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EIF: BBC's Nelson On A More 'Playful' Network Vision

EIF: BBC's Nelson On A More 'Playful' Network Vision

August 14, 2007 | By Andrew Doull, Staff

August 14, 2007 | By Andrew Doull, Staff
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While in the end he made no major games announcement, Simon Nelson, controller of multiplatform and portfolio at BBC Vision, did outline what the BBC and game industry have in common, and how the network can become "more playful" through collaboration with interactive media.

"We're in a world now where there are no monopolies on our attention," began Nelson. "Younger generations are not watching as much television. If you're born in 1989, you watch 12 hours a week compared to 18 hours for your parents. We can't be sure that we'll ever return to these levels. The BBC loyalist is getting older."

He continued, "The games industry is very similar, in a newer model of that boat. My wife and I used to play games together instead of watching television, but my current life stage is as time poor as I've ever been."

"A recent U.S. study said three quarters of teens said their attention for games is declining. However," he admitted, "[games industry professionals] are way ahead of us, in adapting to this new audience."

By way of explaining where the broadcast company has come from and what it can do in the future, Nelson pointed out that the BBC's own game history began in 1982 with the BBC Micro, helping to span a generation of bedroom coders.

Later, the BBC website's games portal was closed "because its value for audiences was outweighed by negative market impact," though it continues to work with the games industry in licensing IP, he noted, pointing to the recently released Little Britain game.

Referencing Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman's Rules of Play book, specifically its example of 'frisbee as ludic activity,' Nelson noted that "this is something we're seeing widely on the internet at the moment."

Facebook's zombie application sees some 50,000 players a day interacting, despite the fact that there's nothing "nothing particularly interesting" about it -- "but," said Nelson, "these things are frisbees," as are sites like I'm In Like With You, where players have fun 'creating and throwing frisbees.'

"Part of our new approach at the BBC is to create more social objects that can be used interactively across the Internet," he said. "That allow us to participate, create and share objects we want to watch. We need to find ways to use our content and broader expertise to stimulate audiences to participate, to grow up around the content we create."

Nelson noted that the BBC has been turning its fiction programs into interactive entertainment for some time, pointing to the recent Life In Mars as a show that "excited a huge amount of debate, speculation and fun over the internet, little of which was created by us."

"The biggest world that we have is probably inhabited by [Doctor Who]," admitted Nelson. "Sometimes its irreverence that works the best," he said, pointing to Lego Star Wars' own irreverence, but he admitted that properly engaging customers with the Doctor Who license "relies on a creative partnership that we'd have to take to another level. While television creation is a core competency of the BBC, games creation is not."

Finally, Nelson briefly mentioned Adventure Rock, the new multiplayer world created in conjunction with children's oriented division CBBC, which will be populated by characters from CBBC programs.

Asked what's driving the BBCs reach into the interactive and game sphere, if it was specifically to bring in more younger customers, Nelson said, "We have a mandate to innovate, and this is part of this," in an attempt to create richer spaces around the content that we already create.

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