Hospitopia on Facebook will give players a cause to 'Share' [Interview]

While social game developers like Zynga have been leveraging their millions of fans to contribute to noble causes, it's only recently that games devoted entirely to a cause have sprouted up. Hospitopia by CausePlay, has teamed up with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) nationwide to contribute 10 percent of all revenue brought in by the game to its over 170 hospitals.

We chatted with founding partner and President of CausePlay Jonas Hudson, Aubrey Cichelli, VP of Communications at Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and Joe Mason, Senior Vice President of Consumer Services for Intersections Inc. (a marketing partner with CausePlay) about how CausePlay plans to give players a cause to share their social gaming experience.
Why did you decide on the hospital theme and specifically Children's Miracle Network?

Jonas Hudson: CausePlay is a social gaming company that has been founded on the focus of delivering social games that are relevant to cause-related marketing. We needed to find a benefactor that was a blue chip brand, if you will. It's interesting when you're looking for benefactors that meet the quality and standards that you're looking for, there is very few and far in between that have such broad appeal, strong infrastructure, far reach, etc. The beauty was that when we called Children's Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) they not only accepted our call, but also jumped at the opportunity.

Aubrey Cichelli: Here at CMNH, we have anxiously watched the social space like many other non-profits and really tried to figure out the best way to leverage it for awareness. So, when we were approached by CausePlay, it was a good fit for us. CausePlay was willing to put it together and have us just benefit from it, which is ideal for a charity that doesn't create social games (laughs).

Hospitopia in action
What type of gameplay can players expect from Hospitopia?

Hudson: The neat thing about Hospitopia is that we have created two areas of interest that we believe is going to change the way this gameplay is done. First and foremost is the art. Most games you play in the social game space use hand-drawn art that is cartoon, if you will, we have chosen to go with full 3D rendering on everything. We think it's going to change interaction and make for just a better game experience.

Second is the video metrics platform and, simply put, it's a video wall. Players will be able to watch content that's relevant to the partners that we're working with. For example, you could earn points by watching CMNH PSAs. You could earn points by looking at products that the CMNH want to launch.

So, you've got a more social engine behind this, because people can take these videos, embed them their friends' Facebook walls and they earn points for doing all this. We can actually showcase commercials [from its branding partners like Intersections Identity Guard] where people can view them and earn points for doing it.

While it's been said that all donations will be a flat rate of 10 percent of revenue, how will that work on players' end?

Hudson: At launch, you will be able to choose a local Children's Network Hospital through a drop down menu. If you're in Los Angeles and you want to choose the LA hospital or the San Francisco one, etc. After choosing that hospital, you're going to be earning that hospital special incentive prizes while raising money across the entire network of CMNH hospitals.

Cichelli: CMNH acts much differently than other charities in that all of the funds raised stay local. So, Joe, where are you based?

Hospitopia Set up
I live in Philadelphia.

Cichelli: So, CHOP [Children's Hospital of Philadelphia] in Philadelphia. When you first went in a logged into Hospitopia, you would be asked to choose the CMNH you'd like to benefit. And you can select either CHOP or if you grew up in a different area or consider something else your home hospital, you can select that.

Hudson: There are three types of ways in the game that funds are generated. The purchase of digital goods, through basic advertising and through in-game corporate branding exercises. What we do is take all of that and put it into one lump sum, call it revenue and we donate off the top line 10 percent. There's nothing happening behind the scenes. It's just a top line dollar amount. It's a lot easier for the players to understand where their time and money is going.

Do you see social games for social good as a trend for the genre in general? Do you believe that more developers or networks will leverage these social networks to spur change?

Hudson: When CausePlay was developed, we looked at the time people spent on Facebook, playing social games and its incredible. Some of the last numbers I read were if you added all the time spent it would be millions of years. The real truth behind the social game is nothing really to do with the gameplay, in essence, but it's really about the social interaction.

We thought that what better way to provide an outreach for people who wanted to socially interact is create a real cause behind what they're doing. We thought this gives a much better reason to reach out your average 150 Facebook [friends] and get them to see what you're doing. We hope this is going to pave a path not just our company both other companies in general to build upon this cause marketing.

Intersections' Identity Guard
What plans are there for the future of Hospitopia?

Hudson: Hospitopia will be mobilized within the first 75 days of gameplay. We're going to take it to the iPhone and Android platforms. The ability to mobilize social games is basically the future of all gaming. And if you don't have that in your plan I think you're dead in the water. The players that are playing these games are getting on smarter phones and as the iPhone and Android platforms take over it all, we're going to be right in the middle of it. We're also building it for dumbed down phones, so you will be able to do texting to get in and out of the gameplay.

I think the beauty of [Hospitopia] is going to be the gamers that play it. There's over 170 CMNH hospitals and they're going to be in control of where this game will be going. The build and the game's design was inspired by a book that the CMNH gave us. So, our game will be following the input of our users. And what you see today will not look the same from three months, six months or a year from now.

Click here to play Hospitopia on Facebook Now>

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