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WildTangent Offers New Take on Game Distribution
posted by: Monica Hafer
date posted: 09:10 AM Sat Apr 20th, 2002
last revision: 05:52 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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Although they sounded intriguing, it wasn\'t 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 that\'s 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.

This 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.

The games which are designed solely for product placement and PR vary in depth and design in accordance to the desires of the company. Nike\'s 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 Corolla\'s 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 don\'t 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 WildTangent\'s own game development and sales.

Two 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 Sony\'s 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, MCI\'s 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 out.

WildTangent\'s 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.