David Miller has worked in and around the video games industry for over 25 years. He started out in marketing, launching AAA PC and console games for Virgin, EA and Capcom and then held some more entrepreneurial roles across in-game advertising, mobile and cloud gaming.
David is currently the Head of Games for the international children’s charity War Child where his job is to create innovative partnerships with studios and consumers, to raise money for their cause – protecting the rights of children caught up in conflict.
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?
In my time I have certainly witnessed an incredible amount of change across all sectors of the industry: digital distribution, influencers, and performance marketing, free to play, games as a service… but one trend that has continued to fascinate me has been the development cycle.
The 90s were characterized by growth in budgets, scale and scope, and dev teams grew exponentially as a result (and to try to compete). That continued through the 00s, but with the rise of middleware platforms and development tools, empowered by digital distribution, the second wave of indie gaming brought a new democracy to development and opened the floodgates for aspiring developers everywhere.
I love the fact that anyone with a great idea and some relatively modest skills can create games and experiences that can be enjoyed by millions of people around the world – and big publishers and platform holders are no longer the only gatekeepers to interactive entertainment! Of course, the downside to this is discovery, but that’s the price of this new era.
Which key learnings in marketing can other industries draw from the games industry?
Community, in all its forms. The relationship between the developer and the fan or customer is stronger in gaming than any other form of entertainment, including music and film. Games companies have done a terrific job of developing a conversation with their fans. It’s hard work but, done correctly, can reap huge rewards.
Who are your role models in the industry? Is there anybody? And if so why?
I have been really blessed in my career to have had some brilliant bosses. My first break was working for Sean Brennan and Simon Jeffery at Virgin in the 90s. Sean and Simon were like the perfect mentors – in terms of brains, creativity, and drive.
My current CEO is an amazing guy called Rob Williams. He has been working for NGOs around the world for 35+ years and is one of the nicest, most passionate, and inspiring people I have had the pleasure to work with.
Finally, I must give a special mention to my wife, the amazing Caroline Miller, the founder of (leading comms agency) Indigo Pearl. For 20+ years, Caroline has lived her company values: Work Hard, Be Nice. She is an inspiration!
How did the marketing & promotion of games change in recent years? Where are we headed in games marketing in the next years to come?
Well, discovery and influencer marketing are the obvious paradigm shifts, compared to how we used to market games when I started out. But I think we have all said and heard enough of that by now! In terms of the future, I guess we need to keep thinking about how new technologies are going to influence our day – by which I mean screen technology, the internet of things, autonomous cars and other new vanguards that are going to hit us hard in the next 10-20 years. Our consumption of games and content generally is going to be impacted, and the key will be adapting our marketing to keep it present – and relevant – to our audiences.
Which social media channels do you see as key for the games industry?
I think that Twitter and Discord will be the dominant channels for the short- to mid-term.
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?
That is a big challenge. The winners will have experts in place, with knowledge, tools and funds to hand.
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?
PR has changed massively, but it is still the key to a successful launch. The consumer is smart and knows the difference between paid, owned and earned. For the PR professional, the challenge will be to remain authentic in all areas of the comms cycle, across every channel.
Bonus question: Which project / topic in your job were you particularly proud of?
I can honestly say that my current job – working together with the games industry to raise money for children in war zones – is not only the best job I have had, but it is the one I am most proud of. I launched multi-million-unit selling games, worked for the biggest and best studios and publishers, but now I get to work with people like Rob and the rest of the amazing people at War Child – and that wins hands down.
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