The 2010/02/25 at 16:39
Ludovic Noël is in charge of the Imaginove competitive cluster in Lyon, specialising in video games. In December 2009, Imaginove organised, in the context of the annual Lyon Game Expo, the 5th edition of the Serious Game Expo.
Commerce International: How was serious gaming born?
Ludovic Noël: “There are some who think that Sim City is the closest ancestor of the serious game. Others believe that things really got started in 2002 when the US Army launched a call for tenders for commanding an online video game studio, in order to attract young people, its priority target. The US Army wanted to increase its recruit numbers by communicating about its professions. The game America’s Army notched up 17 million downloads.”
For something that began as an experiment, these are serious results. Eight years down the track, how is the market structured and how much is it worth?
L.N.: “We sometimes hear figures that are crazy at the very least. Notably the alleged turnover of 50 billion dollars (34.5billion euros)! No one really knows. Idate, one of the leading research and consultancy centres in Europe for telecommunications, Internet and the media, has just published a study on the topic, but refrains from putting figures on the market. What we can say is that the world’s top market is in the USA. It has to be said that across the Atlantic, the market is supported by public orders (the army, fire fighters, civil security, universities…). The result is a market in full flight, as seen at the last Serious Game Summit in San Francisco last March. Great names include BreakAway, developer of Pulse, a serious game aimed at doctors and surgeons, which simulates a real hospital environment. Other great names are DigitalMill and Persuasive Games.”
How about in Europe?
L.N.: “France seems to be the 2nd market, ahead of the UK. Unlike the US situation, France does not benefit from the support of public orders to help the development of its serious gaming specialists. It is private orders from companies that enable the development of the sector’s actors. Furthermore, a large majority of CAC 40-indexed companies have invested in serious gaming projects. In this regard, we can count around fifty companies specialised in serious gaming. Some of these play the major league, on the international scale. I’m thinking in particular of KTM Advanced and Daesign. The latter won an award at the latest Serious Game Expo for a game aimed at the 18,000 salespersons of Renault’s global dealership network.”
How do we go from video games to serious games? Is the shift so difficult?
L.N.: “It’s very complex. Firstly, as far as the economic model is concerned, for entertainment video games, the editor commissions a design studio and pays cash. Whereas in serious games, it is the studio that invests and ‘gets its sleeves wet’. For numerous years, the entertainment video game market underwent average annual growth of 25%. The result was that classic video game studios had no need to diversify to develop their sales. But things may change, for in 2009, sales dropped by an average of 15%. And studios have a certain expertise that can be used to develop serious games.”
In the face of the crisis, have the great names in classic games turned to serious games?
L.N.: “The sector is set to develop significantly thanks to actors, including Act 3D, Dassault Systèmes-Virtools, Eon Reality, Onesia and Vertice, which develop generic technology allowing serious games to be created. Some of them even offer free versions on their platforms, fairly limited, it has to be said, but capable of raising up whole communities of serious games developers. This is an interesting phenomenon, for up till now, each studio has developed its own technology. This standardisation will accelerate with the Learning Game Factory programme, launched by Imaginove, enabling the technological bricks making up serious games to be interchanged from one editor to another. The idea is to look for the main strengths of each member of the competitive cluster, such as artificial intelligence at Daesign. Other actors are interesting for their automatic generation of avatars, backdrops, characters or pedagogical sequences.”