David Perry started in Northern Ireland working on the Sinclair ZX81 (early 1980’s), he moved to England from high school, ending up with a #1 hit for Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles.
He made the Terminator game from the James Cameron movie, then moved to California to make games like Aladdin for Disney, Earthworm Jim, and the Matrix for Warner Brothers. Perry’s last company Gaikai was bought for nearly $400M by Sony PlayStation. He’s now on the board of Intellivision, developers of the new Amico Family console.
You have been in the games industry for some time. And you have seen many trends come and go. From the beginning of your career to today: What has changed most positively in the industry, and what bothers you about the current situation?
The worrying trend is that games get more and more complex to make, bigger teams, more expense, less risk possible. Then Steve Jobs delivers the iPhone, and suddenly people are coding in their bedrooms again. Then games get more complex, and engineers start working on sweat simulation on the brow of the basketball player, then Minecraft comes out and completely resets the understanding of how vital photo-realistic graphics are. It’s fascinating as the industry format keeps changing dramatically, but the core “is it fun” is all that matters, and no matter how crazy things get, that remains the true north. VR, AR & Cloud Gaming, the changes will never stop, so it’s best to enjoy the roller-coaster ride and keep focused on fun.
Which key learnings in marketing can other industries draw from the games industry?
Most industries don’t understand the power of play. Play is defined as “not boredom”. Interestingly, so many businesses are quite happy to bore you to death. Have you ever seen a form that amused you? Is buying a car a fun process? I think just about every business can learn from the games industry. The definition of a game is “What’s the challenge?” They could learn from that too.
Who are your role models in the industry?
Wow, there are a lot of them. Almost not fair to start the list. It would be 50+ people that I think are rock stars.
I was on the board of the game developers conference for ten years and the talent in the game industry continually impressed me, how friendly and open they were to share ideas. I remember seeing Peter Molyneux in a room and being stunned… It’s really him! There.
So, what happens when you get to speak to someone like that? Nicest guy ever. Welcome to the video game industry!
How did the marketing and promotion of games change in recent years? Where are we headed in games marketing in the next years to come?
I’m not a fan of the trend that there are fewer lead singers in the games industry. I loved the celebrity aspect and I think it’s good for the industry. Stan Lee (the creator of Spiderman) once asked me “Who is this guy?” when Kojima was surrounded by adoring fans. I feel the same way about Miyamoto. In movies, I love Spielberg, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron. Imagine books didn’t have an author on the cover, who would they interview on TV? The world is built for celebrity and the games industry could have many more rock stars. If I was Electronic Arts I’d be investing into being the place that those people want to work again. They used to have people like Will Wright, and he drew in so much talent.
Which social media channels do you see as key for the games industry?
All social media channels should be playing games by now. We put FIFA soccer playable from the Cloud on YouTube nine years ago!!! Why has this not happened yet? Really! We put Crysis on Facebook nine years ago. We had World of Warcraft on the iPad nine years ago. Things are moving way too slow. Why has nobody pitched TikTok a social game so their users can play together? The room for invention and opportunity remains massive.
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?
The biggest mistake with influencers is to think they are human billboards. They are often bigger brands than the game company trying to hire them! Their fans are fanatically loyal and know them intimately. The influencer can’t pretend to like a game, or play things that are clearly just putting $$$ in their pocket. The first trick is to get behind the influencers that are already big fans of your platform. The second trick is to ask yourself WHO follows this influencer. You’d be STUNNED to see how many times people hire a beautiful girl to sell bikinis when their audience is primarily male. They sell nothing. Trick #3 lets the content creator (influencer) do the creating, don’t tell them what to say and when to say it. They will love to work with your brand if you trust them.
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?
As I mentioned, if the industry becomes bland and there are almost no celebrities, I think PR will become a real problem. Who gives the keynote speeches at conferences? Who goes on the late-night talk shows? Who do you most want to interview on your streaming channel or podcast? Who do kids want autographs from? If you go to a Video Games Live concert, people will hang out for hours to get a Tommy Tallarico autograph, they LOVE connection to the industry they are so passionate about. So, I’m truly hoping that video game PR can get back to where it was 20 years ago. We need more video game TV shows too. 🙂
Bonus question: Which project / topic in your career are you particularly proud of?
The game I’m best known for is Earthworm Jim, it was the last game I programmed, so it’s a great memory. It’s the tip I give to all the young developers… make a funny game. There are enough shooters, it’s easier to stand out with something funny. Someday when I retire, I hope to make games again. That’s definitely when you are in the right job when you dream about doing it one day for free.
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