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UPDATE (11:03pm pacific time): Included mention of moderator and speaker Margaret Wallace to text body and photo caption.
SAUSALITO, Calif — The final block of GamesBeat Summit sessions this afternoon kicked off with a global look at what it means to be a game maker — and what it means to be a customer.
Andrew Sheppard, chief operating officer of mobile game publisher Gree, devoted much of his conversation with Playmatics CEO Margaret Wallace on evolving retail relationships in an age of global thinking. For “a theme that comes up in every conference,” in his words, there is much we as an industry could understand better when it comes to internationalization. According to Sheppard, the role of the static salesman and quiet customer is no longer the global norm.
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“The notion of ‘customer’ has changed a lot,” said Sheppard. “There have really been three business model changes in the games industry: coin-op, retail, and free-to-play. Those changes have been massive.”
When coin-operated games defined the industry in the arcade days, the product was a fixed, singular machine with an experience that reached many customers, usually in quick succession. Retail traditionally took place through an intermediary, with publishers speaking to stores, who then spoke to customers at their franchises. Free-to-play represents much of the current model, direct and immediate communication between customers and developers.
But the global market requires a different mode of thinking, Sheppard suggested. This means less of the monolithic enterprises that American companies have gotten used to creating thanks to their market dominance. You need to be able to put yourself in the mindset of as many of your regional customers as possible.
“You need to method act,” Sheppard said. “To put yourself in the mind of a German housewife, and then go across the world … it’s very difficult.”
At the request of moderator Wallace, Sheppard expanded his point. For companies that can afford the expenditure, Sheppard suggested investing in local teams to build local connections, a key to success in a global market. Gree, for example, recently founded a team in Berlin, Germany.
If your focus remains on a single continent, however, you stand a stronger chance of wide success. Thanks to shared mythologies, spaces like North America (and its European cousins) can gravitate around the same product or brand.
“You can build a game for North America, and it has a good chance to be successful in other parts of the continent.” said Sheppard.
By contrast, the Chinese market stands alone when it comes to game releases. But this isn’t always for customer-driven reasons.
“The Chinese market is extremely isolated, people are putting up walls there.” Sheppard said.
Such is the price for living — and selling — in a global world.
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