The [a]list Summit that took place in San Francisco last week brought together marketers from many different game companies to exchange ideas on the state of the industry and how to connect to consumers. Pachter’s keynote address has already been covered in detail here. The subsequent sessions covered social gaming from several angles, including the core game audience, marketing techniques and social analytics.
Kicking off the discussion titled “The Social Core”, Kixeye VP of Marketing John Getze said their games do better than Zynga’s because, “the number of DAU we have as a percentage of MAU is a lot higher than Zynga. We strive to have a game that’s much more like a traditional PC game than an online game, and our level of ARPDAU is much higher.”
In discussing the social game market and Zynga’s huge audience compared to the relatively tiny audiences of Kabam and Kixeye, Senior Director of Global Product Marketing Leo Olebe of Kabam put it succinctly: “Why does it matter if you’re talking 250 million over there and 2 million over here? It’s how many people are playing, how many people are staying, and how many people are paying.”
The hardcore gamer is the customer target for both Kixeye and Kabam, but the size of that market is not something they’re entirely sure of. “More than 1 million, less than 300 million,” said Olebe, not narrowing the field very much.
Both Getze and Olebe agreed that user acquisition costs have risen, but they both insisted that cost is only one issue. “The other part of the equation is that you could spend a dollar to acquire someone who’s only going to give you 50 cents over the life of the product, or you could spend a million dollars and if that person winds up giving you 6 million bucks you’re doing all right,” said Olebe.
Getze spelled out how hard it is to get a foothold in the social game market: “When we launched Backyard Monsters we were looking at a 30 day break-even point on all of our spending because we had no money. Once you’ve established a ‘food court’ of different franchises it doesn’t matter if its pizza, or burritos, or burgers, they’re still eating; you’re looking at a network LTV (life time value) and that really helps with user acquisition. But it’s extremely challenging, given the cost of user acquisition, to come onto a platform now. The first game has to be a hit.” Getze noted that their customer acquisition costs are now around $1.50, which is double what it was in June of 2010.
The Ayzenberg Groups’ Keith Pape and EA’s Director of Online Marketing Tabitha Hayes took the stage next for the “Social Marketing” session. Scaling up social marketing efforts is difficult if you want to maintain quality interactions, Pape observed. Many challenges are part of the task facing social marketers, and Tabitha Hayes noted how she prepares for the inevitable bad events.
“Plan for the worst; don’t plan for the best. Seriously, plan for the worst,” said Pape. “S***’s gonna break, people are going to come to your office with guns… Then you’ll have a plan and you can optimize it every time. The good thing is, the worst gets better over time.”
Hayes advised that beyond those factors, meet things head on, and be authentic. Tell the users what you’re doing about their issue; if you don’t have the answers, tell them that you don’t have the answer right now but you’re working on it.
The final session was “Social Analytics,” with special attention on how to go about gathering and analyzing data. Rebecca Markarian, Executive Director of Social and Emerging Media at the Ayzenberg Group, discussed some best practices.
“Measuring sentiment is not easy; in fact in gaming it’s probably harder than any other space because any automatic sentiment tool that grades automatically will grade something like ‘that’s sick’ as a negative every single time,” Markarain said. “So we hand grade every post that comes in… it’s time-consuming work but the data that comes out of it is valuable.”
The ultimate value of all of these analytics is this: “At the end of the day, being able to go into the C-suite and say ‘We can prove this makes money’ is going to be a huge benefit to getting more budgets for all of us to do social media,” Markarain concluded.
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