History's 'Dogfights' flies online with Kuma game


The new season of "Dogfights," which debuts July 13 on the History Channel, will be bolstered by online flight-combat episodic games that will be developed by Kuma Games as part of its strategic collaboration with the network. "Dogfights" is the network's highest-rated original show.

Beginning with "Zero Killer," viewers will be able to tune into the History Channel to see how the Allied Forces took Japanese kamikazes out of the sky. They'll be directed during the show through callouts and bugs to go to HistoryChannel.com or KumaGames.com and download the free online "Dogfights" gameisodes. There are 20 TV episodes, and the current plan is to have at least 11 gameisodes tied into the show.

A&E Television Networks senior vp digital media Paul Jelinek said this convergence will involve games that follow the script of each broadcast. In addition, each game's single-player experience will incorporate images from the show as well as historical information on the planes gamers will fly.

"There will be a variety of planes to fly, starting with WWII planes like Zeros and Hellcats," Kuma Reality Games CEO Keith Halper said. "We receive the script for each show from the History Channel, and we evaluate it to make an accurate but fun gaming experience that's true to the show."

Unlike traditional online games, Kuma can turn around a new gameisode within four weeks; gamemakers work with the show producers to make sure not only that planes are modeled correctly and fly accurately but also that the correct combat tactics are used and the backdrops, like Wake Island, are realistically re-created. The developers use satellite photographs and historical images to make the game authentic.

Halper said the single-player "Dogfights" experience has been catered to give historical perspective on the planes before allowing up to 24 players to jump online and engage in aerial combat.

"Dogfights" is the second endeavor in this partnership. In November, Kuma created 15 gameisodes based on three episodes of the second season of "Shootout," which Halper said attracted a large number of gamers.

"The age demographic for 'Shootout' was surprisingly not all that different from typical gamers," he said. "The median age of players for that game was 26 years old. We're attracting a segment already attuned to games and also introducing some new players to gaming who watch the History Channel."

Jelinek said the History Channel hopes that "Dogfights" and its gameisodes also will attract a younger demographic, adding that video games are a big part of the channel's plans to keep key franchises topical. It's also part of a plan to attract consumers to the Web site.

"With new fall series like 'Ice Road Truckers,' we'll have a 'Pimp Your Rig'-style online game debut with the show," Jelinek said. "The new series 'Human Weapon' will have a hand-to-hand combat game debut online to coincide with that launch. We're working with a range of game developers on these and other online game endeavors."

The History Channel has integrated video games into programming in the past with shows like the Foglight Entertainment-produced documentary "Brothers In Arms: The Untold Stories of the 502nd" in December 2005, which used the "Brothers In Arms" World War II game, and the 13-part series "Decisive Battles" in July 2004, which used the ancient real-time strategy game "Rome: Total War."