Wednesday, January 27, 2010

If You Could Play Casual Video Games on Demand Through Your TV, Would You?





According to Interactive TV Today, TAG Networks has been market testing a Video Game on Demand channel in cooperation with Oceanic Time Warner (the Hawaiian arm of Time Warner Cable). They launched the effort in 2008 and are now contemplating expanding the offering to other markets.

Owners of the current generation of console gaming systems can currently purchase games for download through their consoles, a system similar to traditional pay-per-view on demand sales, but it appears that TAG Networks system works more like Netflix on Demand, Stars on Demand, or USA on Demand. Your television remote control is your game system controller. ITVT reports, "TAG, which is ad-supported and available to all Oceanic Time Warner Cable's digital subscribers, allows viewers to use their remotes to play a range of casual games, including branded games such as "Bejeweled 2," "Tetris," "Diner Dash" and "Barney," and classic games such as Texas Hold'Em, Sudoku and Checkers. The channel, which also offers community features, including multiplayer gaming across households and high scores, is powered by a platform for which TAG Networks has filed nine patents to date."

Ad supported on demand gaming through your television sounds pretty interesting, and the offerings are good for the casual gamer )a large segment of the gaming population), but what about the console rpg player or real time strategy gamer?

There are a couple of games that look like they might appeal to the geek in me. In particular "Seven Seas" and "Mummy Maze." Both are casual games, but they share some aesthetic qualities with some games I have enjoyed in the past. "Seven Seas" looks a little like the classic "Sid Meier's Pirates" game and "Mummy Maze" shares some visual qualities with "Gauntlet" -- though it doesn't look like it shares many game play elements with that classic game. I hope that Game Table Online is looking at this channel and looking for ways to get their robust and deep game catalog into an interface like this. I would live to play Axis and Allies or Nuclear War while sitting at my couch.







Looking at the games a little more, and thinking about the possibility of further development in the social/community functionality offerings, a thought suddenly comes to me. While using a TV remote may not be the best way to play a real time strategy game, or an action rpg like Dragon Age, it might be a great way to play a turn based and game mastered role playing game.

When Wizards of the Coast launched the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, they heavily promoted something they called the "Virtual Game Table" which would allow people to run D&D games through via the internet. The DM would create a scenario using a scenario editing tool, and the players would interface with the dungeon through their individual computers. There are currently a few good remote gaming software packages available, so Wizards' offering would have had to have offered additional functionality and graphics capability that the current software lacks. This was one of the reasons the product failed, that and a fear that D&D 4e was trying to kill the actual table top experience (not a completely irrational fear in the gaming community).

I wonder if TAG Networks technology could be used to create an interactive household to household "television top" role playing game experience. I have friends that live across the country who I'd like to game with and gaming while sitting on the couch holding a TV remote would be more "comfortable" than sitting at my computer desk at the keyboard and mouse -- at least for me. Creating adventures might be a pain, but I think the play experience could be worth while. It also might be a way to introduce new gamers to the marketplace as the "social" interface might allow others to watch an ongoing game (say one that wasn't classified as private by the players).

It wouldn't replace the table top experience, anyone who has played face to face table top rpgs knows that they are a unique experience, but they might help expand the gaming hobby as a whole.

What do you think? Would you play casual games? Would you play rpgs? Other games?
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