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OMD Sense. 'Game Theory'

OMD Sense. 'Game Theory'

The tail end of last year saw the launch of Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  It was the fastest selling game launch ever, generating $550m in sales in its first five days.

Period for period it was the highest grossing entertainment launch ever (previously held by Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’s global five day box office of $394m).

It has not, of course, been without controversy. Despite its 18+ rating, various elements within the media (yes, the Daily Mail) having been stirring up controversy about a particular scene where the player has to kill innocent civilians.

This has even prompted questions in parliament (prompting questions from the electorate along the lines of ‘haven’t you got more important things to be doing?’) from certain MPs who clearly haven’t actually played, or even seen, the game. (For the record, players don’t ‘choose’ to play as terrorists, as was initially reported. The main character in the game is actually undercover in the terrorist cell).

Anyway, all this talk of the ‘evils of gaming’ is unlikely to go away. We do believe though that the world of ‘gaming’ is now so diverse and eclectic that to lump it all under one heading labelled bad is about as sensible as saying ‘reading is evil’.

Consider the following: According to ESA’s Essential Facts, 59% of gaming is now done in a face-to-face group setting, exploding the notion of lone psychos gunning people down all night.

The idea of ‘social gaming’, i.e. community based games based on collaboration and co-operation, is a huge growth area on social networks, exemplified by Mafia Wars, which blazed this trail and more recently by the phenomenally successful Farmville, which, at time of writing, boasts over 67 million users.

Additionally, a recent Farmville update that ran through October enabled people to buy sweet potato seeds, with 50% of the proceeds being donated to Haiti. The initiative raised over $$$$550,000.

It’s not just ‘social gaming’ that is giving us positive stories.The rise of the GPS and wi-fi connectivity is starting to see a new genre of game emerging that meshes the real world around us with a gaming element.

So LocoMatrix, for example, is developing location based games like Fruit Farmer and Treasure Hunt, that encourage kids to run around in a real environment to find virtual objects and avoid virtual hazards. A similar idea is Aspyr Media’s Treasure World for the Nintendo DS, which is already for sale in the US (and is getting rave reviews on Amazon).

For the iPhone fanatics out there, The Hidden Park, by Australian developer Bulpadok, is a download from the App Store that overlays digital data onto real data, leading kids around their local parks, whilst giving them missions to accomplish and hazards to avoid.It currently supports nine cities, including London.

Another huge growth area is that of mental agility games, popularised again by the DS’ Brain Training series. So popular is this sector becoming that a store chain, ‘Marbles’ is spreading through the US, catering exclusively to this area of the market.

It’s not just big companies who are getting in on the act either: Molecule Media’s Little Big Planet actually allows players to create their own game levels and then encourages others to play them. As of July 2009 there were over one million such levels, which had been played 250m times, creating huge social and even revenue potential for those people prepared to put in the time to do this.

In conclusion, whilst it has been Modern Warfare that has grabbed the recent gaming headlines, for largely all the wrong reasons, the wider debate about whether gaming is a ‘good’ or a ‘bad ‘ thing feels increasingly irrelevant and out of touch as it seems to be based on a perception of games and gamers that bears less and less relation to reality.

Ben Haley
Insight Manager OMD
Direct: +44 (0)20 74705482
Mobile: +44 (0)7798 630564

AJR
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