Casual players a boon for nets
Television networks looking to reap the financial rewards from vidgame adaptations of popular skeins are increasingly taking aim at the quickly growing demo of femmes who are casual gamers.
The casual gamer, who is a fan of the TV property first and the vidgame title second, has different buying practices than the traditional gamer, developers say.
For example, casual gamers prefer digital downloads to physical purchases, which has caused a shift in the way companies like Legacy Interactive market their titles.
Legacy specializes in adapting TV franchises old and new, including “Law and Order,” “Criminal Minds,” “Murder She Wrote” and “The Twilight Zone.” The company’s target demo is a large chunk of the demo that watches these series: women 35 and older, a significant slice of the “casual gamer” market.
“Especially since Nintendo has come out with the DS and the Wii, it’s generally acknowledged that these women are playing games,” said Legacy Interactive CEO Ariella Lehrer.
What’s also changed is the way consumers can access games.
“There’s been a huge shift of power to the consumer, and it’s good for the consumer,” Lehrer added. “It just makes our job a little more complicated.”
Before Internet distribution channels, “Purchasing decisions were based on what the box looked like,” said Legacy veep of game development Craig Brannon.
Today, Legacy offers 60-minute trial downloads of their titles to hook auds before they buy. This has put an increased pressure on polishing and beta testing the first hour of gameplay before refining the quality of the rest of the game.Also casual gamers don’t necessarily own a videogame console, so titles need to be developed for computers, portable platforms like the Nintendo DS or Apple’s iOS, or social networking platforms like Facebook to meet auds where they already are.
“The way that we look at it is if the platform makes sense and we’ve got people who are interested in getting our games on that platform, then we’re going to go there,” said Telltale Games senior director of marketing Richard Iggo.
Telltale, founded in 2004, by former LucasArts employees, pioneered an episodic videogame model akin to serialized storytelling in TV. The company distributes five monthly episode “seasons” via digital download of popular licensed titles like “Wallace and Gromit” and “Back to the Future.”
The upcoming episodic adaptation of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” presents another new issue for licensed content developers. Now that more skeins are based on intellectual properties from other media, developers are faced with appeasing both fans of the original source material — often a novel or comicbook — and fans of the TV adaptation without alienating either camp.
“Originally it was just serendipity that the TV show came out,” Iggo said. “We were already working on the whole idea of ‘The Walking Dead,’ and then the TV show came out and really blew the franchise up to almost a mass market property.”
Iggo believes this bodes well for the vidgame, which will follow a camp of survivors separate from those featured in the comic and show, but stranded in the same general area. French developer Cyanide Studio decided to play it safer and make two separate games, one in line with the novels and the other with HBO’s series, when they acquired the rights to “A Song of Ice and Fire,” better known to TV viewers as “Game of Thrones.”
The game “Game of Thrones — Genesis” essentially caters to “the spirit of the novel,” said Cyanide CEO Patrick Pligersdorffer. “Genesis” is a real-time strategy title that picks up 1,000 years before the start of the first book, detailing aspects of the canon of George R.R. Martin’s novels that were necessarily glossed over when the series moved to TV.
A second title, a role-playing game, is also in development that complements the first season of HBO’s “Thrones.”
“The book has its own style, that’s why we appreciate it,” said Cyanide game designer Regis Robin.
“In the game, you will still find this special atmosphere. … Without being pretentious, when you try the game, you’ll know why this is definitely not a typical ‘licensed’ game.”Capitalizing on TV brands has its own share of hurdles, but shows plenty of potential.
“(Games) can conceivably be a home for intellectual properties even after they’ve gone,” said Legacy Interactive creative director Don Marshall. “‘The Ghost Whisperer’ is no longer on the air, but there’s still an awful lot of interest in the game because the fans feel that something valuable to them was taken away.”