Be Soshible for Charity

Be Soshible for Charity
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

March 3rd 2011 at 3:00PM

This social game studio aims to do what GamesAid cannot

Games charities like GamesAid have shown consumers there is a place for goodwill in the games industry.

Birmingham-based start-up Soshi Games are joining this crusade with their ethos to create social games that raise money for charity.

“We believe the positive impact of our games moves beyond just donations. This is an opportunity for charities to connect with a wider demographic than perhaps they normally would,” says Soshi co-founder Cliff Dennett.

Previously working in the aid sector at a strategic level in Rome and Geneva, Dennett gave keynotes about the potential of using games for serious purposes, such as corporate training, marketing and recruitment.

Dennett’s interest in games led him to partner with serious games creator Kevin Corti, and together they founded Soshi Games in April 2010.

Dennett says contributing to charity through the games they make was always part of his goal.

“Yes, it was, for two reasons. The first is an obvious desire to do good. I always had this belief that work should provide a fun way to spend your time, and benefit those beyond the individual. Bringing games and charities together seemed like an obvious way to do this.

“Secondly, there are business reasons for partnering with charities which are well proven in most markets. Working with charities can create a positive brand image, which is very important to Soshi, and also results in more customers paying for online games. So there are both social and business benefits to our strategy.”

Though charitable themes run throughout the company, and indeed its games, he is honest about the games coming first.

“We’re very much an entertainment company so the games must be, first and foremost, fun - Soshi is not in the education market and we don’t have any political statements to sell. By incorporating charities subtly into our games, we don’t push a specific message to the players. It does present a challenge of course - how to incorporate the promotion of charities into entertainment titles - but this is an interesting, creative challenge.”

FOR A GOOD CAUSE

Soshi has one title available at present through Facebook, Village Raffles. Screen West Midlands gave them a small grant early on to help get Soshi off the ground, so the budget was tight for their first title.

“We came up with a quirky game about the most popular form of charitable donation - the raffle. The player travels the world in a little camper van, visiting locations, entering raffles and winning prizes. These then go into a collections book and the aim is to complete all of the collections.”

Players can pay to enter certain raffles, with 50 per cent of the proceeds going to Soshi’s charity partners, including Fair Trade USA, Keep Britain Tidy and Kiva Microfinance. Some collections can only be completed by entering these charity raffles, giving players incentive to donate.

This model is one example, but Dennett says it may change over time, depending on what works best for the players, business and charities.

Soshi is not the first of its kind. Last year, non-profit publisher OneBigGame released Zoë Mode’s XBLA puzzle game Chime, with 60 per cent of the developer’s proceeds going directly to charity, as well as free iPhone game WiNTA.

Charity is clearly central to their vision, but Dennett says they’re not out to be the next GamesAid or Child’s Play.

“The key difference between them and Soshi Games is that they are charities, whereas we are clearly for-profit. We believe that running a commercial organisation is a great way to benefit charities but it does lead us down different routes to market and presents its own challenges. Child’s Play is very focused on one particular area, whereas Soshi is a lot broader in its scope.”

Facebook’s vast user base is already used to microtransactions, so social games for charity are likely to be welcomed. Soshi will continue to work with charities and other organisations on their future social games.

“Our long-term goal is to produce games that contribute to a wider Soshible gaming platform, which enables brands to engage with charities and provides users with entertainment,” says Dennett.

“I have always wanted to find a way to do more for society while earning a living, and Soshi Games has enabled me to do that.”