Infusio, game community management & the importance of user experience

In today’s times of CRM & ERP, the term GCM or game community management shouldn’t come as a surprise. The term User Experience of course need’s no explanation. But the fact that major Mobile technology and solutions companies are now actually building business models around this is an interesting development indeed! Gone are the days when playing a game was an isolated activity. Gaming today has much more to offer, Multi Player, Massively Multi Player, Massively Multi Player Role Playing Games and so on. A gamer today can compete with friends and strangers. He can submit his scores for everyone to see and envy. He can taunt, chat and interact with fellow players. It is becoming a social thing. The social element getting into gaming augurs well for India, because that helps make it a more of a cultural fit, Indians are a social lot. The other aspect to this is related to the Mobile gaming platform. Again the mobile primarily being a communication tool, features like community and connectivity are inherent to it. The second post lunch session on Day 2 was an interesting presentation by Infusio Asia VP Chris Boden. The presentation amongst many things focused on User experience and Game Community management. “There is a lot of talk of growth but no real evidence. The south east Asia numbers especially are very small. A change of approach is needed to achieve some good potential” began Chris. “There are willing buyers and willing sellers, both struggling to transact” he continued. Stressing on the need to focus majorly on issues such as the user experience and managing him throughout his life cycle, Boden listed some points – The Discovery process has to become much easier – Pamphlets and brochures should be given out along with handsets and sim card packs cataloguing and explaining various games and how they can be played. – Games need to be treated on their merit – There has to be a long tail (Which means that a lot of under served niches need to be addressed) – The ideal model should not be like traditional retail, but like online retail. There should be no shelf space constraints Personalisation of the UI Boden also stressed on Personalisation At Infusio, we have developed systems wherein each users history is analysed and the game deck is personalised according to his preferences. Next Chris elaborated on EGE, the latest game and entertainment management engine developed by Infusio. “4 years ago we developed EXEN the predecessor of EGE. Back then the initial versions of Java were not designed or did not have specific tools for mobile gaming community building. We at Infusio developed a platform which allowed connected mobile gaming. We believe that connectivity is key to community” he said. Prophesising about the future Boden then pointed out future trends, all of which EGE was equipped to handle – 3D & Multiplayer – Social MMORPGs – Microbilling – Web to wireless – Video Incorporated into games Following is an Animation ‘xpress exclusive Q&A with Chris Boden What is EGE? We are aware that the real value is in the player than in the content and therefore we have a major focus on the player community and we have developed expertise in managing mobile gaming communities. Carriers contract Infusio to manage its game communities. We then create the ecosystem for them. EGE is a solution developed specifically for that. It is a set of gaming APIs that run on top of Java’s MIPD2.0, (standards based). What we have done is created APIs that allow developers to enhance functionality of their game and take advantage of the features that address the shortcomings of the current gaming environment. What are its major features? Discovery is a major issue, to address this EGE is embedded in the handsets, with 1 click the user can access the game deck. Of 30 million handsets that have EXEN embedded , 60% have registered for the game service. User Experience – To enhance user experience we have an offline catalogue which is loaded with a list of games and users can select and then get online. Initially users are given standard catalogues, but within 2-3 sessions we keep a complete track of usage history and behavior and based on it we customize the catalogues for each individual user. Marketing & Viral Capabilities – Features like send a game to a friend (trial version) Recommend to a friend Inbox within the game deck Try & Buy – Upgrade the trial to complete with 1 click (Hacking proof & DRM enabled) SVG, FLASH & 3D Game engines For developers who want to take advantage of features like flash banners for opening sequence or cut scenes. Community features – We have developed a range of features for ExEn – In order to have a community you need 2 way streams. We use SMS as a communication tool between the ExEn/EGE manager and the players, seamlessly sending binary SMS scores from our server to the consumer. This was developed when there was no GPRS, EGE is now compatible with both SMS & GPRS Multiplayer lobby, Interactivity between players and so on. Ranking & Rating of games – Players rank the games, For games yet not ranked or rated we rate them ourselves The idea of this is we are able to have a 2 way interface – CRM & Data Mining. Providing better services and player management. Operational value – Enhances the lifetime value of a game consumer & also helps in retention which is a major issue with carriers who face an incredible amount of churn. Which are the geographies that you operate in? Global HQ in Bordeaux, France. Top 3 player in Europe. A leader in China with over 40 people in Shanghai. Rising challenger in USA and Sth America. Strong presence in South Asia, based out of Singapore. How many game communities does Infusio manage and for which carriers? We manage game channels for 9 of the major operators in Europe. Also EGE has been adopted as a standard for the Orange Group. Which carriers and handset mfgs are you working with in India? Or are you working with any of the Indian game publishers? We are working with the likes of Airtel, Tata, Reliance, Indiagames, Yahoo. Do Airtel and the other Indian carriers have game community management? If not then what sort of role does Infusio play here with Indian players ? No, currently there is no real community management in India. In-Fusio hopes to play a role here in the future. What we are providing for the partners I mentioned, are our award winning games. These include Age of Empires, Midtown Madness, Zoo Tycoon 2, B Tour de France, South Park and Ice Age to name a few. Parting shot for our Indian readers Keep an eye out for the release of some our exciting upcoming titles – for the first time on Mobile, widely regarded as one of the depest games yet released on mobile. Upcoming titles including Neopets and Rambo. connect@animationxpress.com