Saturday, March 28, 2009

Live From GDC: Serious Games Emerging Trends

Serious Games market new demands



The response to current market challenges reported by several presenters at the GDC’s Serious Games Summit, due to its high degree of commonality, could eventually configure emerging trends for the segment.

Early Prototypes

Many presenters strongly recommended planning for very early prototypes. Prototype goals would be three-fold: have functioning core game mechanics ASAP; mock-up the basic layout and key screens and elicit feedback.

As Serious Games sponsors often don’t understand game technology, which is in stark contrast to entertainment games where publishers are usually game experts, half of early design assumptions might not wind up in the final product. This method, called rapid iterative development, is necessary for drawing out what customers really want, since they often can’t express it as a formal requirement.

Therefore, the importance of early producing concept/de-risking demos, especially for customers who don’t know what Serious Games are about, was highly emphasized.

Market Is Shifting, With New Demands

Reducing the costs of creating games has increased in priority, especially for the military and business sectors (MOTS x COTS).

The change management dimension of Serious Games implementation is gradually being acknowledged by Corporate Customers. As an example,
Visual Purple has teamed with BTS, a Swedish company that trains business managers in implementing change and improving profitability. Clients include Coca-Cola, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Nokia, Sony and Vodafone, and span the globe.

“An effective game has to appeal to upper management (which sponsors it but does not understand videogames) and be satisfying and challenging for the end users (who often belong to the younger generation that has been playing games for years), says Ed Heinbockel, founder and CEO of Visual Purple.

To be able to hit both of these objectives, Heinbockel recommends a modular approach to game design and that decisions be controlled by the design team. “Our programmers build tools (for the designers), not specialized software programs,” he says. He also recommended an immersive experience for end users, to pull them out of normal distractions. “Modern managers are so busy they have CPA (continuous partial attention),” he noted.

Traditional testing (bugs, playability, etc.) is only half the battle. Subject matter must be 100% correct, and using SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) for checking accuracy is highly recommended.

Tangible metrics, for ROI correlation, are gaining increasing importance.

Hybrid Studios and Hybrid Games

The term “hybrid studios” refer to studios that either combine entertainment and Serious Games developments, or are Serious Games focused with a background in commercial games.

With regard to “hybrid games”, the barriers between game types are blurring, so that (for instance) it is perfectly possible to build a Serious Game that is both mobile and casual (more thinking than action).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Live From GDC: Serious Games Connection 2010?

A business meeting machine also for Serious Games makers



Following my previous post Live From GDC: Are Serious Games and Corporate Customers In Sync?, and having realized that Serious Games and Work-For-Hire have become practically entwined, I've started to explore the possibility of having Serious Games booths added to Game Connection, from 2010 onwards.

Game Connection - The Business Meeting Machine for Game Makers (Serious Games Included)

Game Connection is a unique speed dating event for business-focused game makers.

It is a one-stop shop to meet face to face dozens of targeted potential partners involved in all stages of the production pipeline, from the concept to the outsourcing, publishing, distribution and financing, in back-to-back 30-minute meetings.

Where else would we get to conduct an average of 27 tailored meetings in just three days, network with the best developers, publishers, distributors and service providers of the industry who are committed to make great games?

Potential Benefits For Serious Games Developers

Game Connection is located on two continents: Europe and America. With Serious Games gaining solid traction in Europe, Asia and Latin America, developers could join the edition that best fit their needs, or attend both events and double up the number of potential partners.

In addition, this inclusive event could be a fantastic opportunity to enroll publishers, distributors and investors as Serious Games sponsors.

How Would it Work?

Exactly as it works today for entertainment Game Developers, the only difference would be booth segmentation, which is currently by country/continent - there could be a whole set of Serious Games booths.

Speed Dating Also Serving Serious Games Developers

Before the event, all attendees register online and begin scheduling meetings.

Through Game Connection online meeting system, both parties are notified if they have a meeting request or if one of their requests has been accepted or turned down. With this system, meetings are only scheduled when both parties are interested, increasing the efficiency of the event and the probability that the right business partners will be found. On the website, developers can display their projects to give publishers an idea of what they will be presenting at the event.

During the event, each exhibitor has a closed booth where he can make his presentations to buyers during half-hour meetings (just like speed dating!).

