Games for TV – The Gamification of Content

Posted on: Wednesday 25 April 2012 9:07am

CMC Guest Blogger and Advisory Committee member, Neil Richards, was at the Games for TV event at BAFTA on the 18th April.

Presented by Games for Brands & C21 Media, the event was, in their own words: “…a dedicated one-day interactive conference and workshop designed for the Television, production, licensing, publishing and related sectors to understand how to turn their content into games across all platforms.”

Neil has provided a full run down on the day’s events for those unable to be there….


The day certainly did give an authoritative overview on what’s out there, following on from MIPCUBE earlier in the month. 11 sessions (12 if you count Kam Star’s unscheduled and breezy ‘how to make a game using this pack of cards in ten minutes’ creativity session.)

Lots of key players, lots of glimpses of recent innovation and some occasional strong views. A lot to take in, so apologies if I’m just giving you the highlights here…


Josh Atkins from Microsoft Soho showed us the Sesame Kinect stuff which was premiered at MIP. His presentation is 12 minutes into this vid.– it’s a must-see.

Yes there are people already playing in this area but this has had a lot of money thrown at it: see the 4th Wall broken for Early Years viewers on a TV show, just like in a game, and look at the surprised kids as they not only turn up in-show but also get spotted by the show when they play around. Josh explains what they’re doing thoughtfully and thoroughly.

(A Sheffield CMC session on MOTION is going to look at this space too, so watch out for that one.)



Should that have a question mark perhaps?

Moderated effortlessly by CMC’s own Jo Twist (oh all right, also CEO UKIE).

Colin MacDonald (new games commissioner at Ch4) explained how he’s looking for shows that have the potential to make great games, looking for accessibility and fun.

Robert Nashak (BBCW) showed us the results of his input since he took over at digital entertainment and games: browser games and also heavy duty PS2 Dr Who games, Top Gear etc. Explained his mission to take the big brands to new platforms. BBCW makes its money overseas, and then ploughs the cash back in to product back home – that’s the theory.

Dan Whiley at A+E told us their strategy has shifted – originally just taking existing shows and ‘gamifying’ them, but now looking to make games that ‘support and enhance’ new shows.

Paul Kanareck (director brands, ITV) though relatively new in post reiterated that he operates both as brand-owner and broadcaster. As brand-owner he is part of a trend of broadcasters wanting to get much more involved with the companies that make the games (buying in the tech and the developers/studios?) rather than just as in the bad old days ‘selling the licence and saying good-bye’.

This prompted a discussion that there is a genuine trend emerging here of the big players buying in the expertise and running it in-house rather than trusting to completely external ‘games companies’. Colin MacDonald’s interest in trying to create a business model where developers can retain some rights and IP in their product so they can earn revenue overseas was particularly encouraging and anyone in the games space should follow that up with gusto!



Moderated sublimely by Marc Goodchild (yes also CMC born and bred).

After some discussion it was agreed that Gen G is basically: young people, teenagers, kids, and all those native gamers.

We took a quick tour around Dubit’s, Littleloud’s and Six to Start’s key shows: ‘Muddle Earth’, ‘The Code’, ‘Bow St Runner’ etc.

So what’s the relationship between this audience and TV?

Paul Rayment suggested that up to the age of 9 kids stay in their walled gardens online and the big TV brands hold sway – but once they’re out there they just want to consume more On Demand and especially on their own terms.

Adrian Hon said that the ‘Code’ games were intended to pull a different kind of audience back to the TV show.

Simon Parkin said that the games that work best are those where the theme of the TV show actually works as a game. Neither he nor Adrian had stats to show whether their games pulled people back to the TV show. Other broadcasters might be bothered by that, but Channel 4 especially didn’t see games as having that remit.



Henrique Olifiers from Bossa said that it is important that games are developed in partnership with the broadcaster – in effect Shine bought Bossa so they could do just that. (See above trend for acquisition of developers.)

Chris Etches at Utinni explained some of the challenges of creating a game for ‘Being Human’ which exists in both UK and US formats. In the end they created a kind of ‘third’ space which would work for both audiences as a common Facebook game.

