VIGS Management Track: Untapped Markets, Who are the customers?

24 May

May 23rd, 2008, by Adrian Audet

The first of many panel discussions began with a palpable excitement. The gathered crowd was wide range of industry and the discussion about the new areas to find game playing customers. Fortunately for those in attendance, the thirst for knowledge of the unknown would soon be slated, and in great abundance.

Howard Donaldson, VIGS Co-Chair, VP Studio Ops, Disney Interactive Studios, moderated the panel of three who represented a wide range of developing markets and strategies. His questions helped shed light on where the new demographics and customers in markets in all forms of game media, for console, handheld, mobile etc. The information gathered was useful for small and large studios. The data and dialog provided by the panel was engaging and insightful, leaving the audience with the pleasant feeling of knowing they had chosen an excellent panel to attend from the selection of morning events.

The panel included Min Kim, Director of Game Operations, Nexon North America Inc., Catherine Warren, President, FanTrust Entertainment Strategies, and Will Shen, Head of Production-North America, Nokia. Although much was discussed, it was clear that each member of the panel was here to represent a facet of an ever changing marketplace. Catherine Warren seemed to bridge the gap between the content providers and the customers, providing extensive insight and strategies on how to build fan bases and relationships with customers and potential revenues. One point she emphasized was the online market of much younger female players as well as much older female players (50+) was still largely ignored and was a vast market available. Traditional gamer demographics are shifting, and Warren speculated it’s not long before the likes of Oprah and Martha Stuart start providing community and content for these markets, and as a result find themselves in high status with the like of Vivendi and others.

Will Shen provided insights into the direction Nokia is taking and what it hopes to achieve in the future gaming markets, especially those related to its products such as the Ngage2. Shen conceded that Nokia had learned a lot from past attempts with the Ngage, and discussed how providing game content to all of its devices was essential to furthering the popularity, and accessibility of mobile games. Shen also mentioned that Nokia tries to provide content to all ages, but haven’t yet reached the depths they know exist in the available existing markets. Shen also revealed “we’re still discovering our demographic”, which is alarming given the money and resources at their disposal, but also understandable considering the rapid growth of mobiles in many parts of the world. Half of Nokia’s customers are women, and Nokia is looking at the 35+ female demographic which represents over a third of its mobile market, which also continues along trend Catherine Warren had explained earlier.

Min Kim was truly impressive, and the one that had the most to say. He also had the best presentation regarding dialog and visual material, demonstrating why Nexon had become such a force and popular name in the free to download/ micropayment business model. He was eloquent and savvy while discussing how Nexon operates in various world demographics, and revealed their research insights discovered during the last few years. He noted Younger markets in elementary school are the major gamer in Korea and Asia enjoy who enjoy Maple Story, while the same game garners a older teenage ( 17-18 ) customer in North America. Min was brought to Nexon’s North American division to further promote the free to play model, which is now hugely successful in so many parts of Asia. He summed it up best when he said, “we don’t provide products, we provide a service, make it (the content) meaningful and people will want to be a part of it.” He also noted that sense of community had a huge factor in maintaining customers. “Leaving your friends online is sometimes just as hard as in real life, and giving power to the consumer is big.” Nexon hopes to find more ways to allow consumers to access its content, whether it’s pre-paid cards, product tie-ins with other products, as well as portal access from its other game communities as well as other online communities like MySpace and Facebook.

It was clear when the dust settled, that it was Nexon that received the most questions from the audience who were clearly impressed by the depth and understanding Kim had provided, as well as a business model many interested parties will still have to learn and adopt to enjoy similar success.

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