You still have some open slots in your schedule? The Last-Minute Meeting System lets you schedule more meetings until you are fully booked!

After the event, you are wondering how to keep in touch easily with all the new contacts you have made at Game Connection? No worries, they have set up Game Connection Online Marketplace, a tool that allows you to discover new projects and post your owns. Stay connected all year long with your business partners, but also make new ones!






History

The Game Connection history began in 2001, when Pierre Carde, Director of Lyon Game, decided to set up a professional event for the video game industry focused on one objective : doing business.

Game Connection’s first edition took place in December 2001 and attracted 27 French developers and 20 international publishers. In 2004, the Game Connection went abroad to San Francisco and joined the Game Developers Conference. Two years after, the Game Connection flew away to Tokyo and Shanghai. Initially separated, Games and Services at Game Connection have been gathered to provide a more global experience.

Nowadays, Game Connection America and Game Connection Europe have become must-attend events in the videogame industry. With a range of 500-600 international attendees (including around 350 exhibitors/sellers and 330 visitors/buyers) and a 1 million $ average revenue generated per attendee, Game Connection is THE place to do business internationally.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Live From GDC: Are Serious Games and Corporate Customers In Sync

Establishing Sustainable Strategic Investment for SG



Session Background

In the last 18 months, before the economic events of the fall, activity in the Serious Games space from the corporate sector was beginning to achieve sizable momentum. However, the existing projects still seem exceptions to the rule which is that many corporations still seem out of sync with games, and vice-versa.

To begin to deal with this issue, such that it could result in better takeaway for the Serious Games community, the organizers of the Serious Games Summit began a round of Internet discussions trying to ferret out a community analysis of how the world of games, and Serious Games, can garner even more attention and revenues from the corporate sector now and in the future.

The Serious Games Summit session Are Serious Games and Corporate Customers In Sync, having Ben Sawyer (Co-founder, Digitalmill) and David Warhol (President, Realtime Associates Inc.) as speakers, presented the summary of that community discussion in a digestible format for further audience feedback and takeaway.

Here is the debriefing of yesterday's session, which gives us...

Food for Thought
  • Usually we look for games as a tool for training, but actually we could make games for a better work product - we would do our job as we play the game.
  • Business is getting more complex and games have the ability to depict how complex systems work.
  • Aside from some visible work-for-hire, the vast majority of corporate interests are not investing in games or heavily in games.
Simple Fundamentals
  • Game and game info sites are blocked by Corporate firewalls
  • Most Corporate PCs lacking strong graphic systems
  • Many IT departments have big security management issues with non-browser executables
  • May use lower-version Flash installs and even older browsers
  • Some companies are moving to even lower-end hardware
  • There is no single entry point for games as there is for Web and e-business or advertising
  • Average gamer not yet in position of authority
  • Average Corporate Manager/CEO not an avid gamer
Corporate TimeReluctant to put people offline where they are unproductive (very expensive)
  • Can not ask people to train in their "free time" because it becomes paid time and is against the law without compensation
Business Model Issues

  • Corporations are focused on how anything can increase revenues or reduce costs

  • What's leading: Communication with customers; Easy Production; Packaged Solutions


Corporate Training Market
  • Large but completely scattered; resellers with scale simply don't exist
  • Still based in paperwork
Corporate Interests
  • Java, Flash, XML, AJAX/Perl
  • Highly secure
  • Manage all installs and executables from central location
  • 2D and increasingly mobile
Game Industry
  • C++, C #, Flash, Lua, Python, Some Java
  • Personal firewall at best
  • Install/Uninstall at best
  • 3D and increasingly console & mobile
Technology Integration Needed
Who has sustained relationships with Corporations?
  • Large technology integrators (Accenture, IBM,...)
  • Traditional enterprise software (MS,...)
The Challenge
  • Can we target the actual core processes and cultural artifacts that leverage results?
  • Can we develop games that incorporate the workflow?
  • Can we move away from the dominant model of WFH?
  • Can we establish sustainable strategic investment?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

GDC 2009: Serious Games @ Holland Pavilion

Serious Games by Dutch Game Pioneers



Via: Dutch Game Pioneers 2009 - Holland Pavilion @ GDC 2009

In 2009, a large number of new initiatives, to internationally showcase the Dutch Game Industry, will be launched, starting with a Holland Pavilion at the
Game Development Conference (GDC) in San Francisco.