Dan Efergan (whose descriptions of life inside Aardman are always so positive and passionate) talked of the period 4 years ago when they decided to actually make their games inside the company rather than using outside developers. At heart this was a creative decision – but in fact it was also justified economically as they found they were being courted by 3rd parties to create games.

Paul Gardner from lawyers Osborne Clarke followed on to say that TV companies are tending to partner up with developers before eventually acquiring them: partnerships can be difficult from both a legal and commercial prospective.

Henrique suggested that ‘Moshi’ is really the future – look at how they are a Youtube channel plus – a complete eco-system – totally 360 – delivering content to viewers/players/consumers.

Dan described how at Aardman storytellers and gamers sit together in they same space, learning from each other. There’s a deliberate educational process going on within the company. At heart though – TV is still the best kicking off place for new IP.

Chris agreed but felt Film and TV people often find games mechanics and requirements quite baffling.

Lessons for success?

Henrique gave a good tip: developing is so often pot luck but you can heighten your chance of success by looking carefully at the track record of the people you intend to work with.

Fail fast! Make prototypes, test. Work with the metrics – tune and tune and tune your product. Dan added: Build the brand and the universe and the characters first – it’s not about all the separate platforms and bits, it’s the world of your story that’s at the heart of everything.



Moderated by Peter Cowley, CEO Spirit Digital (who’ll be chairing a session at CMC in July – do we see a pattern emerging here?)

So how do you make money through games?

Georg Broxtermann from Flare Games (makers of mobile games and partners with a German TV company) pointed us at some excellent research from Razorfish Yahoo:

This is definitely worth looking at – just two pages, but it contains that 80% second screen usage stat that people are talking about. He also suggested looking at ProSieben Sat.1 Games as an example of free to play games with monetisation coming from sale of goods (virtual and real).

Ze’ev Rozov talked about how his company Iconicfuture is a kind of market place for games companies to work with licences and brands – and gave as an example ‘Shaun the Sheep’s’ entry into Farmerama which they managed.

Richard Morris from exMachina showed how the 2nd screen app they created for ‘Voice of Holland’ functioned, and how it picked up 300K users (10% of the audience). He also showed ‘Intuition’, a second screen game show whose contestants are all at home… He pointed to how the viewer/user sits in between the broadcaster/production company and the Brand/sponsor providing valuable data for premium voting, direct marketing, direct purchases, as a brand lead generator and affiliate sales.

Yep – you are the product.

Data – how valuable?

TV still has immense power in this chain because initially it can create brands so well.

Richard had a tip: get people involved first without registering. Get them to trust. Then get them to pay for the next more exciting feature – and sign them up.

Who’s got examples of well monetised game/TV experiences?

Georg suggested that the ‘House’ and ‘CSI’ games were not as successful as might have been expected. But the ‘Brady Bunch’ and ‘Loveboat’ gambling games actually did very well.



Moderated by Simon Nelson, Sineo Ltd

As usual, all sides declared their view of the word Gamification which along with Transmedia has – for some – passed its sell-by date.

Alex Fleetwood from Hide and Seek bemoaned the fact that within stakeholder media companies it’s the business and legal who work at a very difficult pace. The creatives ‘get’ games – but often those guys doing the deals just don’t.

Paul Canty at PreLoaded presented a nicely stratified description of the kind of games they make. Essentially there are four kinds:

Parallel – they just work on their own regardless of the original IP. Example – ‘Spooks’.

Extending – they create additional content across other platforms. Example – ‘Level Up’.

Inspired – they take the TV content and make a game out of it. Example – ‘1066’.

Unique – Not a TV show, more a kind of ‘theme’ for the broadcaster. Example – ‘The End’ about death for Channel 4.

Kam Star from PlayGen questioned Gamification as a term, feeling that the process was more about simply making things more interactive than on TV.

Alex Fleetwood mentioned a drama project they are working with at the BBC, which doesn’t have a win/lose/points process like a game. It’s really more of a ‘folding’ of the show and the interactive.

Kam talked about how kids are happy with points and leaderboards etc, but adults will need to have a bigger motive for interacting with TV: Nectar and Tesco he used as a good example.



