To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Shark Week Discovery Channel has launched a sophisticated and fascinating advergame called Sharkrunners. Developed by area/code, the game reproduces online an oceanic exploration where players take on the role of marine biologists who seek to learn as much as possible about sharks through advanced observation techniques.
Through the online interface players control their ships, but the sharks are controlled by real-world white sharks with GPS units attached to their fins. Real-world telemetry data provides the position and movement of actual great white sharks in the game, so every shark that players encounter corresponds to a real shark in the real world. Since the all action is in real time, players can/should also sign up to receive email and/or sms alerts when their ship is about to “meet” a shark.
I think the explanation above it’s enough to give you an idea of the coolness of the game. I haven’t seen any prize around for the winners, and this makes the initiative even more interesting to comment. The game has such an engaging mechanism/concept that it doesn’t require giveaways to attract players, and I’m glad they decided not to beat that track.
However (you know me!) I do have an annoying “marketing” issue I have to point out. I don’t like the context in which the Skarkrunners has been placed. It’s not a mini-site but rather a site “embedded” in the usual Discovery Channel interface, with banner advertising all around, that force you to move up and down the scroll bar to find the right page position to see the whole game interface (see screenshots above and below).
I agree advertising pays the bills, but I believe that in this case the section’s sponsorship from Mastercard would have been enough. The screen is too crowded, and neither the players nor the advertisers get a real benefit from such interface.