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LGC: Online Audiences

Ben Parfitt
LGC: Online Audiences

At the start of the decade when I joined the games industry as a community manager for Ubisoft, such a role within publishing was relatively unknown.

Long before Facebook, developing a community of like-minded gamers was reserved primarily for ’core‘ PC gamers who were looking to enhance their game experience through user-created mods, running clans and setting each other challenges. Through their passion and dedication these online groups breathed life into products long after publishers had turned their focus to the next project.

As the digital landscape evolved and ’building the community’ became a pre-requisite on many a marketing and PR plan, many businesses failed to acknowledge one of the key principles of successful consumer engagement: communities are owned, built and run by the members, and our role is only to provide the framework and assets for long term growth.

Now, in the era of social networking, there is no longer a distinction between community and consumer. Social integration and participation is not a tactic we employ, but the very heart of a connected user experience. As such all connected players of a title now form part of the community – it’s their level of engagement that defines their role, status and impact.

Understanding and effectively servicing these connected audiences is a key element of future success and presents real challenges for all parts of the industry. Being a digital media platform fuelled by the engagement of millions of readers, at IGN we constantly have to challenge ourselves to deliver services that meet the needs of the ever-changing consumer.

EVOLUTIONARY SHIFT

This need to evolve is more prevalent than ever, as the industry’s commercial models shift from discs and products, to networks and services.

New factors such as service quality, phasing and engagement sit alongside the traditional ’Four Ps‘ of product, price, place and promotion, catapulting game releases from launch day products to 24/7/365 consumer-centric services. Consumers’ media engagement time is becoming increasingly fragmented, as are the ever growing number of options to fill it, from browser-based free-to-play and social titles through to mobile games that can now offer the depth and immersion of traditional titles.

With such diverse platforms and touch points feeding today’s consumer demand, enabling consumers to discover content is a big challenge and will continue to become harder in the future as the sheer volume of quality content increases. Discovery services such as the Weekly App Show by IGN on YouTube have been instrumental in addressing this need for our extended readership and is an essential tool in fuelling the recommendation funnel. Across
the market peer referral continues to be the number one driver of purchase intent.

EMBRACING EVOLUTION

So how do we address these changes as an industry?

Firstly through innovation, providing solutions and services that meet the needs of the digital consumer. As a business IGN is constantly striving to be a more effective link between consumer, publisher and content, building consumer awareness and ultimately driving revenue into the market. New services such as MyIGN enable visitors to connect, engage and share with each other as well as to interact with their favourite
editors – it’s becoming the ultimate referral engine.

Secondly through giving the consumer options and the ability to engage in a way that suits them. Enable new consumers to build their own experience, from a low-point-of-entry short session offer through to the complete package for the most passionate players. Provide tailored promotions and upsell opportunities through the lifecycle of the service. Let consumers decide which distribution channel they would prefer to use by enabling day and date digital releases on all platforms.

Having experienced Criterion’s exceptional digital approach on Burnout Paradise PS3 first hand whilst at EA and more recently the success of Direct2Drive at IGN – helping push PC digital game sales over 50 per cent of the PC market – I’m confident that consumers are ready to make the change when all the switches are flipped.

We must come together as an industry to tackle whatever the future holds and embrace the change.

BIO: IAN CHAMBERS
Chambers is IGN’s UK MD and international vice president. He previously worked as EA’s senior manager for console digital distribution in the UK, overseeing  the launch of FIFA Ultimate Team and Battlefield 1943. Prior to this, he worked at Ubisoft as head of digital and relationship marketing, where he pitched the idea for the UPlay.

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