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I-play's David Gosen - Part 1

I-play is not a company to rest on its laurels. As its original and licensed games continue to make a healthy impact on the charts, it's also moving forward with other mobile plans.

Last month it announced the appointment of ex-Fox Mobile VP Leighton Webb to take on a role in charge of content strategies, and followed that up with a partnership with Universal Studios to bring classic movie clips to handsets in the US.

Here, CEO of I-play David Gosen, talks to MobileIndustry.biz about the recent announcements, the company's strategic plans for the next 12 months and the desire to continue to push the envelope and capture new audiences for mobile entertainment.

MobileIndustry.biz I-play has been making a number of confident announcements lately - so how's business?
David Gosen

Very good. In the first half of this year we've seen our revenues increase by over 90 per cent over the same period last year. We've continued to see the franchises that we've built do incredibly well. Titles like Fast and the Furious - we've just launched the latest version, Fast and the Furious Tokyo, and that whole franchise has now gone over five million downloads, making it the most successful racing game on mobile.

And there's games that are our original IP like Freestyle Motocross, and that franchise has also done over a million downloads. If we look at Jewel Quest - a very successful online game that we bought across onto mobile - that Quest franchise has also reached over one and a half million downloads.

What I-play has set out to do is build franchises based on real casual gaming for the mass market, and what we're seeing is that casual gaming approach - the one-thumb gaming - is really resonating with the mobile gamer today, leading to some very strong results in our business.

MobileIndustry.biz Can you tell us about the senior level appointments made recently, and what they mean for the company strategy going forward?
David Gosen

We've bought Leighton Webb on board as senior vice president of content strategy ,and we're delighted to have him because he's such a well-respected figure in the industry. I think as we continue to grow our content strategy and build stronger and deeper relationships with our licensor partners it will be a real asset having him on board.

MobileIndustry.biz Can you talk us through your content strategy for the next six to twelve months?
David Gosen

We are a casual mobile gaming company and we do not believe that mobile is the same as consoles. The company's that take console games and port them directly onto mobile are really missing the growth opportunity in this business. So our strategy will be to focus on casual gaming and making sure our portfolio not only has very strong licensed product, but a growing stable of original IP.

If we look at some of the games we've launched recently we can see titles like My Dog, which has done incredibly well on the carriers where it's launched. Urban Golf too is part of this original IP drive that has done incredibly well. So we will continue to pursue a balance of licensed and original IP in a portfolio that will appeal as much to men and women and gamers of all ages.

MobileIndustry.biz Is that where publishers are going wrong? Concentrating on porting established console titles to mobiles and limiting themselves to gamers that only know the franchises?
David Gosen

If you look at who's playing games, nearly fifty per cent of mobile games players are female. The console industry has really failed over the last 25 years to embrace women as games players. Mobile has a tremendous opportunity to break out of what is a console niche environment for gaming.

Over the last 25 years 250 million consoles and handheld devices have been sold, but every year, 800 million mobile phones get sold. Tell me which one is mass market? I think all stake holders who really understand this business need to ensure that they create the broadest possible offering for the mass market and don't fall into the trap that the console industry has fell in, whereby they it just creates games for a niche. It's a sizable niche, but a niche gaming community.

It grows slowly over time. What the mobile developer has to do is make sure it doesn't create barriers for entry for consumers. That consumers don't think it's too complicated and too complex to download a game. We're starting to see that carriers understand that mobile phone decks are in effect retail stores, so they need to be merchandised and able to help consumers to the right content for them. There's a burden of responsibility of everybody in this industry to retain quality thresholds. When we see that only five per cent of mobile owners have downloaded a game, you want to make sure that the first title they download a title it's seen as a real high quality experience.

MobileIndustry.biz Console games developers had an obsession with Hollywood for a while, and the two media have had success and failure together. What are your thoughts on mobile companies working with Hollywood studios?
David Gosen

Clearly, Hollywood is a critical platform for the mobile industry now. In terms of bringing recognisable brands to a channel that is potentially an incremental channel for awareness and recruitment of consumers into those brands.

We've seen it through our Fast and the Furious deal with Universal and the game based on 24 with Fox Mobile. Twenty seven million people watch the TV show and that community is looking to extend its relationship with the show and extend its reach across any other platform.

So that's a great opportunity to utilise the most penetrating device amongst its target audience. If we look at other Hollywood relationships - we've just launched a poker game based on the Goodfellas licence - again a classic movie with a tremendous following, and what we've done is create a unique combination of a tycoon game and poker game that has some sort of emotional link with that movie.

It's very important that when you make a link with Hollywood you really drive into the brand and make the most of it. Make sure the gameplay reflects the values otherwise the consumers will really suffer in terms of their experience. You have to translate the value of the brand from the big screen to the very, very small screen.

Check back tomorrow to read the second part of our interview with David Gosen, where he discusses merging media to enhance the mobile experience, and his thoughts on the striking a balance between licensed properties and original IP.

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