The Mobile Community
As we told you earlier, the two big phrases being tossed around this year’s Mobile Game Conference were “social connector” and “communication.” With that in mind, we headed into The Mobile Community panel with high hopes of hearing industry leaders give clear articulation of what’s necessary to build a strong mobile community and what they’re doing to improve them. No such luck.
Jason Ford, VP Strategy and Planning, Namco
Misha Lyalin, CEO and Founder, Reaxion
Steve Hoffman, COO and Studio Head, Zannel Inc.
Alan Spero, SVP Maketing, Digital Chocolate
All members of the panel were in agreement that mobile game communities can benefit both the publisher and the consumer. For publishers and consumers alike, the number one goal of communities right now is most likely game discovery — carriers do not do much to help users find more games from developers that they like, and communities are an easy way to facilitate that. Gamers, for their part, also usually enjoy the loyalty rewards and asynchronous tournaments that are gaming community staples.
However, the majority of the panel discussion was plagued with the myriad questions surrounding the implementation and growth of these communities. While all the publishers represented on the panel were excited about the potential to promote multiple games through their community (Alan Spero of Digital Chocolate called their Mobile League a “leader board on steroids” that was based upon users within the community sharing games that they like with their friends), moderator Jason Ford was quick to question how easily this could devolve into a headache for the consumer. He described a situation where users become inundated with adds to their phones for new games from all the various communities they’ve joined on a daily basis.
Ford, until recently the head of Sprint’s game division, also questioned the value of each publisher and carrier providing their own, unintegrated community — something he likened to the Wild West. He didn’t believe that mobile users would enjoy having to keep track of all the publisher passwords for the various games they own (an EA password, a Digital Chocolate password… etc.) or even realize which game corresponds to which publisher (this sounds funny until you sit in on the mobile metrics panel and someone from Telephia tells you that while there are a grand total of 12 Solitaire games from 8 publishers, the vast majority of gamers surveyed could only tell you that they had bought a Solitaire game).
Problems like the ones mentioned above naturally point towards the creation of an industry-wide, integrated community as a potential solution. However, with the exception of Ford, each panelist was very hesitant to move in that direction because of the sticky situations that would have to be worked through to achieve such a solution. Beyond the simple matter of the vast (financial and human) resources required to make such a dream a reality, the biggest question involved is who runs and moderates such a community — essentially, who owns the customers?