INSIGHT: How smaller businesses can thrive in the new games industry

Former Call of Duty marketing director Ian McClellan, who now operates his own agency Plug and Play,offers his advice on coping with the transition of the games industry

In the entertainment industry, there are always current buzz-words. They help keep us focused in an industry that is an ocean of creativity and change.

Disappointingly, one of the big ones of the last 12 months is ‘transition’ – a word that instantly seeds feelings of doubt and uncertainly. It is most commonly used to describe the console cycle, and who will be winners and losers as installed bases build and migrate.

However, there is also a transition happening in parallel, creating opportunities for smaller developers and innovators to have a dialogue with consumers like never before. This is the transition in communication, from a traditional paid model to one where social platforms and community channels are playing a huge role in awareness and image.

I’m not claiming that the tide is turning away from the triple-A titles – far from it. The epic, beautiful beasts of the industry are becoming a growing share of the category, and creating more proliferation between the Top 20 and the rest.

But at the same time, new channels have created an opportunity to deliver content in such a way that creativity and speed can be a competitive advantage, rather than budgets and scale. And where listening to fans, and reacting, can create a lasting and deep relationship.


This takes two key themes: the first is content ideas designed to be sharable. Truly unique, truly engaging ideas; that is the only way that fans will share a piece of content.

For example, on Kickstarter, the fourth most-visited project is a guy who tried to raise $10 to make a potato salad. Thanks to the internet and its love of irony, he eventually raised over $55,000. Copy-cat projects from individuals trying to take advantage of this buzz struggled to raise funds into double figures. The reason being that the internet loves brave and creative ideas, but only once.

For the small developer or publisher, idea generation needs to become a habit. And once in the habit, the key is to stay true to your audience and insights, but also to be brave and original.

The second key theme is actively managing community. The line between ‘community’ and ‘marketing’ is now extremely blurred. In the long-run, the effective management of community is as powerful as a securing a high profile TV spot or outdoor placement. You can most directly influence your message when you are closest to the consumer, but the key is that to create mass, you have to invest in it. And by invest, I mean not just man-hours in listening, but also reacting.

"In the long-run, the effective management of community is as powerful as a securing a high profile TV spot or outdoor placement."

Ian McClellan, Plug and Play

The community embraces it when a developer or publisher engages in dialogue, and makes changes. Both small and large organisations are finding success here. For example, at the League of Legends European Championship events, all Riot staff wear branded T-shirts, including their Summoner name, and are encouraged to have dialogue with fans. This has added significantly to the credibility of the LoL product, and this kind of thought leadership has played a big part in its continued success.

By consistently generating content ideas, by being brave and by using communication channels and your community strategically, you can build competitive advantage during this transition, and create a lasting core of engaged fans – and a group of powerful advocates to continue to evangelise your great product.

About MCV Staff

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