Ubisoft opens new case file with CSI Miami: Heat Wave

Ubisoft’s expanding its Facebook games presence with CSI Miami: Heat Wave, the company’s newest game based on CBS’s long-running CSI franchise. We sat down with Active Game Manager Erik Smith and  Producer Adrian Price at Ubisoft’s recent Digital Day to check out the title.

Bringing the shades and one-liners to Facebook

Players control a new character on Horatio Caine’s crack team of CSI operatives, going from the police lab to various locations in the field that are tied to the current case they’re investigating. Each case starts out with a murder scene, followed by the CSI team being called in to begin the investigation. Following the obligatory Horatio Caine one-liner (complete with sunglasses), players begin collecting evidence and examining it at the lab. The lab is, effectively, the game’s hub that players return to when they need to process evidence or engage in dialogue with characters from the show. Once a clue’s been analyzed, it leads to one of three things to further the case: a suspect to question, new evidence or a location to explore.

The story then unfolds further by exploring these new leads and questioning suspects. Questioning suspects involves the character Ryan Wolfe presenting players with different pieces of evidence to ask about. During our time with the game, we messed up and asked about the wrong pieces of evidence, which prompted Wolfe to facepalm and give us dirty looks. While it looks like the process of elimination eventually allows players to pick the correct item to ask about, getting a question wrong results in a diminished score.

Heat Wave is a procedural game (after all, it’s based on the CSI franchise), but it also will contain action sequences in keeping with the show’s overall tone. While we didn’t get to see them, we’re told the game contains events like using Horatio to diffuse a bomb, as well as other situations that play to various characters’ abilities as demonstrated on TV.

Carrying on after cancellation

Ubisoft’s been building a name for itself on Facebook with social games based on prominent TV shows like CSI and House: M.D. CSI: Crime City launched in October 2010 and peaked the following January with 352,000 daily active users before gradually falling off to its current traffic levels of 90,000 DAU. That said, the game is likely to start bringing in more players in the near future with the show’s September 26 season premiere fast-approaching.

In the past, CSI: Crime City’s benefitted from on-air promotion that drove viewers into the game in order to win prizes. As with House: M.D., CSI: Miami is a show that just went off the air, so marketing the game comes with an extra challenge now that it’s no longer part of the prime time lineup. That said, the game will receive some free advertising via a flier inserted into each DVD set of CSI: Miami Season 10, encouraging players to go into the game and receive some free items to use. We’re told CSI: Crime City players will receive a special starter pack in Heat Wave as a reward for their loyalty, and there are plans to make the Crime City and Heat Wave a part of the same game universe, with players shifting between the two titles from a central hub.

House M.D. — Critical Cases is proof that a game can survive even when its source material is taken off the air. The game launched in April, shortly before the series finale aired, and it’s still bringing in 120,000 DAU. That game’s seen traffic boosts from the show’s fan pages on Facebook linking to the game, causing numbers to jump by as much as 70,000 DAU.

The game is currently in closed beta, but we’re told the next version of the game to hit Facebook will be an open beta.