David Clark has run his own consultancy business ‘Cuba Entertainment’ for some 13 years. He joined the video games industry way back in 1992 as Trade Marketing Manager at Sega UK. The first game he worked on was the launch of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. He held a number of sales and marketing roles at Sega before joining SCi Entertainment, initially as their International Sales Manager. Then their Marketing Director. SCi went on to buy Eidos and David became their Marketing Director before moving to the US to become their VP of Business Development. When Eidos was sold to Square Enix, he came back to the UK and set up Cuba Entertainment – a business development consultancy. Since then, he had many roles and clients including being a founding Director of Green Man Gaming.
More recently, David is a co-founder of Arcus Key, a chinese based Marketing & PR agency specializing in promoting western games to chinese gamers. Additionally, he is in the process of putting together similar offerings for the japanese and indian markets.
You have been in the games industry for some time. And you have seen many trends come and go. From the beginning of your carrier to today: What has changed most positively in the industry and what bothers you about the current situation?
From a commercial point of view, it has never ceased to amaze me at how quickly and efficiently the industry adapts and evolves and remains relevant. The industry easily adopts new technologies, continues to move into new markets and provides opportunities for individuals around the world. But the number one thing that has kept me in the industry for as long as I have is that it is simply a great industry – I have made so many good friends around the world.
But for such a dynamic and leading-edge industry, we can be terribly conservative at times. But I guess my biggest criticism is that I read the same ‘video games are bad for you’ complaints in the press today that I heard back in 1992. I can’t help but feel that as an industry, we need to take our corporate social responsibilities a bit more seriously.
Which key learnings in marketing can other industries draw from the games industry?
This is a difficult one to answer simply because every industry has their own marketing dynamic. As video games are now primarily delivered digitally, it is now possible to run global marketing campaigns out of one central office. This is not feasible in many industries. That said, I think the video games industry has shown marketeers around the world how to run cost effective global campaigns.
Who are your role models in the industry? Is there anybody? And if so why?
When I first came into the industry, the Sega marketing team was led by Philip Ley and Simon Morris. The way they established the Sega brand in Europe was amazing.
Mike Sherlock (Sega) taught me so much about the commercial side of the business. Jane Cavanagh and Bill Ennis (SCi and Eidos) were both just thoroughly nice people and opened up many doors for me. The purchase of Eidos (10x their size) was the stuff of corporate takeover textbooks.
How did the marketing & promotion of Games change in recent years? Where are we headed in games marketing in the next years to come?
I am an old school marketer, and I often can’t help but think that the basic principles of marketing have been lost to the mathematics of cost of acquisition, DAUs etc.. Consequently, I think that the importance of brand marketing is being lost – it is something that cannot be measured, yet is vital to long term brand viability. Customers that buy our games are more than just a number.
Looking forward, I see the ever-growing importance of visual media to promote games (Twitch, YouTube, bilibili etc.). I also see the continued demise of regional marketing offices. Conversely, I see the growing important of the niche publishing strategy. Only the major publishers will be able to afford to market mass-market brands such as FIFA. All other publishers are going to have to target specific product niches – the audience size may be smaller, but as a niche, their propensity to purchase will be higher, conversion rates stronger and therefore marketing budgets more manageable.
Which social media channels do you see as key for the games industry?
The work I do in China has shown me that video platforms will continue to grow in importance – we are a visual medium after all. Technology has enabled marketeers to enter into direct conversation with target audiences, Discord being perhaps the best example. This has transformed engagement marketing in so many ways and these conversations will become ever more important for publishers.
About the current trend on Creators- and Influencer Marketing: The trend towards more micro and macro influencers with a smaller reach and less fans, but more authenticity and engagement: How can the games industry leverage that trend in your opinion?
Customer recommendation has always been the holy grail for brands. Throughout marketing history, unpaid customer recommendation has always carried way more weight than an advertising campaign because there is no vested interest. The focus on organic micro influencer coverage is simply an extension of this.
It is the old adage of ‘size is not important’ and publishers have woken up to the importance of these influencers and the role they play. Social media teams are spending increasing amounts of their time becoming ever more granular in their research into streamers knowing that in the long term, they carry far more weight than the big influencers can deliver. Furthermore, these micro-influencers can often become your advocates, something that is vital when dealing with negative issues.
The media landscape has changed massively in the last ten years. However, PR is still one of the most important communications tools in the games sector. Where do you see PR in the next five years, what will the challenges be?
Historically, PR campaigns backed up major advertising spends. Increasingly, this is being flipped and PR is indeed becoming the lead marketing activity. As mentioned previously, as the video games industry has become increasingly digital, PR campaigns have become increasingly global. The challenge will be maintaining the balance between global communications and local cultural relevance, especially in the Far East (China, Japan & South Korea).
Bonus question: Which project / topic in your job were you particularly proud of?
Easy – the launch of Sonic The Hedgehog 2. Everything about it was amazing.
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