There’s really no way to create a context for GIG-IT, the newest interactive social media game that allows Facebook users to play concert promoter with some of the biggest names and artists across all genres of music. The game, which launched exactly two weeks ago to Facebook’s app Center, currently has over 10,000 users, and it can be difficult to frame its importance because it really is the first of its kind. Despite traditional platform predecessors, GIG-IT is a through-and-through virtual simulation game that does for the music industry what Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater did for skateboarding, allowing users to fully control the artists of their choosing—from Lil Wayne to 2 Chainz to Sean Kingston to dozens of others—and outfit them, pick their dance moves and even curate their set lists.
The essential premise of GIG-IT is to create virtual live performances with fan-favorite artists in venues across the world, and it strives for an uncanny realism that mirrors the actual process of a show promoter. In playing GIG-IT, fans choose the artists they want to create (and dress them accordingly), then choose their opening acts, the venue for the show and even decorative flare that’ll make the show more exciting (i.e. pyrotechnics, confetti, multiple camera views). Depending on the combination, players can go on to win virtual money that allows them to unlock clothing items for their favorite stars and prestigious venues, and even share “video” footage of the concert with their friends on Facebook.
Though the game launched just two weeks ago, Play GIG-IT’s founder and CEO John Acunto has been conceptualizing a way for artists to find a way to make money from Facebook for years. He explains, “The idea stems from seeing the popularity of social gaming, in combination with a tremendous lack of artists really penetrating Facebook. For example, you see artists who have 50 million likes, but you’re not seeing that translate when their albums come out, right? So, it sort of dawned on me that part of the problem is that artists aren’t really doing what people are doing on Facebook.”
He clarifies, “Just posting something for people to buy it is not really effective, you’ve got to do what people are really doing. Having a half a billion people each month playing apps in Facebook, it makes sense to transition some way to get a artists to what people are doing in that platform.” Thus, the idea for the game was born, and throughout the “better part of six or seven months of traveling around the world to find the right development team,” Acunto was able to create GIG-IT, a 3D game for Facebook that didn’t require a download, which is the first of its kind. He remembers, “There were many companies that were laughing at the thought of [a 3D game for Facebook], but we were able to plow through that and from a coding standpoint I was able to work through that.”
Another expectedly difficult part of the process in bringing the game to Facebook was coming to licensing agreements with artists, as one of Acunto’s main goals was to use not only artists’ likenesses but also their biggest songs within the game. He says, “The hard part was convincing artists that this was more than just a check. You and I both know that artists will do a lot of things for a check, but being able to spend the time with each individual manager, label and artists, helped me to explain the worldwide platform.”
But once Acunto schooled artists on what they would be getting out of the partnership, it all went a bit smoother. He decidedly lays it out: “Being able to have a product that helps you generate a virtual revenue off of everything that you are is great; being able to have a platform that expands your reach in selling your music is great; and being able to have a platform that can you help you book tours or sell concert tickets is great. We really helped them understand that they truly have a worldwide fan base, and this is a great way to connect with them and make new money.” At this point, the game’s roster of artists continues to grow, and according to Acunto, “by the end of the year could be very well over 200 artists.”
With such a strong foundation of artists supporting the game, it’s equally important for Acunto to figure out what his expected users want to get out of playing. To put it simply, he says, “I really look at GIG-IT as more of an experience than as a game. I think it’s a game in that there’s scorekeeping, but I really think of it as an experience where a user is able to genuinely be creative, using an artist and their content and their look.” Chris “Broadway” Romero, the game’s VP of Animation and R&D, says, “Working with the artists directly to bring authentic flavor to the game is paramount, and I feel that the fans will truly begin to own the experience as they get to know these awesome animated virtual versions of their favorite musicians.”
Aside from making the artists in the game virtually realistic, another goal of Acunto’s is to make GIG-IT a viable pastime for the youth, who have essentially been neglected in the Facebook gaming world. He notes, “The people who play Facebook games, the majority of users are over 35. With this game, we’re 80% male, and almost 95% are users under 34… The early stats are really exciting for us, and it’s good to see that young people are engaging with it.”
And while the game’s only been in the Facebook marketplace for just two weeks, Acunto’s already looking ahead to spin-off games and mobile extensions, but for now he’s excited to get GIG-IT exactly right for its fans. He says, “Quite frankly, what we’re doing, no one has ever done, ever. We’re going to be very patient in learning what the users want, because we want to make a game that truly complements the fan.” Head to Play Gig-It’s site to find out more on the brand, and check out their Facebook App page to download and play the game.