Not only are the Dutch responsible for creating games but research shows that Dutch people are also hooked on all kinds of games: combined the Dutch people spend 48 million hours a week on several different game genres.

The growth of the games industry in the Netherlands is enormous, growing 50% faster than any other industry in Holland.

Approximately, 250 organizations and 2,500 individuals are involved in the Dutch gaming industry. These include, but are not limited, to suppliers, educational centers, researchers, specialized media, event organizers and game developers.

Although most titles sold in the Netherlands come from major international video game publishers, many of these titles have had some type of Dutch influence during their production. More than 70
Dutch companies are involved in the development and production of video games globally.

Games tied to marketing campaigns are a relatively new development in the Netherlands. Nivea, for example, introduced an advergame in the Netherlands to celebrate its 60th anniversary. Advergames attract users and provide an appealing platform to promote a brand. Ingame advertising is an upcoming market, due to the shift in media choices.


Dutch Game Pioneers in Serious Games

Serious Games development in The Netherlands is the most profitable gaming segment in The Netherlands.

Dutch serious games developers such as E‐Semble ( Delft ) have successfully developed training solutions for numerous international clients like the Estonian government and the Mont Blanc Tunnel:

“Court of Dordrech”t; developed by Paladin Studios
“Port of Rotterdam”; developed by V Step
“Sharkworld”; developed by Ranj

Over the coming 3 years Dutch Game Developers will cross borders, to explore the West Coast of the United States for new business opportunities.

Here are Holland Pavilion Participants at GDC 2009, a couple of which are Serious Games producers:

1upToys

Dutch Game Pioneers in Cooperation

BGIn is an independent non‐profit organization committed to the development of a stable and vibrant Benelux video games industry. BGIn provides a key interactive platform for collaboration, education and discussion with developers, partners and the public.

SAGANET (Simulation And Gaming Association The Netherlands) is a meeting point for scientists and practitioners developing and using simulation, gaming and related methodologies. SAGANET co‐operates with the international organization ISAGA.

The Dutch Game Association (DGA) was founded in October 2008. It represents the gaming sector in conjunction with other Dutch sectors, as well as the international market, national and international government institutions. DGA is a platform that supports cooperation regarding innovation, sharing knowledge, and facilitates export opportunities for the Dutch gaming industry.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Serious Games & Microsoft Futures

Serious Games changing the way we play



Hrvoje Benko demonstrating a Microsoft projection system that lets people manipulate large video images with their hands

Over the past week or so, I've come across some hard evidence that Serious Games may become a relevant stream of Microsoft futures.

Corporate Governance

REDMOND, Wash.–March 9, 2009–Microsoft Corp announced that Maria Klawe, Ph.D., president of Harvey Mudd College, was appointed to the company’s board of directors, returning the board’s size to 10 members.

Whilst Klawe has made significant research contributions in several areas of mathematics and computer science, her current research interests include discrete mathematics, Serious Games and assistive technologies.


Pervasive Serious Games Apps

Lynn Marentette, in her superb Blog
Interactive Multimedia Technology, has just published a most comprehensive post about Microsoft and the Future of Interaction.

There you may find what she has gathered about Microsoft's vision for the future across a variety of domains. This vision embeds some promising areas of research that may lead to solutions with a Serious Games approach.








Future Vision Montage – A Glimpse Ahead

As you watch this video montage from 2009, look for examples of how current prototypes may evolve in the years ahead.



Friday, March 6, 2009

Serious Games Plug Into The Smart Grid

Smart Grid space is ripe for a platform play


Via: GridEcon 2009 - Smart Grid and the Future Energy Economy
There is a great deal of interest in the Smart Grid today.

Legislators, regulators, utilities, consumers, vendors, R&D organizations and others are working hard to learn what the Smart Grid is and to understand how it will impact them.

At the federal level, the fight to legitimize the Smart Grid is over. It has been recognized in several key pieces of legislation – mostly recently the stimulus package – as an essential national asset.

