With the game industry in a state of change, Craig Relyea, senior vice president of global marketing, Walt Disney Interactive Media Group discusses the online gaming space.
Over the past few years the game industry has seen unprecedented growth, in large part due to expanding business models that have opened up new opportunities in social, mobile and subscription-based gaming. Whether buying a traditional game disc or exploring a free-to-play game world, the industry has shifted more to digital business.
With millions of new players to be monetized, creating a solid strategy that engages and converts the smaller payers, while still hooking in the whales, is essential. Craig Relyea, SVP Global Marketing, Walt Disney Interactive Media Group, recently spoke at Game Monetization USA, which took place in December at Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco. He talks about the current and future state of the games industry in this interview.
One of the key challenges in online gaming is player acquisition. As traditional players have concentrated on the core market, we have seen many new players rise in recent years. What lessons have been learned that will allow traditional players and new entrants get noticed in the online space?
It’s more challenging now if you’re a new entrant than just a few years ago. Back then it was dominated by a handful of core targeted MMOs. Fueled by the rise of social media and the portability of mobile Web access, as well as the true mass market nature of gaming now, it’s a more competitive marketplace. Discoverability is a huge issue for anyone coming into the space at this time. Customer acquisition is the challenge after that. And for this space, the first customers are the hardest to acquire and, arguably, they’re the most important customers. They’re going to help you initially with feedback with iteration on the game’s features and satisfying the gamers’ wants for the product. In addition, their role with virality is critical to getting the word out about the product.
Free-to-play, subscription and premium are just three of the business models being used in the online space today. Why is there so much hype around free-to-play at the moment, and does this mean subscription and premium will simply die out?
Free-to-play has a lot of attention, but I don’t’ think other models will die out. If you take a few steps back and look at entertainment, movies, TV, and games, one of the key lessons learned is that as a content provider, you can’t grip onto any one business model for too long because it’s going to change. There are going to be multiple business models and the pendulum is going to swing pretty wildly over which model seems to be the most prevalent at any given time. It’s important to be guided by the type of content and not to the business model that’s popular at any given time. The advantage of free-to-play now is that it gets you the most reach, and if you have an outstanding product getting the most reach is attractive. And then you can monetize against that, but higher quality products should win out. It’s also attractive because so many people play games in the mass market now and if you’re structured correctly, it’s a great proposition.