Tomas Talks Strategy to PCgamesN

Auroch Digital's Tomas Rawlings talks about the strategy of how games are being put to good use helping science and knowledge:

PCGN: Why has the Wellcome Trust taken an interest in games?

Tom: The guy who founded Wellcome, Henry Wellcome, was passionate that science was a part of human culture and that you didn't see a separation between the two. So part of Wellcome's mission, in addition to these big major challenges, is to engage with people so that they see science and culture together.

Games are a great method to talk about science because games by their nature are dynamic, they're interactive, and science is very hands on. So if you want to explain to somebody a complex system whereby as you change what's in the system the system changes as a result, games are a great way to do that because rather than just talking about it you can let the person experience it themselves.

I mean, ultimately, if you think about what a player does when they play a game they are using the scientific method, I mean they get dropped into a game on the first level, you don't know the rules of this new world, so what you have to do is trial and error to figure it out, and by trial and error you construct a set of rules in your head “If I touch this object I die, whereas if I jump over it I'm OK” and ultimately they are constructing a series of rules to help them navigate that world. And really, that's what science does. It's by trial and error, by experimentation we construct a series of rules that allow us to understand and engage with the natural world.

The Profile of a Gamer

So what is a gamer? In some respects it is a little unfair to group a diversegroup of people into a single title when the only unifying thing about them is just that they play games. However for various reasons, it does help to understand who plays games. Originally ‘gamer’ was used to describe people who played paper role-playing games but the term has broadened as the video games has grown, into a term to identify people who are fans of playing computer games. As a categorisation this is a new phenomena and so understanding its boundaries is an uncertain subject yet there clearly exists a group within society who identify with this tag. While there is still debate over what gamers are (and are not) but emerging findings suggest that they are not the lonely figure as stereotyped in other media forms but are very social, often helping others within their arena and also influencing the media consumption of others around them.

A gamer can be further sub-categorised into forms such as ‘Casual’ or ‘Hardcore’. - Gamers tend to be younger (the younger the age group, the more of them play games) - About 25% of UK adults can be considered ‘gamers’. - The vast majority use Facebook to both communicate and play games (86% of US gamersaccording to one survey, I expect this to be the same here too, especially as the age group gets younger, the number using Facebook grows again.

There are lots more facts and figures about gaming and gamers on Tomas' blog.

Store Wars: The Strategy of Digital Game Distribution

Tomas has written an article for on the strategy of the current crop of digital distribution stores:

The money is only part of the power of such stores. A strong store also gives its owner lots of options for wider strategic distribution - when your platform has lots of great stuff that people want, it makes it attractive so users will install your client and/or buy your devices. A powerful store also gives you control of a space from where you can lever its audience to do other profitable things. For example, a store owner can choose to (or be paid to) promote certain apps, services or products that suit it. Go to Amazon's webpage and you'll see the Kindle promoted, the retailer using its store front to heavily promote its own hardware. From a biz-dev point of view this sort of horizontal integration makes total sense as once Amazon locks people in to the Kindle, the chances are they'll then use the Kindle's inbuilt store link to buy ebooks so cementing the relationship between the store and customer.

He's also written a couple of other articles recently on developing and promoting mobile games and the designer of Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax.

The Culture of Games and Science

Tomas was interviewed by new PC games site PCgamesN recently about our work at the Wellcome Trust and how it fitted the organisations overall strategy:

What [The Wellcome Trust] want is, and it's back to that point about science and culture being together, they want to see content where the science sits naturally. Like, one example, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it's not a Wellcome project but it's a great example of where cutting edge science has informed the content of a mainstream game, and I think it's a better game as a result or having that scientific credibility and yet at the same time the game play isn't compromised at all, it's a brilliant game.

It's not always about the money, although the funding is an important bit of what Wellcome does, it's also about the scientific expertise that are on offer, the ability of Wellcome to work with people to bring ways of operating that just wouldn't happen without their help.

They have this massive untapped resource of scientific minds to be used to inspire, if you're doing a game and it has some sort of DNA aspect and you though “Well I'd like to know a bit more about this”, we can put you in touch with a scientist. Wellcome also looks at games in regards to education, especially what they call 'Informal learning'. So Wellcome's interest in games is pretty wide reaching, which is why it's important to be strategic about it because there are lots of areas it can touch on.

Looking Ahead to 2012: Digital Strategy!

This is from an interesting article on PandoDaily:

2012 is the year of transformation as digital Darwinism threatens rigid and traditional practices everywhere. Regardless of industry, digital Darwinism is a phenomenon when technology and society evolve faster than the ability to adapt. ...

Strategy: With new media and emerging technology creating a groundswell of customer empowerment, new strategies must focus on the alignment of objectives with meaningful experiences and outcomes. All too often, emerging technology is confused with either disruptive technology or that of traditional marketing. Far too much emphasis, budget, and time is placed in new media channels without an understanding of why or what it is that customers expect or appreciate.

Which means that getting a good strategy is more important than ever!

Sony and Its Gaming Strategy

Tomas has been blogging about Sony and its gaming strategy...

Sony is a giant in the gaming world – that is of no doubt. The original Playstation changed gaming forever. It was technically a great machine and pushed games and gaming into new areas.  After an initial shaky start, the PS2 carried that momentum forward, selling 150 million units worldwide to date. As well as the commercial success, some of the titles that came out on the PS2 were critically renowned too; Ico, Resident Evil 4, Shadow of the Colossus, GTA: Vice City to name but a few.

We’re now in a new era from then. The rules of the game have not only changed, but are changing still. This is no longer a simple console war-zone between Sony and rivals like Microsoft and Nintendo. Sony is having a bad news month with the hacking of the Playstation Network, but are there deeper troubles – deeper than just the Playstation division?