Some are looking at the Smart Grid as a "transactive agent" that will enable resources, assets, and consumers to create new markets that otherwise might not be possible with today's grid. With the increasing awareness of the need of an information network to help manage the electric grid and make renewable energy a reality, by the creation of a Smart Grid (SG), there is a critical need to explore the economic realities and opportunities of this complex system.

The recent KEMA/GridWise Alliance report outlines projects implementing the Smart Grid over the next four years to the value of $64b.


A Smart Grid for Intelligent Energy Use

The Smart Grid involves the use of communications and computing technology to transmit and distribute energy more efficiently. The below video describes the smart grid and how it will reduce our carbon footprint through energy efficiency and the integration of renewable sources of energy.




GE, Google and IBM Push Renewable Energy, Grid Technology
GE’s new website, called The Smart Grid, is inviting people to come and Plug Into the Smart Grid to start using their new eco-friendly technology.

The site has an Augmented Reality feature, where users can literally have the website jump into their hands by watching a new eco-friendly wind or solar plant unfold into a 3D hologram onscreen via their web-cam.




Augmented Reality – See How It Works at http://ge.ecomagination.com/smartgrid/#/augmented_reality



The Smart Grid got a $3 million jumpstart from GE early February, in its 30-second Super Bowl ad. The promo kicks off GE’s “NOW” advertising campaign, highlighting “innovation you don’t have to wait for”.

At GE’s Ecomagination Advertising page, which includes Ecomagination Online, Television and Print, you may also find Ecomagination Entertainment where you can play The World Water Tour Challenge, GE Flight School, Cleaner Coal: The Journey to Power and Geoterra.

Find also the Smart Grid archive
GE Global Research Blog

Google Jumps into Smart Grid

Earlier last month, Google unveiled Google PowerMeter, a prototype Web application that displays home energy consumption broken down by appliance.

Google wants to build the platform for collecting, managing, and analyzing home energy information for… well, if they have their way, for everybody on earth.

The Stimulus bill and other factors are bringing key conversations to a head. Google doesn’t want standards laid down by others before it has a chance to add its voice; it doesn’t want key vendors building partnerships that lock out Google; and it doesn’t want utilities launching big rollouts without considering Google as a partner. Pivotal choices will be made for the Smart Grid in 2009 and Google wants a place at the table

Google PowerMeter will ultimately become an open platform for home energy information. The initiative is led by Ed Lu, a former astronaut with a background in electrical engineering and astrophysics.

PowerMeter is currently in internal beta testing. About four dozen Google employees have home energy monitors to record their power usage.



The software requires “smart” meters, which provide real-time information to both the utility and the customer. The idea with the PowerMeter is that if people knew how much electricity they were using to run individual electric appliances, they’d cut down use.

The PowerMeter will work on an iGoogle home page when it becomes available to the public sometime later this year.

According to The New York Times:

“Google plans to enhance PowerMeter with “social” tools that will allow users to compare their electricity consumption with that of their neighbors or friends. And it plans to allow third parties to develop their own applications that would enhance its usefulness. A programmer, for instance, could create a tool that normalizes the data for variations in weather.”


IBM's Welcome to Smart Grid Island

Granted, it's not particularly big geographically, and its population is smaller than most major cities, but the small island nation of Malta will be the first country to boost a nationwide Smart Grid. Courtesy of a $90 million deal between IBM and the nation's utility providers, the entire island of Malta -- population 400,000 -- will get hooked up with the most sophisticated energy management system that Big Blue has to offer, hopefully conserving tons of energy for the Maltese.



Officials say the switch will require at least 250,000 new smart meters and the new grid should be up and running sometime in 2012. The smart grid will allow the nation's utility provider Enemalta to monitor energy use in real time, as well as give them the possibility to reprice energy based on peak hours. For the Maltese, the new meters will allow them to track their energy use online, like the eco smart thermostats that are beginning to hit the market.


IBM has spent the past couple of years developing a variety of software to make the power grid smarter. In 2007 IBM created the Intelligent Utility Network Coalition, which includes a group of utilities that are interested in bringing computing to the electricity network. For startups, IBM can be a very important partner, as it can connect meter makers, energy management firms, and wireless sensor distributors with utilities.