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Alan Miller: Part 2

The Activision co-founder on new IP, digital marketing and the loss of Guitar Hero

The age of analytics is here - part one of the interview with GamesAnalytics strategic advisor and head of North American operations, Alan Miller, focused on why the online games sector needs better information on game experiences... and later this week we'll be featuring another analytics company just breaking cover with a slightly different take on the market.

But here in part two we talk to Alan - co-founder of Activision and with wide-ranging industry experience - about the challenges of new IP, the question of marketing for online games, and whether people are too harsh on his old company following the Guitar Hero business unit closure. The online games sector has moved so quickly - but how significant is it that games are such a big factor in something like Facebook, which has itself become an important part of a lot of people's lives?
Alan Miller

I think it says a lot - the rate of change in the industry right now is much greater than it's ever been in the last 25 years, since the industry sort of collapsed in the mid-Eighties. And it's heading in a way that's just wonderful.

It's evolved to electronic distribution, and away from bricks-and-mortar retail distribution - which had put many constraints on the games industry which I felt, frankly, weren't particularly healthy. It narrowed the types of genres that could effectively be sold through retail, and therefore narrowed the audience.

Now that electronic distribution exists, it opens up tremendous audiences - we've gone from audiences that might be 10-12 million with World of Warcraft, to audiences on Facebook... Cityville's got over 100 million users, and that's phenomenal.

I think it's great for consumers, and it's great for publishers as well. Small publishers, that could never get retail distribution, can now get very effective distribution. A game like Angry Birds can come out of nowhere and sell 1 million copies. It's just wonderful and amazing.

Your interview with Richard Garriott interested me last week - he talks about massive consolidation happening in the industry in the next two years, and that's something I disagree with. I think there is going to be consolidation, but online distribution - both driven through the internet and mobile networks - has removed so many of the constraints that it is going to continue to be a wonderful opportunity for small game publishers. However - they have to create great products.

But one of the great things that digital distribution provides is the ability to experiment with a game - a lot of the social games are made available initially in a semi-finished state, and the games evolve over time. So publishers who are nimble, and understand what their players are experiencing in their games, can make pretty rapid changes to those games.

That's something that a lot of the big traditional game publishers haven't realised yet - they'll spend 400 man-years developing a game over three years, put it into retail and that's it. That model just doesn't work online - so my point is, in order to be successful, these game publishers have to be very responsive to their players, and understand their experiences. And GamesAnalytics provides the kind of package to allow them to do that.

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