Feature: [a]list Summit San Francisco Highlights

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.”

John Getze

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.”

Rebecca Markarian

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.

_ _

Enjoy the The [a]list Summit? Looking forward to the next one? Join the discussion on Facebook.

Itagaki Says THQ’s Development, Promotional Budget Higher Than Eastern Publishers

While THQ isn’t in a good way right now, you wouldn’t know that by the funding of some of their studios. For instance, Tomonobu Itagaki indicates that Valhalla Game Studio has received more money on Devil’s Third than he has on any project previously.

“We’ve been working with THQ for two and a half years, and when I was working in Japan I was at the publisher myself so I can’t really compare because it’s different. The circumstances are very different. I really understand what the publisher thinks because I used to be the publisher myself,” Itagaki began. “The one thing that’s completely different between the Eastern publisher and Western publisher is the budget. I’ve made more than 30 games, and if you put a little bit more [money] into the one I’m making now, Devil’s Third, I could make all of the 30 games I made before. The budget you use for the promotion is completely different too. Those are the biggest differences.”

Just because he’s got plenty of money to throw around does not mean Itagaki is insensitive to the plight of the general consumer and what a new console release might mean for him and them. “If I didn’t have any knowledge of the economy, or if I were young, I’d want to release my game on the new platform. The decision I’m making now is that, if I released my next game on a next-gen console or if someone releases a next gen console, then all the publishers, developers, and players will be so confused and everything will be messed up because of the economical situation,” he said. “The U.S. economy is bad. The EU economy is bad. The Japanese economy is bad. This is not good timing for the release of a next-generation console. This is just not for the game industry. I can say the same for customers.”

Source: Game Informer

Android Tops 300 Million Devices

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Google SVP Andy Rubin announced some impressive numbers for Android devices. The Android platform has hit 300 million total devices, of which 12 million are tablets. Those numbers don’t include the Kindle Fire and other devices that don’t use Google services. Over 850,000 Android devices are activated every day.

The number of Android apps has hit more than 450,000, with over 1 billion apps downloaded every month. “These numbers are a testament to the break-neck speed of innovation that defines the Android ecosystem, “ said Rubin on the Google Mobile blog.

Mass Effect 3 Preorders Leading Mass Effect 2 Preorders

Electronic Arts has confirmed that Mass Effect 3 seems to be making a positive impression when looking at sales figures for pre-orders.  Despite major complaints from core fans of the franchise, and even the game’s story being leaked, gamers are still clamoring for a shot at rounding out the Commander Shepard trilogy.

EA has said that Mass Effect 3 pre-orders are “well ahead” of Mass Effect 2, when measured at the same point of time before launch.  Mass Effect 3 will launch on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on March 6, giving gamers just a week more to wait now.

The publisher is also preparing for a huge marketing campaign to kick in, saying that gamers should expect major TV, film, online and billboard advertising in the coming week.

[Thanks Gamespot] {link no longer active}

Amazon Appstore Better For Devs Than Android Market

The developers who decided to take a chance on Amazon’s version of the Android Market are generally doing pretty well. Many of them are pulling in more money than from the Android Market, according to a study by research firm Distimo. Of the top 110 apps that appear in both the Amazon Appstore and the Android Market, 42 of them make more money from Amazon. Paid apps in the Amazon Appstore make up 65 percent of all apps, while paid apps in the Android Market only comprise 32 percent of the apps (having dropped from 38 percent over the last seven months).

The Amazon Appstore has, of course, benefited tremendously from the remarkable sales of the Kindle Fire, which is now the #1 Android tablet in market share. An interesting fact about the Amazon Appstore is that some 50 percent of those apps don’t even appear in the Android Market, suggesting that some developers at least are bypassing the Android Market all together.

Thanks to GigaOm.

Share And Ride

For the first time ever, hit the SSX slopes as a pro rider. On the official Facebook page {page no longer active} for SSX, just share the “EA Sports SSX: Travis Rice – The Evolution of Tricks” trailer with your friends.  Once the app has hit 100k shares, EA will start releasing codes to unlock Travis in game. Check back frequently and don’t miss out!

Social Web In Asia Is Booming

It may seem like Facebook and Twitter everywhere in the U.S., but they aren’t even in the running compared with the popularity of social media in Indonesia, according to an article from the BBC. There, some 80 percent of Internet users are engaged in social activities online, compared to only 55 percent in the U.S. Other Asian countries aren’t far behind Indonesia, with the Philippines at almost 79 percent, Malaysia at 73 percent, and India at 68 percent. China is at over 67 percent, even though the country blocks Facebook.

Users are engaging in a variety of ways, including managing a social network profile, writing a blog, or using a microblogging service like Twitter. Asian countries often have their own home-grown social networking tools, like QQ in China or Cyworld in South Korea. “Indonesians like to chat, they like to express their opinions but in a shy way,” says Danny Wirianto, chief marketing officer at Kaskus. “Sometimes they don’t dare say things in front of people, but in a chatting forum they will.”