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Games are VERY expensive to develop…

A returning problem when doing game-based learning is the budget size. Its a really hard battle to fight against AAA-titles. We have learned the hard way that this is really not the way to go. Our first series Global Conflicts was by some players compared/confused wtih GTA which caused numerous problems in terms of expectations. Players would say something like; hey this looks kind of cool but it sucks compared to GTA. After some time they realised that it was more engaging and challenging than your average textbook but nevertheless the initial impression for those (mostly boys) were taunted.

I am convinced that game-based learning need to redefine the battle field. This is what I think both Itza Bitz and Horrible Histories tries with their graphics style. Itza Bitza is really succesful whereas Horrible Histories have some interesting ideas that seem to fail. Itza Bitza settle for a strong, simple side-view with a clear gameplay. We are trying to go in the same direction with Playing History, where we make a charateristic timeless style with a touch of humor (below a screenshot from the latest build day – we are getting there).


Posted in Business, Development, Discussion GBL.

4 Responses

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  1. Svend Ask Larsen says

    That serious games are expensive, presupposes that the game based learning is also computer based. Tabletop games are in comparison cheap and in many ways more effective as learning tools as they can foster shared reflections. Tabletop reflection games function as shared representations or conversation pieces where participants discuss and share their views. This is much more innefctive whe participans sit in small groups before computer screens, even when they are in the same location.
    The backside: Board games demands that participants are at the same place at the same time.

    Another point: Why should computer based serious games even try to compete with AAA titles? This is an often repeated fallacy in the fledgling SG business.
    Its all about context: classrom and corporate training games should compete against the alternatives in that specific domain – for example powerpoints, blackboards, books or group exercises. Dont use the money on graphics.. use it on strong and engaging content that is relevant for the learners.

    - Svend, Consultant and SG designer (computer and board based), Workz.

  2. egenfeldt says

    Well, roleplay is of course pretty cheap and similar with table top but they often do not scale very well. Furthermore, tabletop and roleplay have a number of things they can’t do. For example running complex business simulations is quite tedious with table top board games.

    I don’t think you should as such compete with AAA when thinking corporate and classroom training, but when you are thinking consumer/retail titles (like Itza Bitza & Horrible Histories) then you need to redefine the battle field, because the competition is there.

    This is really the problem with the GBL/serious gams space – it a mixture of BtB/BtC, formats etc. This makes it really hard to generalize.

  3. Margaret says

    Thank you very much for mentioning ItzaBitza ( as a learning game that redefines the battlefield. This was my intent when I started our research project at Microsoft, which three of us subsequently spun off into Sabi, Inc. (

    Here’s my take on why video games are needed – the big reason is because it is virtual. Game developers get to defy the laws of physics, have delightful cause and effects, and come up with game mechanics that are surprising – as we have tried to do with Living Ink (Check out some of the Wacky Houses drawn by customers on While a player can get immersed in a table game, it is more difficult to explore, try, be surprised at the effect, then try again.

    Regarding expense, I didn’t view it like that. In fact, at least in the US there has been alot of grants given to create serious games. But why don’t you see them on the shelves of the stores in the game section? BECAUSE it is really hard to have the constraint of learning a core skill (particularly if it is curriculum based) and it requires professional game designers who have shipped games kids and adults buy and love to play.

    I view the competition NOT as other classroom activities. After all, children are in school only 18.4% of their time. But as a competitor to other screen time activities which ARE video games and TV shows.

    I like your graphics! All the very best.

  4. egenfeldt says

    I was maybe a bit unclear – I actually agree. When I as talking about redefining the battlefield I was referring to other screen time that you have to ‘steal’ the kids from.

    I think making a good learning/serious is definitely hard but I also think that the channels to marketing them are not that developed. How was your experiences with getting it to market?

    P.S: Checked out most the links, and they are really interesting. Do you know Crayon Physics Deluxe or Max and the Magic Marker. They might give some inspiration as they have some of the similar concepts although they are primarily just for fun :-).

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