Web Presence and Cross Platform Gaming

June 26, 2012, Author: Phil Ubee

In the current financial climate, big companies across the globe have moved on from hosting their own websites to promote their product and company to an approach known as ‘Web Presence’. This is measured by an active involvement across the web as a whole including, and to a degree focusing on, the increased use of Social Media platforms.

This is designed to get as much information about your product to as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time and the video-game industry is potentially in a position to push this even further, due to the rather unique interaction factor.

Read on to find out how.

One thing our industry already does that others can’t, is include a live, useable snippet of the product in the form of a demo, allowing prospective customers to get a feel for an item beyond what we see in a YouTube video or on a TV advert. The playable demo has been around for as long as I can remember, with Magazines of yesteryear shipping with tapes and then disks containing a couple of demos of some of the most anticipated upcoming titles. This generation, we have seen that extended with the introduction of downloadable demos from our console’s very own marketplace, giving us an easy to access, free to play, hands on look at the up coming releases without having to leave our favourite gaming chair.

That’s not to say the modern-day publisher is without its challenges. Most gamers these days have more than one system they use to get their fix. Away from the home console, we have Smartphones, Facebook and lunch times spent surfing the net, not to mention handheld consoles with the quality of the PS Vita and 3DS. Let’s not forget the good old-fashioned PC gaming option.

Use Facebook to build your Tiger Woods 13 XP.

These days we also play more games online than ever before, adding both a social and a competitive side to our favourite titles that, one that was previously reserved for sports franchises and first person shooters alone. With that, we have seen the introduction of websites that dedicate themselves to a single game, building on the community that is created with Xbox Live or PSN, allowing gamers who would not otherwise meet, to compete and share stories and tips about their favourite titles, whatever system they play it on. Coupled with the now-obligatory Facebook Fan page and Twitter feeds to tell us about the next DLC or special and limited time in-game challenges, and it’s fair to say the business model of Web Presence is truly in full effect.

Now for the next stage: EA Sports have, in recent years, added a web portal dedicated to FIFA’s Ultimate Team game mode, which allows you a quick and easy way to manage your squads and purchase more card packs. There’s a website that also includes access to other aspects of the game, such as Clubs, where you can interact with your club mates away from your console, with the simple ability to upload and share your best (or funniest) goals.

Now, the biggest name in sports franchises is pushing things further with the recent Tiger Woods 13. They’re offering access to the new Country Clubs online component via the main Tiger Woods website, but they have also added some true cross-platform interaction. As mentioned in the review, EA Sports PGA Tour Golf Challenge on Facebook, and the very impressive Tiger Woods Online, allow you to gain XP that can be used in your console game via the completion of Skills Challenges.

Websites for cross platform access are already the norm.

We can expect more of the same at the end of August too, when Madden 13 hits our shelves with the new Connected Careers feature, best described by the EA Sports marketing snippet:

“Live the NFL dream whenever you want, wherever you want in a fully interactive, social, and connected online experience. Create your personal legacy or relive an all-time legend’s as you build the ultimate franchise as a coach, an NFL superstar, or yourself. Manage your team from your console, the web, or mobile phone in a 24/7 world as NFL insiders and experts analyze, praise, and criticize every move along the way.”

From what we’ve seen so far, Connected Careers will push the cross-platform idea further than ever, allowing you to check on, progress and affect your home console experience literally wherever you are and on whatever device you have to hand. Aside from the obvious bonus of giving the ever-maturing gamer more opportunities to dip into their favourite game amid the busy work/home life pattern, it should also mean that more of the time at home on the console is actually spent actively playing games, rather than going through menus, changing settings and managing teams.

True 24 hour access to your favourite game?

Having also recently seen Hitman: Absolution developer IO Interactive release a pre-release mini-game to pique interest and bag some preorders, the question now is: Can/will this be pushed further?

Personally, I see this as the beginning of a new, more involved gaming experience that gives us more ways to enjoy our favourite titles. It’s a genuine and positive innovation against some of the criticism big developers have taken in recent years, for milking fans of the big games. I love being able to spend my lunch break sorting out my Ultimate Team and earning XP for Tiger Woods 13 via Facebook, and I can’t wait to dive into Madden’s Connected Career on my phone whilst heading to work.

I only hope that the day that I can level up on my favourite shooter in a similar manner is just around the corner.