Although they sounded
intriguing, it wasnt the martinis and massages that lured me into the WildTangent
room at E3. As a member of the media, the invites for drinks were as free flowing as
T-shirts and temporary tattoos for the normal E3 attendee. Yet, as I was winding my way
through the mayhem that is E3, I was surprised to see a rather large woman in a purple
shirt handing out gamedisks. With quasi-anorexic booth babes the norm in this venue, I was
surprised to note that all of the WildTangent women (as thats who they were) were
larger-than-life and exceptionally friendly. I wondered, "Who would be so bold as to
flaut tradition and hire large, fully clothed women to entice players to check out a
booth?" The answer turned out to be a company that has used just such divergent
thinking in all areas of their marketing: WildTangent.
four year old company was co-founded by Alex St. John, creator of the Microsoft Multimedia
platform Direct X. The guiding premise he created for the business seems to be "have
fun and think outside the box." While many gaming platforms have been trying to
figure out how to fund their online endeavors, WildTangent moved forward with a strategy
that provides advertising services for product companies via videogames. WildTangent
creates games for sponsors who want to have game tie-ins or want to reach the gaming
demographic online. They also sport a "gaming channel" (which allows updates of
new games online), sell access to games through storefronts in ISPs, OEMs, and portals
such as Shockwave, Earthlink, Cablevision, GameSpy, GamePro, and have recently included
gaming access with Hewlett Packard systems. Their Web Driver technology enables them to
create and deliver "retail-quality games" to both narrowband and broadband
users, which makes a moot point of the dissemination of broadband technology.
games which are designed solely for product placement and PR vary in depth and design in
accordance to the desires of the company. Nikes Global Secret Tournament soccer game
has, in its first five weeks, attracted over 1 million users who have played at least an
hour each. Toyota Corollas Joy Ride has attracted about 600,000 users in two months
who play for roughly 20 minutes each. From an advertising standpoint, having players
interact with a product for 20 minutes to an hour is a great advantage over the normal 30
second TV spot. From a gaming perspective, some of the product-games still have issues
(cars dont take damage, etc.), but if a company really cares about capturing the
attention of the hardcore gaming demographic as well as the casual gamer, it will be in
their best interests to commission quality games. And, as a savvy side-effect, the dollars
from advertisers helps to fund WildTangents own game development and sales.
new summer release games from WildTangent are Witchblade: The Game and Men In Black II:
Crossfire. MIB II is available for play on June 14th, with the movie release
set for July 3rd. There are eight levels of gameplay, with levels 1-4 free and
levels 5-8 available for 15-20 dollars. You can find this game on the official website for
the film, at Sonys The Station, or at any of the aforementioned members of the
WildTangent Broadcast Games Network. Witchblade is available on June 13th, with
the second season launching the next week. The featured sponsors on this game are Gateway,
MCIs 1-800-Collect, and Subaru. There are three free levels of gameplay in which the
Witchblade allows NYC police detective Sara Pezzini to rescue her partner and fight evil.
You are helped through these levels by clairvoyant flashes, a gauntlet for defensive
moves, and a blade for combat. There are five major enemies and three puzzles, and the
power of the Witchblade increases with your point totals. You can find this title on the
TNT website and some AOL properties. Both games were fun and worth the time to check them
WildTangents own games include some great titles, with everything from Trivia to
Blasterball 2 (a pong/pinball cross with Space Invaders, and a best selling game for WT).
I expect to see much more from this company in the future, and I think that the unique
outlook, distribution structure, and practical business model will make this company
solvent enough to bring us quality games that we have been waiting for via the web.
WildTangent Game Channel minimum system requirements are Windows 98 or higher, 300mhz,
Intel Pentium II or equivalent AMDK6/Athlon family, 64 MB RAM (128 on Win2K or XP), 16bit
color display adapter, 28.8K modem, Internet Explorer 5.0+ or Netscape Navigator 4.7+ and
Microsoft Direct X version 5.0 or higher. Some of the games support force feedback
peripherals such as joysticks, wheels, and controllers.