by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">
by David Reid, Vice President of Marketing, NCsoft North America
For many of us, our dreams never see fruition. We never get to walk on
the moon, dig up dinosaur bones, or become president of the United
States. But sometimes fate has a way of stepping in and giving us the
opportunity we always dreamed of.
That was the case for David Reid, a long time fan of the style="font-style: italic;">Ultima series, when
he was offered the position of Vice President of Marketing for
NCsoft’s North American division. Ten Ton Hammer’s
Cody “Micajah” Bye caught up with David recently
and had a detailed chat about his move from GameTap to NCsoft, the
upcoming game Aion,
and what David hopes to influence in the MMO marketplace. Enjoy!
David really was
impressed by the portfolio of games at NCsoft, including style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners.
Ten Ton Hammer: How were
you first contacted by NCsoft? Why did you decide to leave GameTap?
I’ll start with the obvious fan-boy, grognardy part of this
equation. I’ve been a gamer for a very long time and grew up
playing the Ultima
franchise on my Apple II+. I’ve always been a fan of the
Garriott brothers. A number of colleagues of mine in the industry have
ended up at NCsoft over the years, and I’ve always had my eye
on the company on that front.
When it became clear that this was a position that was opening up, I
was naturally very interested on a number of fronts. The fact that
I’m a gamer, and Richard Garriott – when
he’s not off doing his astronaut training – works
in an office above me is very, very cool.
From the business perspective, there’s an excellent
opportunity here. When you look at the quality of [NCsoft] games, the
portfolio, the customer base, and combine that with a market that is
really, really growing; there’s just a lot of stuff that got
me interested in NCsoft.
That said, GameTap is a great business model. I really like it, I had a
great time working with the people there. It was a lot of fun working
on that product, and Turner is a fantastic company.
Honestly, the timing was very interesting for me. Those of us in this
industry remember when Gary Gygax passed away, and it was one of those
moments that really struck me. I’d always hoped that I
would’ve had the chance to do something with Gary. But that
didn’t end up happening for me. As I was having my
discussions with NCsoft, I wondered if I would feel that way if I
didn’t take a chance to work with the Garriott brothers.
It was something, on a very personal level, that appealed to me.
Ten Ton Hammer: What sort
of responsibilities will you have at NCsoft North America? What are a
few of your major goals coming into the job?
some ways the marketing job at any company is fairly straightforward in
terms of the media and the advertising that you need to do. PR,
packaging, events, all of those things make a lot of sense.
But what’s interesting and fascinating about this company in
particular, it’s the notion that it’s not just a
launch and leave sort of business like a lot of the retail stuff
I’ve worked in has been, like Xbox for example.
It’s much more about this living portfolio of products that
keep changing, growing, and improving all the time.
There is a different sort of marketing that you need to do with that,
not to mention NCsoft is a much more online focused company than what
you might see from a console publisher. From a marketing perspective,
you need to go online, you need to go where the customer is going, and
you need to realize where your customer is spending their time.
There’s just a lot of strategic stuff that is different from
things that I’ve done before.
Ten Ton Hammer: Did you
work much with Myst
Online when they were at GameTap?
actually part of that green light process, and it was really the first
MMO I had worked on as a marketer. The thing about that product that
was so interesting was the strength of the community. There was a
community of people that just refused to let that game die. That kept
it alive on their servers, and then you have the folks up in Spokane,
Wash., that had such a passion for their product that you just
couldn’t ignore it.
That product, for me, is really an example of the MMO community in
general. Having an opportunity to work on the Myst franchise and serve
that community was really exciting, very educational, and got me very
keenly interested in the MMO space.
Ten Ton Hammer: According
to the press release issued by NCsoft, you have a fairly lengthy resume
dealing with games. How do you believe your experience will help NCsoft
continue to expand its footprint in North America?
couple things to talk about there, and we should really start with my
experience at GameTap. The business model I worked with their was
really quite similar to an MMO model in the notion that
you’re a customer of one MMO and it’s a
subscription based model. There’s a lot of front-end stuff,
in terms of the marketing and the messaging, that’s very
But, there’s also a lot of back end plumbing that you have to
do as well. Not only are you serving your product up at retail, but
you’re also supplying it digitally as well. You’re
digging very deep into data-mining and spreadsheets and registration
paths and drop-offs and credit card failure rates, and all of these
things are incredibly relevant to anybody that’s in a digital
business. GameTap gave me an awesome two year crash course in those
parts of the business. There are a number of things that are going to
be directly relevant to my work at NCsoft in terms of how we engage our
community and how we move them into our portfolio of products.
There may be one game that gets you interested in the products we offer
– much like there might be one game that gets you to buy a
console – but that customer should, can, and probably wants
to be a customer of all the properties, or at least more than one.
That’s something that’s very exciting –
especially at NCsoft in particular. There aren’t a lot of
companies that have the portfolio of MMOs that we at NCsoft have.
There are individually great products out there, but the strength of
the portfolio here at NCsoft is an amazing asset that’s just
waiting to be unleashed.
David hopes to
attract more attention to those gamers that play MMOs for a brief
amount of time a day.
Ten Ton Hammer: How much
personal experience do you have with massively multiplayer gaming?
I’ve played a bunch of them on a very light level.
I’m not the guy who’s running a guild, and
I’m not a PvP expert.
The game that’s really captured me right now is style="font-style: italic;">Dungeon Runners. I
love the sense of humor in the game, but I also love the fact that I
can play the game with my kids sitting on my lap while their grandpa is
logged in and playing with me.
What’s interesting about MMOs is this constant focus by the
media on the core customers, but there’s an aspect of MMOs
that’s like playing a pick-up game of basketball on the
playground. You may never see those people again, but there’s
a certain sense of camaraderie and etiquette to that that hardcore
gamers just don’t get.
There’s a big opportunity there in the market, and I
don’t feel like we spend enough time thinking about that
Ten Ton Hammer: So you
want to attract a more casual breed of gamer on top of that core
audience? Or maybe you’re looking for the hardcore gamer that
wants something a bit more casual?
although I do have a hard time with the word
“casual” because I’ve seen people play
these “casual” games – like style="font-style: italic;">Bejeweled
– and at the end of the day they exhibit a lot of behaviors
that look like a core gamer. They spend an enormous amount of time and
associate themselves with the hobby of gaming and the games they play
at a very core level of their own identity. At times they’ll
spend a lot of money on these properties.
It was astonishing when I was working at Microsoft and we were
launching the games like Bejeweled where we would have these 50 year
old women throwing out $20 for a downloadable game. It’s an
extremely vibrant business.
Are there people that are casual gamers? It depends on what you mean.
Do you mean the casual genre, or a casual behavior? There’s
certainly a question around the psychographic analysis of a person who
isn’t as engaged in the hobby as the core gamer that we have,
but there’s also the casual genre and business model that are
Casual is a very broad word, especially in this business.
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