June 05, 2006

Taking the "Happy" out of the "Meal"

Has everybody seen this McDonald's Interactive thing? If not, go read it, I'll wait.

In essence, McDonald's has this interactive sim arm that was created to train up-and-coming management. And those guys built some hyper-complex fast food chain simulator where the managers can face off against each other. And apparently it was fun, and things were going well. Enough so that they started plugging new modules, simulating more complex economics, etc. And then somebody added a climate simulation. Turns out the best strategies for maximizing McDonald's profits work great for a while and then destroy the planet. Oops.

So what now? They futz with the sim for a while, and apparently ultimately decide it's not buggy - that it is correctly projecting the outcome of growing a bazillion cows and mowing down the Amazon to feed them. Now the key bit: McDonald's wouldn't listen. So apparently the McDonald's Interactive divison has up and left the parent company (I'm not clear how - and this might be all in Britain for even more confusion). They futzed with their simulation for a while and finally found that building up some harsh "legislation" to basically rein in the robber barons made the simulation sustainable - and eventually did good things to the global economy and reduced world hunger. But it's not profitable.

The whole thing halfway reads like a bizarre marketing ploy. I guess the question is to see what they do next. But really, go read the link - it's fascinating stuff. If they are for real then I wish them well.

Update 6/6/06 7:35 AM The consensus at Kotaku is that this is a hoax of some ilk. But there was a McDonald's Presentation from a"Strategic Communication Manager" at the Serious Games Summit. (This invalidates one argument presented at Kotaku - which is that Googling for the name of the guy produces no hits.) Alice at Wonderland has a dump of notes from a friend who was at the speech and the notes sound pretty similar - although it seems to say the guy still works at McD's and plans on making a ruckus until he gets fired. Stranger and stranger!

Posted by tsanders at June 5, 2006 09:28 PM | TrackBack

Is that for real?

Posted by: bwana at June 6, 2006 01:01 AM

They show up on the Serious Games UK website, and they have pictures of them giving the presentation, but there is no other mention of this in google news at all. It *does* seem like a viral marketing campaign--if it is, it's very creative and convincing. If it's for real, that's very scary.

Posted by: bwana at June 6, 2006 01:39 AM

The thing is if it was some crazy marketing stunt, I can't figure out who it would be *for*. I mean it doesn't seem likely to be a pro-McDonald's campaign.

My thoughts about the news is that it took place at the Serious Games Summit in the UK. So first off when I posted it I suspect it was only a few hours old; and secondly I suspect that the Serious Games summit doesn't get much mainstream press. If it doesn't show up in the next day or so elsewhere than maybe that's more suspicious that something is odd.

Posted by: Timmeh! at June 6, 2006 07:28 AM


Yer old chum Simon thinks it's a hoax, but offers only circumstantial proof of its illegitimacy (strongly correlative though it is).

Posted by: bwana at June 6, 2006 06:25 PM

Yeah. The consensus that appears to be slowly emerging is that they hoaxed the organizers of the Serious Games Summit. It seems fairly well documented that the speech was actually given, but perhaps the speech-giver was not in fact a McDonald's employee. In which case - you have to extend credit for a large pair of brass ones, don't you?

Posted by: Timmeh! at June 6, 2006 06:57 PM

Big brass ones, for sure.

Posted by: bwana at June 6, 2006 09:14 PM

More identification of who was behind it here:


Posted by: JP at June 7, 2006 02:12 PM
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