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License and Productize Game Engines to Developers

Training doesn't have entertainment budgets for game development, but they have oodles of applications that need developing and updating. That is a real market. And game engine developers are looking at how they can license their game engines, elements and other content to the lucrative corporate market.

The serious games market is currently valued at about $150 million, according to Ben Sawyer, president of the gaming consulting firm Digitalmill and co-director of the Serious Games Initiative. That's nearly 3X more than in 2005, according to Sawyer's estimates, and serious games niche growth looks like it will continue.

The larger simulation and 3-D modeling market includes military training sims, design prototyping, and educational software for a variety of corporate and school settings. This market overlaps with serious games, and it's so vast that it's hard to quantify, so it poses a much larger, tempting potential revenue stream.

Microsoft estimates this market at $9 billion, based on its internal tally of various analyst forecasts. So they are looking at how their release of Microsoft ESP can be used by designers working on digital prototypes of cockpits, as well as being used by companies working on flight simulations. Shawn Firminger is studio manager of ACES Studio, responsible for all of Microsoft's simulation products.

2006 saw increasing buzz in the enterprise software side of the software developer's world about serious games and the video game industry. Events such as the Serious Games Summit grew their semiregular conference on educational, military, and staff-training games.

Coffee buzz frequently centered on research about how people under 40 have grown up with video games, and how games could potentially be used as a learning tool.

MICROSOFT: ESP Flight Simulator

Microsoft's Flight Simulator had 25 years of proven popularity and brand equity. To open up its game engine and remarket it as a tool was a cost-effective way for Microsoft to enter the field of sims and serious gaming. Microsoft took only nine months to develop and launch ESP, repurposing the game's software and graphics as a training tool for professional pilots.

Repurposed Game Engines, Products and Stratgeies

Some industry observers see Microsoft's new involvement as a possible tipping point for serious games—and as a sign that entertainment video game developers, publishers, and designers could also repurpose their products and game engines to generate new revenue streams.

AGEIA: TimeShift Game Engine

Licensing and repurposing other entertainment-game engines for employee training is spreading.

Siemens (SI) licensed use of the Meqon physics engine from physics-accelerator-card maker AGEIA, that had been created for use in the development of the first-person shooter game TimeShift.

Corporate Licensing Payoff

Using game engines such as Microsoft ESP could also pay off in terms of time and money saved when creating employee-training games.

A beta-tester of the ESP platform saw significant slashes in budgets and schedules. One team used ESP to create a prototype of an aviation simulation training game—in only three days.

The same type of simulation would have taken 6 to 18 months from scratch. The Windows-based platform and the easy-to-use interface makes it simple to choose from a library of cockpit, terrain, and other design elements—all originally created for the Flight Simulator video game—and combine them with a company's own visuals and software.

The $799 license for Microsoft ESP that can be used for multiple serious games. The Windows interface is designed so that in-house designers can create a simulation without writing new code. The entertainment-game graphics are included for quite realistic to keep pace with consumer expections based on video games.

Northrop Grumman is just one of the many major corporations and creative development companies that are experimenting with the online virtual world Second Life for training games.

BREAKAWAY: Mosbe

Breakaway Ltd., (Maryland) makes a do-it-yourself software platform called MOSBE that allows companies to create custom training games. Breakaway has a long history of creating training sims for the military, hospitals, office applications such as bank auditors and consulting firms.


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