The 2010/02/25 at 15:08
Serious games manage to combine, within a software, elements for teaching, learning, training, communication or information, using the technology and entertainment ploys of the video game. They do so by associating a practical scenario to a fun one, relying on an assessment system that checks what knowledge has been acquired before going onto the next level. Such games can be used in various domains, ranging from the military to health, from vocational training to industry or communication. An offshoot of games for leisure, serious games are now consolidating their economic models, clienteles and technologies. “They are so widespread that it is impossible to know who does what, for whom and for how much,” admits Laurent Michaud, a consultant for IDATE, a European marketing analysis institute that, in 2008, published an international study on the topic.
“But the potential number of players on the world scale ranges from 600 million to 1 billion. While the under-25s make up a privileged target, all generations are targeted by serious games.” Meanwhile, Éliane Alhadeff, founder and CEO of the Texas-based Future-Making Serious Games, estimates the value of the North American market as between 200 and 400 million dollars per year (140 to 280 million euros): “There is now an emergent supply chain for Corporate Serious Games [...] which could easily make available additional $400-600 million per year. The same applies to Healthcare providers, bringing the overall figure for the serious games market close to $1.5 billion in 2008.” Following the United States, no doubt the leading market due to the Small Business Act forcing administrations to consecrate 20 to 40% of their purchases to American SMEs and VSEs, Europe – notably France – is witnessing a strong development in serious games.
So who are the players in this market? First of all, BreakAway, DigitalMill, Persuasive Games, KTM Advanced, Daesign, Qoveo. Sector leaders that are also SMEs or even VSEs, with fewer than 40 employees. The first category covers companies that have migrated from classic video games to serious games. This is the case, for example, of Breakaway and Daesign. Next, we find e-learning specialists, such as KTM Advanced, which, after the popping of the Internet bubble, latched onto serious games, stealing talents from video game creation studios. Among these are communications agencies, notably DraftFCB which helped to create “PPM Hero" for the US business software giant CA (Computer Associates). Finally, for around five years now, vocational training institutes, following the trail of the European leader Cegos, now include serious games in their training programmes, in place of e-learning.
Until now, serious games have developed in the form of tailor-made IT projects for single clients with budgets between 15,000 and 50,000 euros for entry-level applications. And between 150,000 and 1 million euros for high-end applications. What is more recent is the emergence of serious games available, like entertainment games, on store shelves, ranging from 10 to 80 euros in price. Not surprisingly, development budgets are expanding, reaching heights of up to 10 million dollars (7 million euros)! Figures that are enticing investors, drawn by the prospect of meaty global markets. These markets are now so attractive that even entertainment games creation studios as well as their editors have their eyes on the plate of their serious little brother. The main reason for this is that the video games market has recorded a 15 % fall in the past year, after undergoing growth of up to 25%.
The first shift is visible in the educational game sector, following Nintendo with its Dr Kawashima brain training programme that has sold over 10 million copies since April 2006. There are also numerous games for learning English or the highway code, for example. Serious games will become the most widespread vocational training tool in 2012. Aimed primarily at Digital Natives, the generation born with the computer. In this context, France manifests a singular ambition, with Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, French Secretary of State for the Digital Economy launching a call for tenders in July 2009, wielding a 20 million euro budget. “This French approach is unique to the world,” states Laurent Michaud. “No fewer than 40 start-up projects have been selected, and developments will start to be seen in the next 12 to 36 months.”