By: LIA TIMSON
Australian companies and government agencies are turning to game developers for help creating recruitment, marketing and training programs that are fun, engaging and cost-efficient.
Following their American and British counterparts, ASIO, McDonald’s Australia and the NRMA are jumping on the online game wagon, commissioning serious gamers and digital specialists to create games, courses and websites with short-term campaign targets in mind.
“These are games for very broad audiences, not just boys and young adult males,” says Colin Cardwell, the chief executive of 3RDsense, the digital group responsible for the online gaming site fizzy.com.
// He says he has seen increased demand from local businesses in addition to the corporate work the company has been developing, mainly for overseas clients, since 2002. In the recently launched 3RDsense blog, the company lists a number of game-led initiatives it believes developers and marketers interested in promotional games should try.
Among them is a political effort by anti-poverty campaigners Bob Geldof and Bono to have Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi thrown out of the G8, given that country’s record of delivering aid pledges to Africa. The game was developed by the anti-poverty lobby group One, founded by Bono, and lets users hurl Berlusconi as if he were a prop in the Olympic hammer event.
3RDsense has completed projects for ASIO, Opportunity International and Teradata. The Opportunity International game was designed to help the charity in its fund-raising efforts with Gloria Jean’s Coffees.
Teradata commissioned a game to promote its data warehousing capabilities and annual conference, while ASIO merged flying simulation and a quiz into a game to attract and pre-select potential job candidates at a recruitment fair.
“It was also about educating people about what ASIO does and encouraging them to apply,” Cardwell says, adding that there seems to be no limit to the types of companies wanting a gaming solution to their business problem.
“We’ve done work for insurance companies, food companies, technology and finance companies. If you can create more desire for people to work for you [with a game], recruitment and salary costs can come down. So a few thousand dollars spent on a game can save a lot of money in the long run.”
The company has also completed a promotional game, or “advergame”, for BigPond broadband in Victoria.
Some companies are using games to educate potential customers even before they try to sell them anything. British telecommunications group BT is a case in point. It hosts two online games aimed at helping business managers understand decision making through simulation. It takes recent concerns, such as carbon trading, into consideration. It has published games for schoolchildren in Northern Ireland to hone their Gaelic football and hurling skills as part of a larger educational sponsorship.
A trend that started in 2005 – with Qantas commissioning India-based e-learning firm Tata Interactive Systems to design an accredited flight-attendant refresher course game, complete with prizes – has picked up pace in recent months.
The vice-president Asia Pacific of Tata, Steve Hill, was recruited to beef up the company’s operations in Australia. Hill has been recruiting sales staff in an effort to cope with demand from corporations wanting games for their marketing, training and recruitment projects.
“We’ve seen an increase in demand for games,” he says. “Organisations are recognising that learning doesn’t have to be a dry process, that they can add an element of fun.”
Last month, Tata Interactive was listed among the world’s top-20 training outsourcing companies. It claims to develop more than 3000 hours of training for clients every year. Gaming is becoming a large driver of it.
“Companies are increasingly using online games hosted in the cloud or on enterprise servers to train staff, retail partners and dealer networks,” Hill says. “There’s a growing awareness of technology-enabled learning in organisations, particularly with restrictions around travel. More companies are shifting classroom learning to online learning.”
Game developers say games are a good way for organisations to differentiate themselves and to attract the elusive Generation Y as customers and as employees.
However, Cardwell warns clients and game developers must ensure games are not just fun but also “on brand”, reflecting the commissioning company’s culture.
“You can’t over-promise and under-deliver,” he says.