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MECCA For Games: Marketing Mobile Games

As part of our coverage of the MECCA For Games track at CTIA mobile conference in Los Angeles, G...
As part of our coverage of the MECCA For Games track at CTIA mobile conference in Los Angeles, Gamasutra has posted detailed coverage on a session for mobile game marketing with execs from I-Play, Glu, Hudson, and Gamevil. The MECCA for Games track at CTIA earlier this week started a few minutes later than the schedule dictated. This was somewhat expected, as the schedule also dictated that the games track for the mobile conference would start just as a keynote Q&A session with Ray Manzarek of The Doors was scheduled to end. People continued to flow into the room, a quick jaunt downstairs from the above keynote, as the panel in front swiftly ran through introductions. On the panel were Jill Braff from Glu Mobile, Anders Evju of I-Play, Allen G. Lee of GAMEVIL, and John Lee of Hudson Entertainment, all representing the marketing divisions of their representative companies and focused on the panel's topic: "Reaching the consumer: Novel Marketing Strategies for Mobile Games." Moderating the panel was Drew Hull of The NPD Group, who started the panel rolling with observations from NPD's research data; among the points he presented were that 75% of mobile game consumers say their source of info was through mobile carrier channels, through the website or handset (as compared to 7% citing non-carrier websites and 2% citing advertisement) and 80% of downloads are through carrier channels. Chance continues to play into the equation with more than half of consumers stumbling upon the games they decide to download. Braff began the response by noting the importance of the demo model. The try-before-you-buy culture is something that has become adopted by many consumers, though many mobile players are often frustrated at relying on a title and a description as their only information before purchasing a game. Allen Lee noted that the experience is what keeps the consumers. His company GAMEVIL continues to do most of their work in South Korea, and there they stay nimble with continuous promotion at stores and in commercials. He also noted that games are becoming somewhat less brand-centric, which ushers in more potential for original IP. John Lee responded by saying, "I'm not entirely convinced that demos are good for the publisher." While a demo can work, sometimes the model of a snippet of gameplay does not convey the actual game. Viewing of images and videos could potentially better represent what a game is and can help convert a game description into a sale. "Marketing is a bit of a quandary for me," he continued. "I think there's a myth that it exists." Lee went on to say that right now, carriers control the 4 P's of Price, Product, Promotion, and Placement; right now, publishers are more trying to drive their carrier than directly market to the public. From here, Hull brought the panel to the point of direct advertising to the consumer and questioned its viability. "What we're still looking for is the tipping point," said Braff. "We need ways of moving people over the confusion of what mobile gaming is and isn't." Anders Evju noted that in the current marketplace there is a new breed of companies emerging, such as Silicon Valley's PlayPhone, who are successful largely through the sheer amounts they're spending on their subscribers, keeping them close and being honest to them. It's a much more dynamic scenario, and the model's appeal is growing as publishers are willing to spend more. As for the direct-to-consumer distribution model, technology continues to be a roadblock for publishers. With SMS as its base, mobile game distribution lacks the glitz and pomp of a midnight sale of a triple-A console title. John Lee suggested that one refocuses on entertainment as a company and not as a marketing message for a single title. Here he used the example of a Bob Marley game, which Hudson has rather intriguingly licensed; rather than just marketing the game directly, one can write articles on Bob Marley, film a documentary at a reggae festival, and publish user commentary, all towards a brand experience. Once you get them on the brand, they're more likely to come back to it. On a question from the audience regarding the men vs. women debate, Braff noted that at this year's conference, there are 70 speakers, three of which are women. There's no reason for us as an industry to wait, as women love their phones. "It's the first tech device that women like, almost as much as their shoes," she said. Her company has seen success with Zuma and Astropop, and while they don't actively market to women specifically, they know that they are buying. That knowledge is also a bit amorphous as the detailed demographic data isn't there yet. Nobody knows just what specific people are buying, and the "best" data available to publishers is conjecture. The audience also brought up the question of console and PC game revenue and how that transfers over into the mobile space. The short answer from the panel was: it doesn't. In the gaming industry, mobile is still thought of as an ugly stepchild, said John Lee. This image was forged many years ago with handset technology lagging significantly behind consoles and portables. Now the technology is there, and especially in the case of classic console brands, companies are seeing success both in game quality and in sales, with some 16-bit era games finding new life on mobile top ten lists. Finally, Allen reminded everyone at the end that this technology shift is not just in the development side. Console gamers and mobile gamers are slightly different profiles, and new technology will help to explore how to address mobile gamers. New billing models, new methods of attraction, and new distribution will help the industry make future gamers out of the non-gamers.

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