CityOne screen grabIBM is hyping its new flash video game, OneCity, which is sort of a hybrid between SimCity and a well-produced product pitch. Rather than building a metropolis from scratch, as in SimCity, players inherit a picturesque mountain city and try to fix problem scenarios that arise in four areas — energy, water, banking and retail. Never mind that urban leaders don’t actually control banking and retail — these four are the categories in which IBM has products to sell.

From Next American City:

Once players complete 10 rounds, the game provides an assessment of your performance, and classifies you as one of five types of leaders – pragmatic, conservative, short-term oriented, futurist or evasive (if you happen to “ignore the problem” too many times).

… Obviously, investing in smart and customer focused technology and processes is probably going to be a good thing for many cities – as it has been for many businesses. But for all the media hype (and the undoubted brain power of IBM), CityOne seems a bit too simplistic. Playing the game, the budget rarely seems to be a problem … And there are too many obvious choices (i.e: to protect water supplies from terrorists, should you a) create an advisory board; b) test the water more regularly; or c) invest in “advanced smart water monitoring” – with choice “c” being the cheapest. Duh!).

Not surprisingly, the game tends to reward choices that involve investing in information technology networks — IBM’s forté. It’s somewhat illuminating to learn about the ways a cities can inject IT into their energy, water, and commercial systems. But it’s also somewhat like a 30-minute IBM commercial.

After that glowing recommendation, you can go play the game for free.

Here’s the trailer: