Five gamification lessons from E3 2011

Five gamification lessons from E3 2011

Summary: For those not steeped in the sometimes arcane world of video games, E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, an annual trade show covering all kinds of interactive entertainment. Well, almost all kinds.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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For those not steeped in the sometimes arcane world of video games, E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, an annual trade show covering all kinds of interactive entertainment. Well, almost all kinds. Social and casual games get little, if any, attention amid the giant displays for Gears of War 3 and Madden 2012, and the idea of gamification is looked down upon by the hardcore gamer types that seem to dominate the show.

However, there are some valuable lessons to take away for those involved in gaming at any level, especially as the industry tried to reinvent the wheel for the umpteenth time.

People are hungry for more game-like experiences Despite a lack of respect for games from companies like Zynga and its peers, one of the hot topics during E3 was Empires & Allies, the just-launched Zynga Facebook game. Unlike a lot of other social games that have very little actual gameplay to them, E&A is a much more game-like experience, combining resource gathering and city building with old-fashioned turn-based combat. For a console game, that’s not a big deal -- for the Facebook audience, it’s a harbinger of things to come.

There’s a drought of new ideas If you’re looking to innovate, the time to strike is now. You could literally walk the halls of E3 and never be without a sequel to a hit game in front of you. In fact, I spotted more than a dozen big “Part 3” games, including Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3, Battlefield 3, and many others.

The big console companies still don’t know how to attract non-gamers Gamification, at its best, bring game mechanics to a non-gamer audience. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have yet to master that idea. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata told reporters he wasn’t interested in free-to-play or social games; Sony made a big bet on a complicated new handheld system called the PlayStation Vita aimed at hardcore gamers, and Microsoft keeps shoving extra features -- voice commands, live TV streaming -- into its aging Xbox 360 console.

Worse still, Nintendo’s uber-popular Wii is starting to look like a fluke. The handheld 3DS hasn’t broken through to mainstream consumers, and the upcoming Wii U console adds needless layers of complexity, and may very well scare off that mainstream audience that made the original Wii a hit.

Cross-platform is key Adding a game element to your product or service is a good start, but companies in the games business full-time are learning that you need to take those game elements and spread them across many platforms. Big console games, such as iD’s Rage, have cross-promoting iOS versions, and many big games, from Dragon Age to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 are leveraging Facebook and other social media platforms in a serious way, creating apps that are way more involved than simple social network sharing. Check out what Activision is doing with the new Call of Duty Elite service.

Games are becoming an ideas business, rather than a consumer products business The old model, putting a game on a plastic disc, trucking to a store, and fighting for shelf space, is slowly being replaced. Cloud gaming services such as OnLive, and digital content downloads from all three big console companies, plus online distribution networks such as Steam and GOG, are reshaping the video game landscape. That means future gamers will expect their games to come not from a plastic box, but simply be seamlessly integrated into their online experiences, which has to be good news for anyone adding gamification elements to their online brand.

Image credit: Sarah Tew/CNET

Topic: Mobility

Libe Goad

About Libe Goad

Texas native Libe Goad resides in New York City and has spent the past decade covering technology and video games for publications including Blender, PC Magazine, Bust, Seventeen and Sync.

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7 comments
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  • Big console companies don't know how to attract non gamers...

    ... Microsoft keeps shoving extra features ? voice commands, live TV streaming ... <-- I would say this is Microsoft trying to attract non gamers?
    Roque Mocan
    • I agree. The author did not think that through

      @Roque Mocan

      For many the XBox360 is a gaming console that will also stream TV, netflix, music, ect, yet she ignores the fact that it will become a steaming TV with Netflix, Music, ect that will also play games.

      :|
      Tim Cook
  • Notes

    > People are hungry for more game-like experiences

    For sure. There is a long history of value in games, lessons learnt, engaging and interesting play that's just being now brought to some of the new platforms. Like Facebook. I think it's a mistake to say what "people want" - but absolutely there is an (big) audience that's grown up on more substantial play and they want that everywhere.

    > There?s a drought of new ideas

    I do not find that to be true. Not even remotely true. Ideas are there. And for certain there are a lot of smaller games exploring some of those ideas. What you are seeing reflected is both (1) an aversion to risk (which I think is a very different thing) and (2) a reflection of what players actually buy. Entertainment is fickle and trends dominate. It wasn't that long ago you couldn't sell an FPS on a console to save your life. :)

    > The big console companies still don?t know how to attract non-gamers

    First, that doesn't make any sense. If you attract them to games, they're gamers. But really, I think you're saying that the big consoles aren't attracting as big of a mainstream audience as you think they could. (I mean it's obviously big, since we count in tens of millions of units per console.) Presumably you're thinking they should be able to count *hundreds* of millions of players instead. For sure. They haven't quite cracked the "everyone" market yet. By comparison, I think iPad is roughly ~30M units sold now, right?

    > Cross-platform is key

    You don't say what it's the key to.

    > Games are becoming an ideas business, rather than a consumer products business

    I don't think digital downloads translates to "ideas business" - but no doubt that there is a lot of momentum building there and it *is* changing things.

    Mike.
    mike_acton
    • This.

      @mike_acton

      What he said. Couldn't agree more, especially the 'aversion to risk' part. Think about it: if $SOME_GAME makes $100 million dollars, but cost ten million to make, do you really think that 1.) the publishers won't want to make another $100 million by sticking with what works, and 2.) the devs aren't going to triple their budget this time around? If you were to gamble $20 million on something, you're going to bet it on something that you know works. I can't blame them for making CoD a near annual release. AAA titles will always be AAA titles, and for every well selling surprise hit like Myst, you will find someone dying to make the magic happen again. Innovation is there, but when it's so expensive to make a video game and promote it, any even remotely sane businessman is going to want to do so with something that is more likely to generate a return on that risk instead of trying a new idea. At least, they will if money is of any concern to them.

      Joey
      voyager529
  • RE: Five gamification lessons from E3 2011

    (duplicate post)
    CobraA1
  • RE: Five gamification lessons from E3 2011

    "If youre looking to innovate, the time to strike is now. You could literally walk the halls of E3 and never be without a sequel to a hit game in front of you. "<br><br>Look to the indies. I heard Minecraft was there =).<br><br>"Cloud gaming services such as OnLive, and digital content downloads from all three big console companies, plus online distribution networks such as Steam and GOG, are reshaping the video game landscape."<br><br>Steam and GOG are great, but I have some issues with OnLive. I don't think hard.core gamers will use it (it's an extremely sub-par experience, and you lose being able to own your games and play them offline), and it's not really doing a lot with casual games.<br><br>Frankly, I think OnLive will only last as long as it gets mentions in news media. Once people stop paying attention to it, it's gone. Steam and other similar services is where the future of hard.core gaming lies.

    (Thanks ZDNet for censoring hard.core, grr!)
    CobraA1
    • RE: Five gamification lessons from E3 2011

      @CobraA1 Anyone who says there isn't innovation in video games doesn't use Steam. It's the king of exposing gamers to unique indy games. And well, Minecraft. Just...Minecraft.
      Aerowind