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Gamers target new level of reality

The video game “Kuma: War” is based on a simple idea: Deliver weekly episodes of the game based on what’s going on in the real world.
/ Source: CNBC

The product is called “Kuma: War” and comes from a new company called Kuma Reality Games. It’s a group of veteran video game executives who started their own company with a simple idea: Break new ground in this $11 billion-a-year industry by delivering weekly episodes of the game based on what’s going on in the real world. Their first offering, due in stores and on the Web next February, is certain to be noticed.

In “Kuma: War,”  gamers are given a profile and password that lets them buy into military missions. You pay $40 for the game, then $10 a month for updates. Missions, the company says, that will be up-to-date, historically accurate and — even though there’s direct Pentagon involvement, relevant to recent U.S. military actions.

One of the missions set for release is the gunfight with Uday and Qusay Hussein. Company CEO Keith Halper said it’s not just the game that’s different but the business model behind it.

“There’s a critical difference,” said Halper. “We require a broadband connection. The broadband connection enables us to update the content that’s on your PC, and that means that we can reflect the news that’s happening today. That’s something that other games just simply don’t do.”

In each mission, gamers are briefed with what the company says is “real world” news reporting, satellite imagery and accurate recreations verified by a team of military veterans. The company says some of the video on which battle scenes are based comes from Defense Department archive footage that has been de-classified.

Retired Marine Corps Major General Tom Wilkerson leads the company’s advisory board.

“They depend heavily on accuracy in their content and in their delivery and timeliness and a clear understanding of the situation which cries for military expertise, which is what we provide because that lends that credence,” he said.

The games can be updated weekly and automatically downloaded to consumers’ computers.

And behind it all, said Halper, is not just a profit motive, but a desire to teach players what real world soldiers in war zones face every day.

As for critics concerned that in some way the game may exploit tragedy in the military, Halper said that they take the issue “very seriously.”

“We try to be authentic, and being authentic means portraying real events,” Halper said. “But we also think that we have a responsibility to tell the stories of the soldiers who are out there. And that’s a responsibility to them.”

In fact, both Wilkerson and Halper told us that this is a salute to men and women in uniform — many of whom, they said, will be paid for their involvement in crafting the games.

Halper said the target consumer is game lovers and news junkies ages 24 and over. It usually takes 18 months to develop a game, but the company said updates can be turned around in as little as four weeks by using different teams of developers.