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Supermassive's Geraint Bungay

On online, new markets, the UK dev scene and Facebook's perils

Young studio Supermassive Games is one of the latest additions to the burgeoning UK developer hotspot in Guildford. So far, it's worked on two titles for PlayStation Move, but is now looking to branch out on its own with free-to-play title Big Match Striker. A combination of football management and quiz questions, it's an attempt to crack both microtransactions and the sports-minded casual gamer.

Here we talk to Supermassive's online publishing director Geraint Bungay, a veteran of early online gaming ventures BarrysWorld and Thrustworld, as well as BT's former games boss. He discusses emerging audiences for online titles, why reports on the poor health of UK development may be wrong, and marketing strategies in the web gaming age. How's Big Match Striker going?
Geraint Bungay

We officially launched the game just over three weeks ago now. It's going very well, the take up day on day we're seeing record numbers of visitors and registrations and players. We're particularly seeing some serious take-up in the last week and a half, since we kicked off all the marketing and advertising that we're doing. For a company the size of Supermassive Games we're taking quite an ambitious program of online marketing, advertising and PR. Obviously we're not in the league of the FIFA 11s or Pro Evolution Soccers of this world, but we've been very selective in targeting where we're advertising.

So we've done a deal with the football league, so we're on all of the official football league sites, and I think 10 of the Premiership sites as well. Several of the football networking sites as well. So very tightly marketed at the grassroots football fan. It's going very well, to be honest, at the moment. The next couple of months will tell, but we're getting loads of feedback from the users as well and we're refining the marketing. What's been your angle on the marketing?
Geraint Bungay

We've been very conscious that you can throw a lot of money at advertising, and especially online advertising, so this has been very much about choosing a specific target market. The game itself has been built specifically so anybody of any age can play, it's non-confrontational, there's no swearing or violence. It's very much a family friendly game. But definitely our target audience for this is 18 to 35, 40 year old males. And obviously football fans as well, because it's about testing your football knowledge, setting up your club and buying players, etcetera. So it's been very important to us that, rather than an egalitarian approach across all game sites and everything else, we've specifically targeted football sites.

The Football League Interactive, they're the guys that run the online sites on behalf of the Football League, we went to them with a proposal for sponsorship and specifically chose what's called their Team Profile section, because obviously there's a lot of stats in there about players and how goals are scored... Which lends itself very well to this game, and those kinds of questions. So we sponsor all of those sites there and again we're refining all of the adverts all of the time. We did quite an interesting deal with the Football League Interactive that they hadn't done before. Because our game updates all of the time and for all of the matches, every week on the Monday we supply them for every different team - it could be Barnsley, it could be Swansea or Cardiff or whatever it is - one of the adverts that appears on that team website is based on a question from that team's weekend game. How come you've gone for a client rather than in-browser or through Facebook? It seems to be against the prevailing wind...
Geraint Bungay

The game itself was always developed to be an online PC game. The reason it isn't what I'd call a standard online game such as Flash game is because the quality of the game genuinely is so high it's what you'd expect to see in a boxed product. It's been in development for well over a year, and the graphics and the soundtrack - I mean we've got a 40-song soundtrack that's updated every month from The Sunday Best, one of the leading indie labels. We've got hours and hours of commentary and everything else. Is there an opportunity for us at some point to make a small Facebook app or something that will go alongside it? Possibly, but the game's always been designed as a download client. If Facebook or Chrome Web Store was more supportive of that technical standard, would you want to be within that environment?
Geraint Bungay

One of the things we're doing right now, over the last week or so, we've started to experiment quite heavily with social network marketing, on things like Facebook and MySpace, and we've seen a great response. It is a download product though - for a lot of people it's eight minutes. But I downloaded Lord of the Rings Online, and that was 9,700MB - compared to 30 to 40MB for ours. It is a big difference. We genuinely think people will appreciate the download when they get it - for a free download game, it is like nothing else out there. Are you worried about cutting out office play and things like that though, given it's a game based around topicality?
Geraint Bungay

One of the things we're definitely going to be doing is Big Match Striker has quite a large metagame around it as well. As well as playing the game, asking questions in the football match, there's a lot of stuff you to manage your team, building a stadium, choosing your kit... What we're going to be doing over the coming months is putting more and more of that functionality onto the web itself, so you can do all of that on a browser. But the game itself will still require the client.

Alec Meer avatar
Alec Meer: A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.
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