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Bringing Games Development into the Boardroom

The shape of the electronic games market is changing

Some say that there's no place for games in the corporate boardroom. Of course, this is simply not true in this day and age. At one level there is the huge growth of the video games business, and at the other level there is the reality of game theory, which is the study of interactive strategic ‘decision making' that can be applied to any field.

When should CIOs be interested in games development?

The shape of the electronic games market is changing and there are two words that you need to remember to describe its new form and function: "social" and "mobile." While so-called console-based games are still very popular, the ability to connect to other players and enjoy the interactive elements of social computing (on a mobile device) inside a gaming environment is where the market is growing.

Japanese social gaming platform Gree is taking on Facebook and Zynga in this space with its own social gaming platform. Founded by Japan's answer to Mark Zuckerbueg, Yoshikazu Tanaka is the brain behind Gree and the firm is aiming to hit its target of one billion users within five years.

One billion you ask? The firm is teaming up with French software house Ubisoft to bring the hugely popular Assassin's Creed franchise to the platform later this year and Gree provides financial support for smaller third-party software developers too. Ubisoft has explained that although Assassin's Creed has sold 38 million copies to date in its console-based iteration, today as many 25 percent of her company's developers are now focused on online gaming.

What This Means for CIOs

What this means for CIOs, information managers, software development team leaders and (to be honest) pretty much all of us is that this use case model is shaping user behavior. Much like the ‘consumerization of IT' has seen people bring their own tablets and smartphones into the workplace because they like them, the social mobile model that Gree and others are driving will ‘flavor' users' technology conventions and preferences in the near future.

Here's the economic model. Users play social mobile games (plus+) users like high-end smartphones (multiplied by*) users' colleagues and friends share social network connections from LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter (-minus) policy controls restricting games use in the workplace if they exist = new data streams and communication channels to impact the working environment.

That's just a rough guess based on a bit of informed conjecture, but remember when you thought digital watches and carphones would never take off? Anyway, the gaming message goes deeper still and retains relevance for boardroom discussions. Games researcher and designer Jane McGonigal has spoken in detail about how gaming can make a better world at the following TED video lecture presentation -- http://youtu.be/dE1DuBesGYM

McGonigal says the many thousands of hours we spend playing games have made us good at four key skills:

  1. Urgent optimism and self-motivation - the ability to think that something is always worth trying.
  2. Social fabric weavers - gamers build up bonds between each other and this creates trust, even between players who have beaten each other.
  3. Productivity gurus - gamers are happier working hard at a game than they are at just sitting around.
  4. Meaningful challenges - gamers love ‘tasks' and are willing to invest energy into meeting goals.

Don't all four of those factors sounds equally applicable to corporate work environments? Wouldn't you like to think that software programmers, operations team staff and unit testers are optimistically productive individuals who like a challenge and enjoy social team bonding? Wouldn't it be great to be able to apply those personal attributes outside of the IT function too and see accountants, sales staff and the office cleaners act like that as well?

In summary, I am not advocating the installation of Space Invaders machines in every corporate boardroom (that's not true, I actually am, but you know what I mean) - we can take some of the above games-related information as a pointer to how users behave, what games can give us and how we can be enjoying the next version of Assassin's Creed.

Games are big business, games drive business goals and business itself is a game. Press start to begin.

•   •   •

This post was first published on the Enterprise CIO Forum

More Stories By Adrian Bridgwater

Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist and corporate content creation specialist focusing on cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects software engineering, project management and technology as a whole.

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