the industry’s emerging trends.

GDC08 most appealing “new face” is a direct result of GDC being actively adapting their previously tutorial-oriented pre-conference schedule to feature pioneering developers in highly targeted summits.

By integrating each of these emerging micro communities into the curriculum, the GDC is well-positioned to remain the central hub of information and business for the entire game industry.

The summits will be happening over the first two days of the conference.

Information on the content for the Casual Games Summit, the Independent Games Summit, the Serious Games Summit and, new for 2008, the Game Outsourcing Summit, the Worlds in Motion Summit, and the IGDA Education Summit is now available online at
the GDC 2008 Summits webpage.

Two out of six focused summits at GDC08, designed to foster and facilitate community-building within emerging influential sectors of the game industry, are Serious Games related:

The returning
Serious Games Summit continues to lead the dialogue for the rapidly-growing sector that features use of interactive games technology for non-entertainment purposes.

One highlight of this year’s summit finds Ben Sawyer of DigitalMill and Peter Smith of the University of Florida presenting “Serious Games Taxonomy,” aiming to develop a stronger definition of the entire field of serious games, including categorization and specific labeling within the large gamut of activity.

Another session highlight spotlights Robert J. Stone of Human Factors Integration Defense Technology Center, Stephane de Buttet of Agence Rhône-Alpes Numérique - Lyon Game, and Jim Parker from University of Calgary/CPSC presenting their "Serious Game World Report".

Worlds in Motion Summit, launching at GDC08, will explore the cross section between gaming and interactive networking tools like online worlds, player-generated content, social networking and general personalization.

Highlights include SOE veteran, Areae co-founder and noted industry figure Raph Koster discussing the ways virtual worlds are increasingly relevant to the ways we play, and a discussion with Relic Labs’ Adrian Crook on the free-to-play business model and how it is evolving the face of online play.