National Geographic’s First Gaming Adventure a Trip Into Herod’s Tomb

National Geographic, publisher of the iconic magazine of the same name, announced a new division Tuesday. National Geographic Games (NGG) will publish and develop games for consoles, handheld systems, mobile systems and online platforms. The games will be developed and published with partners Namco Bandai Games America and Sony Computer Entertainment.

“I was very excited to read about National Geographic’s game efforts this morning. Using games to communicate and educate while also entertain is an area that is vastly underexplored,” Mark DeLoura, a video game technology consultant, told TechNewsWorld.

The new developer’s first gaming title, “Herod’s Lost Tomb” is available for as a free flash-based game online as well as in downloadable versions for Macs, PCs and the iPhone. The game, the goal of which is to find hidden objects, is based on content from the December issue of National Geographic magazine as well as a television broadcast on biblical figure King Herod, airing on the National Geographic Channel.

Geography of a Game

NGG will create games for the Wii, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3 and PS3 Network in addition to PCs and mobile devices.

“Herod’s Lost Tomb” was produced with an in-house team. For a new developer, putting together a new team to create home-grown content can be a considerably risky proposition.

“[That] surprised me — it is significantly more risky to build a team in-house, but teaming up with Namco Bandai and Sony to make use of their development talent makes a lot of sense,” DeLoura said.

Pandas, Africa and Sodoku

To be successful, NGG should not try to compete with traditional games, he advised. Rather, it should seek to make its games distinct and valuable and address a market other than that of the hardcore gamer.

“They should make games that are very accessible, to appeal to their magazine’s base audience and also to youth — the youth who play games but now also can learn more about the world around them by playing NGG’s games. If you want to communicate with younger people, you should use the media forms that they are used to, and from that perspective I think NGG is definitely on the right path. It’s a pretty exciting move,” DeLoura said.

NGG plans to release three games in addition to “Herod’s Lost Tomb” during the holiday season. They include the Namco Bandai-produced “National Geographic: Panda” and “National Geographic: Africa” from Sony in November. In December comes “Sudoku Traveler: China ” from NGG. In 2009 NGG will also release “Rain Forests,” “Greencity” and “From the Bottom Up.”

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