David Flynn from Remarkable TV gave an engrossing 20 minute talk on ‘Million Pound Drop’ and ‘Bank Job’. He ran out of time for the latter, so here’s the key points on MPD:

An amazing 12.4% of the audience played along with the TV show.

When developing the show ‘we wanted to make it so easy that your mum would play it’. There are three reasons he thinks why the 2nd screen experience worked so well:

1. The questions take a long time to resolve, so there is time to play along. This is a MAJOR point – you don’t MISS any of the TV show by playing the game, or at least nothing of importance.

2. The game replicates the tactile experience of actually moving the money.

3. The activity of the audience is played back at you directly through the show.

Feedback on the gaming audience was relayed within the show and it could be seen to have an immediate effect on increasing the number of play-along viewers at home.

(The production set-up had David and his team included in a key position within the gallery, mediating information going to graphic overlays and to the host of the show.)

Key to the game’s success was also the fact that the game format was developed ALONGSIDE the TV show.



Nicholas Lovell gave a twenty minute presentation in ten minutes and didn’t put a foot wrong (no surprise there! He’ll be at CMC in July…). Here’s his list of Commandments:

1. It’s not about story. (Er, later he did pull back a little on that, the tease.)

2. Find the Fun.

3. Iterate. A lot.

4. Commission earlier. At least 6 months before TX.

5. Have a post-TX plan.

6. Games are about RETENTION of customers not CREATION of customers.

7. Make it free, make it profitable.

8. Don’t only think about the revenue afterwards.

9. Cater to the Whales. (Honestly, that’s what he said and that’s what I noted and I can’t for the life of me remember what it meant.)

10. Learn.

For the detail – you had to be there. But Nick’s very approachable so just ask him at CMC to explain any of these and I’m sure he’ll oblige…



Mark Sorrell from Somethin’ Else gave a very personal 20 minute overview of what’s wrong with the whole notion of Gamification – and I confess I was listening and enjoying myself so much that my notes appear to be just random jottings of key words. But essentially he said:

If you want to gamify something – start with the game please! It should be Telefication, not Gamification. Remember ‘Time Commanders’?!

TV is scheduled – games are not.

TV is broadcast – games are not.

TV is passive – games are not.

Agency and Control are not the same thing!

And if you do nothing else, play ‘Final Fantasy XII’!

Yes Mark did say a lot and it all seemed to make sense at the time. Maybe he rambled and we were all hypnotised.



Moderated by Nicholas Lovell

David Rose from We R Interactive showed his fascinating 1st person football game/drama ‘Playr’.

Alice Taylor talked about MakieLab and her non-gaming future…

Rich Coggin from Archibald Ingall Stretton revealed some of his strategy as a creative director in a large agency and also showed their 1Direction campaign.

He always looks for the story first. Then the key is to innovate inside the existing platforms. Create what he calls ‘super sticky story glue’. Let the audiences in to that story world and let them explore the nooks and crannies. Get them to share and advocate and make and share – the more they share they more they stay and the more people stay. Make it live 24/7 across all your platforms.

So he has 4 rules (which Nicholas Lovell emphasised as being – The Future.)

1. Find the thing they love.

2. Allow them to get closer.

3. Give them the means to share it.

4. Reward them for doing so.

Alice Taylor closed with a weighty statement: ‘Broadcasters are in trouble if all they do is broadcast.’



Aptly for a final session we got key visions from the panel, all of whom work in the Smart TV space:

Michael Lantz from Accedo reiterated that tablets will be everywhere in the living room. Families will use the big screen as the ‘common ground’. TV is social – so if you add gaming to it you have to have a winner. Gameshows in this environment just cannot fail.

Bruno Pereira from TV App Agency told us that Cloud games will be the future and that the 2nd screen will be the control device. We won’t be playing ‘Call of Duty’ in this new space – but we will be playing new and funky games which are yet to be invented!

Charles Tigges of Playjam emphasised that this market – games for TV – is just going to grow and grow…

And there the conference finished. Look out for some of the key speakers and moderators at CMC in July. Look too for several sessions which will cover similar topics.

Neil Richards

The Mustard Corporation

CMC Advisory Committee