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Wright Bagwell, CEO of OutPost Games and veteran of Zynga and EA (among other major publishers), rejects conventional game monetization wisdom.

“It’s such a huge mistake to think that building a game, monetizing a game, building community is all about trying to identify the people with the deepest pockets,” Bagwell says. “I think that’s a real mistake, and I think ultimately it doesn’t really help your game.”

Traditional monetization schemes are negative by design, Bagwell says, where in-game purchases are essentially payments in exchange for an unfair advantage, coming at the expense of other players’ enjoyment, and most importantly, at the expense of community building.

“Community is not just important,” Bagwell says. “It’s everything these days. Almost every big game out there is a service. And if you’re monetizing your community, then you have to have a direct relationship with the people who are playing.”

Community is what creates a game, and community is what propels a game beyond niche success and into blockbuster territory — and the ROI for an engaged, excited community is off the charts.

“As someone who’s been making games for a long time and is also a gamer, I think we have to stop thinking about people as spenders, and we have to start thinking about people as investors,” Bagwell says.

“Investors in a game and investors in their own skill and creativity, so that they can get better at it. Also, investors in the community and making it a better community to play with. There’s too much focus just on extracting money from players and we have to think about, how do we get people to feel like they’re investing in something so they want to keep coming back and telling their friends about it.”

That requires a deep understanding of who your audience is, why they’re there, and what they see in your game. And that includes your entire audience, Bagwell emphasizes again, not just those who are spending the most. It also means avoiding falling into the trap of stereotyping your audience.

“Game developers and publishers will tend to think of their players as this very homogenous group, and that’s not the case at all — especially as games become more popular and you have larger audiences playing them,” says Bagwell. “You have to appeal to a really large set of people who have very diverse ways of engaging with your game.”

And all of those users are your lifeblood, he says. “Each class of person — each type of person contributes something of value to the community,” Bagwell says. “So I think engaging community has to be part of your core business strategy.”

An essential piece of that is approaching community building not just at the tactical level, but at the strategic level, and ensuring it is part of your core go-to-market strategy. And, of course, along with that, you must find and recruit skilled community managers who can engage with the community.

Bagwell challenges traditional marketing with a belief that a focus on community is far more relevant today. “When I see the amount of money being spent to run TV ads or print ads, I can’t help but think that’s got to be the most expensive method of user acquisition that you can possibly imagine,” Bagwell laughs. “It’s going to be so much more effective if you can build a direct dialog with the community, and have that community help spread the word, and have that community get invested and feel like they’re proud to talk about the time and the money they’ve spent in your game and want to share it with other people.”

Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.

For more on how to encourage and support your game’s biggest evangelists, join VentureBeat and our panel of game experts for our live webinar. You’ll learn to:

  •       Understand the aspects of gaming platforms that can help a community succeed
  •       Define and refine the elements of community success
  •       Turn content marketing opportunities into actionable insights
  •       Utilize Google to harness unique insights and tools to maximize community performance.


  •       Mathieu Nouzareth, CEO of FreshPlanet
  •       Wright Bagwell, CEO of OutPost Games
  •       Alexis Fritzsche, Developer Partner Manager, Mobile Apps, Google
  •       Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer, GamesBeat
  •       Wendy Schuchart, Moderator, VentureBeat

This VB Live event is sponsored by Google.