The face of things to come

The face of things to come

Tarquin Henderson, head of EMEA Gaming Sales at Facebook, sat down with MCV to talk about the firm's plans for Gamescom, wider industry trends, and what the social network giant is doing to push video games to the masses.

What brings you to Gamescom?

Gamescom is a big deal for us. It's a key beat of the gaming calendar. In recent years, it has been up there with E3 in terms of global significance, and it's great to see the spotlight on Europe.

On the practical side, it's a fantastic opportunity to catch up with all our key partners and make sure we're fully aligned going into the busy end-of-year period, but it's also nice to see old faces and toast past successes.

For us at Facebook, we're aiming to share even more this year by revealing some insights around the titles and topics being discussed by the gaming community on our platform. Our partners are always looking to understand their mindshare amongst the gaming audience, and while there's no shortage of opinions out there, the most important measure of a title's success is with how much the game is being discussed by players themselves.

Most people associate Facebook gaming with social and mobile titles. But what about other genres and platforms?

While many people equate gaming and Facebook with casual, social and mobile games, the truth is that Facebook works with developers and publishers producing games in a variety of genres to appeal to the wide interest of players visiting Facebook: from social casino and mid-core strategy games right through to fantasy sports and real-money gaming. There's a huge console and PC gaming audience on Facebook as well, and they're incredibly important to us.

More than 445 million people play games that are connected to Facebook every month. There are 31 million users on Facebook who've linked their accounts with PSN or Xbox Live. Recently, the team looked at the data, and found that a new PS4 console is being connected to Facebook every 10 seconds. That's just incredible; I can't think of any other platform with that kind of growth rate amongst this audience.

Numbers aside, we're proud to be considered trusted partners of virtually every major console and PC publisher – even if it does make my Gamescom schedule a little tricky to manage.

But that's not to say we should be dismissive of our expertise in social and mobile. In the past year or so, we've seen a lot of cross-pollination of ideas and technologies with the console and PC space. We're seeing great social features built into consoles, and into leading games like League of Legends, and we're starting to see some big console franchises like Fallout top the charts on mobile by embracing free-to-play.

We're privileged at Facebook to work across these different areas with a real birds-eye-view of industry trends. If we can harness that to help our partners grow their games by sharing best practices, we will have done our job.

In what ways do you work with publishers? What are your marketing tactics?

Facebook is where people go to discover what's new. It's the one destination your audience will visit every day – several times a day, across mobile and desktop – and they do so to find out what's new. The key to success is delivering the right message to the right person, and Facebook allows you to do that at scale.

Whether you want to reach a hardcore MOBA fan in Istanbul, a casual console player in Manchester or an eSports enthusiast in Stockholm, we can help you get your message to the people that matter to you.

We can also advise on how to engage with your audience. Increasingly, video is taking a bigger role as there are now on average more than four billion video views every day on Facebook. There's a huge appetite for video, particularly amongst gamers; they want to see the latest trailers and gameplay reveals, and they're increasingly doing so on our platform.

And then there's Instagram. Every time I go to a show like Gamescom, I'm amazed by the sheer creativity and artistry of the industry. To my mind, there's no better canvas to showcase your game's personality than on Instagram. It's a wonderful way to position your game as a premium experience for a young, mainstream audience.

In terms of how we tie all that together, we have built a team dedicated to helping console and PC game publishers get the most out of our platform. These are people who've been in the industry for years - with credits on everything from Legend of Zelda to Pro Evolution Soccer - and they're dedicated to working with all our game partners. We're here to help: whether that's working with publishers to build an entire cross-channel media plan, running one of our popular creative shops or simply helping them promote their trailer.

What are you looking forward to at Gamescom and over the next few months?

At E3, the industry was firing on all cylinders, and I'm hoping for a similar showing in Cologne. It's important for everybody that we have two strong platforms pushing each other, and the big publishers.

This year it seems like there's something for everyone; from the triple-A blockbusters like Black Ops III and Assassin's Creed Syndicate, down to more leftfield titles like No Man's Sky and Life is Strange.

Aside from that we're hugely excited by the growth of eSports. It's touching every area of the industry now, from game design to live events, and increasingly in the betting sphere, too. We've forged some fantastic relationships with the likes of ESL, MLG and Fnatic over the last year or so, and we're looking to collaborate even further as the sport grows in the coming months and years.

When I get the chance to walk the floor at Gamescom, you'll likely find me trying to jump the queue for a quick go on Guitar Hero Live, or sneaking in a few rounds of Heroes of the Storm.

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