The Man from Corrie Nation

The Man from Corrie Nation
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

November 29th 2010 at 4:00PM

Andy Rogers explains why one of the nation's favourite soaps is perfect for social gaming

It is Britain’s longest running soap opera and now developer enteraction has built a whole social game around it.

In TV’s continued march towards interactive entertainment, ITV commissioned a virtual extension of their popular soap Coronation Street. Dubbed Corrie Nation, the game hit ITV.com and Facebook earlier in September.

enteraction’s managing director Andy Rogers has been acutely involved in bringing the game to market. Previously, he developed flash and mobile games for the likes of Sony, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros. and Pepsi. From his experience in social gaming, he is well placed to offer insight into what the future holds for this changing market.

Ahead of his Evolve in London session next week, we contacted Rogers to get the gossip on Corrie Nation and what games like it mean for the media sector.

What’s the most difficult challenge about building a social game around a popular TV show?
Probably the most challenging area is ensuring you are being true to the brand of the show, both aesthetically and through the narrative. Something like Coronation Street has millions of fans in the UK, and they are passionate about the show, we really didn’t want to let them down. This is a new area and obviously you have to try new things, but at the end of the day the game should be reflective of the show’s ideology.

Could a game such as Corrie Nation survive without the dependence of brand recognition?
Certainly. Corrie Nation is at its heart a resource management game, and there are plenty of those out there (FarmVille through to Pet Society). We have tried to make a game which appeals to fans and newcomers alike and it is no accident that we designed a game along these lines. As humans we have something called behavioural momentum, meaning once we work out that something gives us a reward then we tend to do that thing again. By creating a game which taps into this human nature we provide a game that naturally anyone who has played FarmVille, for example, should be able to pick up with relative ease.

Before releasing this game you released Playful Planets. What did you learn from that project that has helped you with Corrie Nation?
Playful Planets is very much our workhorse. It allows us to try updates in technology and new components of our GameShaper framework. In that way it was critical to developing Corrie Nation and other future projects. Importantly it also provided confirmation of our platform choice and approach.

What makes social games so good for boosting brands?
Social games are inherently immersive and because of the game design they have excellent retention rates, this means that users are immersed in the brand for the duration of the gameplay. When you add in the equity that a fan has in a particular show in an off-line sense, you get a 1+1 = 3 effect.

What is about the social game space that makes it fitting for a game based on Coronation Street?
The above, plus also the demographics for social gaming fit the show demographics very nicely.

This merging of games and other media has been called transmedia. Why are more and more TV companies commissioning game projects?
It is pretty clear that gaming has become a credible extension of the entertainment experience. Importantly, we are in a world where these games are played by a huge number of people across all demographics and that fits nicely with the variety of a TV channel. I expect to see a lot more niche games over the coming years as the price point for development comes down. In addition, they obviously have the opportunity to provide a significant incremental revenue stream without cannibalising the traditional broadcast audience or ad revenue which comes as a product of this.

As people’s consumption of media becomes more fragmented, is the potential for start-ups in the emerging markets of social and online gaming growing?
Yes and no. The social gaming genre is growing at an impressive rate, and any sector which does this in the digital world attracts a wide number of start-ups, but audience fragmentation is still an issue. These games can be time-consuming to produce, and as the audience expectation goes up, the quality of the game and the interface will naturally become more important; this all has an effect on cost of production. Without a decent audience to play the game there is a much higher chance that you wouldn’t receive an ROI, and that needs to be looked at closely up-front (something we do with all clients at enteraction).

Recently, the BBC, Channel 4 and Endemol UK have commissioned or released online games based on TV franchises. Is it the production companies or the developers themselves who are pushing innovation in the social game space?
From my experience this is a bit of both. There are certainly very few examples of true social games based on TV franchises, but production companies and developers have been doing casual games around TV brands for years, so this is a natural evolution.

There has been increasing interest around TV viewers browsing the internet, sending tweets and doing other activities while watching TV. When do you think most viewers will embrace playing an interactive tie-in during, or immediately after, their TV viewing?
This activity is happening now, but mainly restricted to sports or gameshows, which obviously only appeals to part of the viewing audience. Once we stretch this interactivity out to other genres, and we have more ubiquitous platforms which allow for simple interaction then this will become more mainstream. Personally, I think there will always be a time where we will want to lie back on the sofa and be entertained without having to tweet, vote, gamble or ‘like’, but for all other times the production companies and broadcasters should have a solution.