Archive for Videogames

Alien Invasion sparks Twitter Involvement

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Where were you when The Reapers invaded Earth? Well, if you were a gamer waiting for the launch of Mass Effect 3, you were probably reading the reports from Emily Wong on the @AllianceNewsNet under the hashtag #solcomms.

During the day of March 5th and carrying on through the 6th, you could see how the Earth was falling – not just from this ‘news reporter’ but the from the multitude of ordinary citizens around the world who told of their experiences. From across the US of A to the UK, from Europe to Australasia – the tales of heroism and desperation came flooding in. @103rdMarinesDiv tried to firefight the invasion while civilians made it to the evac points. @Sintakhra, the UK Communication Net, kept track of the mighty SSV Normandy and its intrepid Commander Shepard – as the fleet fought its way to safety. Even after the final message from @AllianceNewsNet at 3.45am – < Signal Lost > – the story continued.

That’s exactly what it was. A brilliant exercise in Twitter marketing, conceived by Bioware for the launch of the aforementioned videogame, Mass Effect 3. Of all the hundreds of Twitter accounts that recounted tales of Husks, Cannibals and Reapers – just one was set up by Bioware, @AllianceNewsNet. That started the story, the rest carried it on. There was no cheesy ‘RT this’, no prize for taking part, no encouragement to spread the word. But the ME Fans did just that.

They got involved. They made the story theirs. Through adding their own adventures to uploading pics of the events. (Yes, people even created their own photo evidence). Sure it’s geeky. Very geeky. But it was engaging. Enough for many to get carried away for a while in the fantasy, having a bit of fun, being drawn together, building the hype – and ultimately, creating a nice bit of marketing for the game itself.

All in all, it was a 21st century social media ‘role tweeting’ reboot of the infamous ‘War of the Worlds news broadcast’ by Orson Welles on October 30 1938. When millions of Americans tuned in (and panicked) to reports of the Martian invasion of the earth. Though this time, they didn’t hide in cellars, load real guns and wrap their heads in wet towels as protection from Martian poison gas, they picked up their game controllers and prepared to ‘take Earth back’.

It’s all about telling a story in Social Media nowadays – for marketing and social recruiting – and this is a classic example of what can be achieved.

The power of the #hashtag

Now you know we love a #hashtag or two. Not just because we like making them up (even though we do), but of what they can achieve. In early April, one caught our Twitter eye – #ims211. It all began with this tweet below:

Sent by a professor of an Interactive Media Studies course (IMS211), in Southwestern Ohio, trying to demonstrate to his class about how gaming fans, developers and journalists can connect online. Thinking that his little experiment would get probably 10-20 responses (primarily from his own followers). He got far more than he expected. Over the initial 24 hours, over 3000 tweets were on that hashtag, 3 lists were created containing a total of 1500 Tweeters using the tag and people from all over the world and the gaming industry got involved. From developers to community managers, from indie studios to multinational publishers, from marketing companies (yes, we were there under our @andsomegamers guise) to students – everyone was talking and getting connected.

From students asking advice about breaking into the industry to studios offering jobs, the original tag has now transformed into much more than a ‘greetings’ tag. What that initial, and subsequent, interest has also spawned is a website, a charity T-Shirt, a community of games people and a possible Tweetup at E3 in the near future.

This whole ‘event’ proved one thing – you can never really predict what results Social Media will give you. That’s why it should be a constant experimentation. After all, there are no set rules or formula of how to use ‘it’. But when it works, it certainly can achieve something.

Achievement or Trophy whoring – which turns your thumbs on?

It’s a strange phenomenon, isn’t it? In gaming years gone by, it was all about beating the game. There was no finer feeling than defeating the end boss and sitting back basking in glory as you watched the credits roll past your bloodshot, late night gaming eyes. Then it all changed.

Blame Microsoft. The introduction of those pesky Gamerscores. No longer was it enough just to play through a game. There were points to be won. Up to 1000 (or more with additional DLC). Bragging rights to be earned. Achievements to be ‘advertised’ in your sigs across all your favourite forums. Then Sony got involved by introducing Trophies on the PS3. Bronze. Silver. Gold. Platinum. Glittering epitaphs of your gaming prowess for all to see.

As a multi-platform gamer, which makes you want to go that extra mile/level/difficulty/hour? For me, it’s simple. Numbers. Honest to god, count on your fingers numbers. You know where you are with them. The higher, the better. Trophies just feels all jumbled up. 160 Bronze. 100 Silver. 28 Gold. 1 Platinum. Whatever? Give me a straightforward total and I’m happy. Today my Xbox Gamerscore stands at 36741. Easy. How do you like yours?

Will Natal kill the Peripheral?

Having just come off a fun session of DJ Hero, a thought struck me. With the incoming Natal to the 360 and the Wand on PS3, where will we be without the glorious peripherals such as the Guitar Hero/Rock Band instruments and great DJ Hero decks? And who can forget those Time Crisis pistols? Never mind all the ubiquitous Wii controller-add ons like table tennis bats, golf clubs et al.

Can you imagine playing Rock Band 12 on air guitar or, even weirder, air drumming? There’s something quite satisfying having a piece of kit in your hands – even if it’s only a plastic replica – when you’re prancing around your sofa like Eddie Van Halen.

Still technology moves on and soon ‘motion control without the controller’ will be with us. Will the 360 and PS3 versions have the Wii-effect on sales? And games? Or will it just become another flash-in-the-pan gimmick?

The ‘MAG vs ME2’ Effect

This last week has seen the head-to-head launches of two distinctly different AAA titles. If you’re a gamer you know all of this already, don’t you? But for those less involved these are the games:

MAG (PS3) – Does what it says on the box art: Massive Action Game – an online only Multi-Player (MP)with up to 256 players online in the same game with no Single Player (SP) campaign/story.

MASS EFFECT 2 (Xbox 360) – A Sci-Fi Role Playing Game adventure in Single Player only.

What these two huge releases demonstrate is how gaming has changed in recent years – the polarity of SP and MP. Before the popularity of the online MP experience games used to rely on the quality of the SP story. Then as Xbox LIVE and Playstation Network have matured, multi-player is threatening to exterminate the need/importance of playing solo.

Take Modern Warfare 2 – with an SP campaign of less than 6 hours, it’s success comes from the desire to spend hours, days and weeks of involving combat to unlock all of your perks and gain Prestige after Prestige. MAG (similarily to SOCOM) expects you to devote yourself to teamwork and gaining objectives with your fellow gamers to get the most out of it. Whereas Mass Effect 2 is hoping you’ll become so immersed in the vast universe of Sam Shepard that hours will disappear without a thought of a MP Deathmatch.

Let’s see who ‘wins’ – from the sales (and popularity) of these titles in the coming weeks.

So will gaming becoming a pure multi-player experience in the future as less and less developers and publishers see the merits of spending time (and money) on the single player story? Especially when they seem to think most of us just speed through them while waiting for our mates to come online for a Team Deathmatch or 20.

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