First Playtest BuitenplaatsMobiel

A hybrid, location based game which can be played either with a smartphone or a tablet. It has two important parts: a digital online platform and location-based ‘mini-games’. The used location-based technology is BEACON. A very new, innovative and promising technique. At the moment mostly used for retail purposes. The game is meant for tourists. More specifically, it stimulates families (with young children) to visit the unique Dutch phenomenon of ‘buitenplaatsen’ (historic stately homes). They can visit the sites on their own, in their own time and in their own pace.
Besides this ‘smaller family’target group, the game is also suitable for larger groups of children. For instance within a school setting (primary school classes) or birthday parties.

A buitenplaats (historic stately home) is a summer residence for rich townspeople in the Netherlands. During the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century, many traders and city administrators in Dutch towns became very wealthy. Many of them bought country estates, at first mainly to collect rents, however soon mansions started to be built, which were used only during the summer. The region Kennemerland became very popular among people from Amsterdam. The historic stately homes in this area have shared history, but also have their own unique stories to tell.

By playing the game families can explore, experience and discover these beautiful heritage sites and their intriguing life stories. They are unlocked in a contemporary and interactive way using modern technology. Lost heritage (both tangible and intangible) is visualized again. Creating historical awareness in the region is one of the most important project goals. Most of the people in the region know the different historic stately homes. However they don’t know the stories behind the places. The game contributes to the historical sense of place by putting young children (and their families) in contact with these homes.

Participating historic stately homes are Leyduin and Elswout (both in the municipality of Bloemendaal), Groenendaal (municipality of Heemstede), Beeckestijn (municipality of Velsen) and Paviljoen Welgelegen (municipality of Haarlem and the provincial residence of Noord-Holland).

Partners in the creation of the game are Cultuurcompagnie Noord-Holland (instigator), Society of Play (project-management,  historical research, marketing & communication, fundraising) and Cooking Fox (game design and historical research).

The ‘mini-games’ of the different historic stately homes are all self-contained games. However they all form a ‘level’ within the overarching online platform. This platform explains the shared story of the historic stately homes with their origins in Amsterdam. Water is the shared story-line. Think about barge canals, water used for gardening, lakes that have disappeared, the first clean drinking water facilities for rich inhabitants of Amsterdam).

The game doesn’t have a chronologically or hierarchically order. It can be played at any moment at all participating historic stately homes. The overarching story-line stimulates families to visit and ‘collect’ all!

Product vision

  • Draw attention to the historic stately homes and their shared history – a unique part of Dutch heritage of the Golden Age.
  • Improve the historical awareness and knowledge
  • Invite people to discover and experience historic stately homes in a interactive and contemporary manner
  • Stimulate repeating visits
  • Contribute to sustainable and meaningful future of historic stately homes
  • Make children the heritage caretakers of the future

Social impact
The project has a multiple impact. The game is supposed to create and provide for a accessible and voluntary experience of the unique Dutch cultural heritage of historic stately homes. Hereby, most importantly, we like to stimulate peoples/children’s historical awareness and sense of identity. In a contemporary manner the game improves their knowledge about the creation of these historic stately homes during The Golden Age. This is necessary in order to protect and sustainably develop the vulnerable historic stately homes. Almost all, still existing, historic stately homes cope with problems of conservation and exploitation. By intensifying the attention and triggering the enthusiasm for them we can help changing this situation. And create a sense of ownership and pride among people.

Market potential
Our primary target group are small children (6-12). Our secondary target group are their parents, grandparents, caretakers etc. For a qualitative pilot (with both qualitative and quantitative valuable play-tests) we expect a total outreach of 500 people at the least. 100 people per historic stately home. After launching the final project the outreach will be bigger. Per location we expect about 350 people per season. As a strengthening effect by the overarching game we expect another 350 people. Which brings the total of at least 2100 people per season.

As a mobile game, it will be accessible in the Apple Store and Google Play store. To keep the distribution as simple as possible, all different levels will be available in one app. If needed, we can make one level available for free. The other levels can be purchased for a small amount of money. These so-called in-app purchases are part of the Business2Customer Model).

Marketing & Communication
To continuously generate publicity we like to partner up with other (touristic) local organisations and businesses to create interesting marketing packages (Business2Business Model). For instance, offering reduction deals for combining one level of the game with renting a bike (via Rent-A-Bike) or a lunch at a local restaurant. We expect local businesses to contribute to the game for these ‘in-app advertising’ and cooperations.

The game has a cross-medial PR-campaign with both online and offline tools. Offline tools are for instance a flyer, trailer/promo, free publicity in several magazines and newsletters, participation in relevant activities (like the annual UITmarkt – the start of the cultural season around Amsterdam – the annual ‘Midzomer Buitenplaats Weekend in Kennemerland’, the annual Open Monumentendag Weekend, exhibitions and presentations of the different historic stately homes, presentations at touristic meetings). Online tools will be our website (with a blog), free publicity in several digital platforms, digital newsletters, social media and websites of the participating historic stately homes, relevant cultural and heritage programs (like the UITagenda), building of community of players. Important marketing partners are Amsterdam Marketing and Haarlem City Marketing.

Monitoring will be done qualitative (how many downloads, which downloads are the most popular, numbers usage of marketing-deals etc.). But also quantitative by asking players and participating historic stately homes about their experience. With their feedback we can make necessary improvements.

Since the end product is not only meant to be about historic stately homes. The market potential is broader. We can easily extend to other types of cultural heritage (like fortifications, churches, museums etc.).

Business Model Canvas

The product will be developed as a smartphone app for both iOS and Android and will make use of Beacon Technology. Beacons are small devices that can transmit a Bluetooth signal for up to 50 meters with an accuracy of 50 centimeters. Beacons are a big new trend in the world of mobile marketing and mobile gaming. It makes use of a new type of Bluetooth technology called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Because of the new BLE technology, these transmitters can remain independently active with only a small battery for up to two years. The beacons themselves are manufactured by a large range of different companies and are easily replaced, should any problems occur.

Both Apple and Google have made their later smartphone models (iPhone 4S and later, iOS 7.0 and later / Android 4.3 – Jelly Bean or greater) completely compatible with beacon technology and have made sdk’s (software development kits) available to developers who wish to create apps that make use of this technology. In developing this app, we will make use of Titanium, a javascript framework that enables us create cross-platform compatible mobile applications in relatively little time and effort. Titanium also has beacon compatibility plugins for both Android and iOS.

In terms of scalability, the plan is to develop the app as a kind of template that can be easily re-used in different locations, with different content. The concept of the game mechanics is intentionally kept relatively simple (for example, little use of fancy visuals or animation), partly for the purpose of reducing the production costs for subsequent locations. Therefore, once the game has been developed for one location, it will cost relatively little time and effort to create more content for the next location.

Europeana Creative Challenge Award
On the 23rd of September we have received the Europeana Creative Challenge Award for this project. Europeana Creative has been set up by the EU to connect the creative industry and cultural heritage and stimulate interesting, innovative and new projects. Applicants were judged on their potential for cultural heritage in Europe. Buitenplaats Mobiel received high appraisal for innovation and creativity, by  using the innovative Bluetooth Beacontechnology. Besides the jury thought the scalability possibilities are numerous. For instance to other historic stately homes, but also to other types of cultural heritage. As a winner we received an intensive incubator package to further develop and market the product.

Europeana-Pitch (in Dutch)

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