There are 3 things that let you know that you are in the office of a video games developer: 1. The average age is below 30, 2. You can easily find posters, t-shirts or plastic toys of superheroes and 3. There is a casual relaxed-but-focused environment that impregnates the place. Gamelearn offices are just like that.
In the last year, Gamelearn has grown from 8 to 40 employees proving that you can make a living by developing Serious Games. Unlike other developers, Gamelearn only develops Serious Games and a similar growth is expected for 2016. So, what is the secret? We interviewed Irene Rocha, marketing manager at Gamelearn, to find out the key to Serious Games success.
[Irene Rocha] “The key is easy to explain: to have a good content. Gamelearn team comes from soft skills learning consultancy so, though we have been developing games since 2007, the company’s background comes from further back. We know what we are doing and even ten years ago, we already employed gamification technics in our presential courses.”
[On Serious Games] Why did Gamelearn deciced to change to the online learning market?
[Irene] “Companies are more global year by year. Our principal clients are multinationals with offices in all continents and they cannot afford a presential course. It is just impossible to assume the costs. Online learning in the form of video games was the obvious step for Gamelearn.“
[ONSG] You usually deal with human resources managers in charge of staff training. How do they receive serious games as a form to improve their employees’ performance?
[Irene] “They usually have mixed feelings. At they same time they love the idea but are scared about how employees will react. Our games, Merchants and Triskellion, are directed to middle-managers and above. Only 2% of them have ever played a video game so engagement and drop off rates are a huge risk here.”
[ONSG] And what do they think after using the game in their companies?
[Irene] “We have all the players filling a survey about their experience and data are amazing: 90% completion rate, 99,1% would recommend it, 99,7% say what they learn is applicable to their job and the average score they give to the game is the 9.8 up to 10. We are really proud of these data. Players also send their written opinions and suggestions. Once the comment was: -Together with having my baby, playing Merchants is the most enlightening thing I’ve ever done in my life-“
[ONSG] Why do you think you are getting such amazing data?
[Irene] “Besides our team of experts, we gather data from all our clients and use it to improve the games constantly. We also listen to sales departments, managers and CEOs. They are the ones that really know about soft skills so their knowledge is what we want to give to our clients. But the content needs a beautiful package and thus storytelling is vital to catch players’ attention. Suddenly you travel in time to XV century Venice to negotiate with real historic characters. Or circle the globe finding clues about a misterious secret society. The storytelling is the thing that contributes the most to engagement and the excellent completion rates.“
[ONSG] What about the plans for the future? What can we wait from Gamelearn?
[Irene] “Right now we are really focused in enlarging our games portfolio and reducing the time it take us to develop a new game. In 2007, it was two years. Hopefully next year we will be able to develop one game every three months and to achieve it we are relying on our talented in-house team.”
[ONSG] Which obstacles do Serious Games still have to overcome?
[Irene] “The most important is that we still have to make a huge labor of education about what Serious Games are and can achieve. Countries like USA and France are really advanced in this educational progress but in other countries we still have to break a barrier of distrust. At Gamelearn we are dedicated to this task, that is why we participate in as many Serious Games and Educational conferences as we can. We also have started providing our potential clients with game demos. We know that if clients take a look to our products, they will be completely sure about their investment.”
[ONSG] And what about costs and prices?
[Irene] “Budget is also a problem to overcome. Costs for developing a quality game are over 1 or even 2 million dollars. Our price per license is 200€ and, depending on the volume, we can offer discounts over 70%, but sometimes clients still perceive this price as very high. They think it is expensive for a video game and not as a fair price for education. An equivalent presential course at a university could cost around 3.000$ per person, plus relocation, diets, etc. That would be impossible to assume for a company.”
[ONSG] Could you tell us something about your next release, Pacific?
[Irene] “We are very excited about this new game. Pacific is a graphic adventure to improve your leadership and team management skills. Users will have to test their observation and organizational skills to solve a dangerous situation. Very soon we will release more information about the game but, for the moment, we can say that with Pacific we will show what Gamelearn has learned after 8 years developing Serious Games. Content, story, graphics, options and challenges, all improvements are the result of years listening to our users’ feedback. Besides, we are using HTML5 for the development, so Pacific will be fully available for smartphones and tablets.”
Just at the same moment that we finish our interview, a happy tune sounds all around the office. Irene smiles and exclaims happily: “It’s 2 o’clock already! Every Friday a person from the team chooses a song to celebrate the beginning of the weekend. This means: time to go home!”. So after saying goodbye to the marketing team, we leave the office with the sensation that this bunch of youngsters are not only Serious Games pioneers, they are also enjoying it!