Entrepreneur and founder Hendrik Lesser is the CEO of the international production house remote control productions. After starting out more than 20 years ago in the industry, he has been building a family of independent development studios throughout Europe and beyond, which today consists of 11 teams in four countries with more than 250 passionate game makers. Besides his commercial roles, he’s an avid ambassador and lecturer to bring games as culture technique forward, for example by being President of the “European Games Developer Federation” (EGDF) or as MD and board member for the Bavarian games industry association “Games Bavaria Munich”.
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?
The industry is much more diverse – in people, companies, which countries play a role, business models and content itself. That’s great. What currently bothers me is how quickly and often a new trend is getting hot. Currently NFT, before that VR, esports etc. That’s partly good and well, but sometimes also silly and brings negative side effects with it (like unhappy investors for example).
Which key learnings in marketing can other industries draw from the games industry?
Stop thinking solely as a marketer and start thinking as a community builder. Gaming has realized much earlier than most that loyal customers also want to communicate with each other and with you and create a shared narrative/experience. Whether it’s “participating” in the game through Early Access with input and feedback – or in the game itself or as a creator of user-generated-content, etc. – it’s important to do that.
Who are your role models in the industry? Is there anybody? And if so why?
I thought Richard Garriot as Lord British was cool when I was younger. I wanted that too: to be in the game itself. Now I’ve known him for a while and I’m older. But all jokes aside, there are very few role models in gaming for me, because we’re still building this industry and I’m looking at completely different role models from history, or just want to get the best out of myself – so I’m holding my “best version of myself” as a mirror for myself.
How did the marketing & promotion of games change in recent years? Where are we headed in games marketing in the next years to come?
Gaming is everywhere now. Whether it’s a GTA/CoD etc. billboarding entire house walls or indie games running quick and crafty Discord servers, Fall Guys coming out ahead with a community Twitter dude, or mobile games spending billions on performance marketing. So based on your budget and target audience, it goes from punk rock to “I see Red Dead Redemption 2 everywhere”. Marketing will certainly become more diverse and even more targeted as well.
Which social media channels do you see as key for the games industry?
Facebook and LinkedIn especially for employer branding, a bit of Instagram for “I don’t really know” and TikTok when I don’t have a real budget for a release. Twitter is useful for certain topics, but mostly not so much for releases.
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?
Most of them can’t even think to afford the big influencers, or especially don’t want to take the risk. Micro-influencers are a very good alternative here. They are much cheaper and usually more responsive to content and potentially more sustainable partnerships. Ideally, the influencer grows with you and your game.
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?
In my opinion, classic PR has become more or less irrelevant in gaming. That’s been the case for quite a while. I think PR is moving with the times here and is more likely to create content that is then distributed “socially”. Or goes for niches and special interest – only in the rarest of cases can success on the market still be attributed to PR. This also has a lot to do with lost trust. It’s a bit different with special niches. If I do very targeted PR here, ideally working together with the outlets, then you can still achieve something.
Bonus question: Which project / topic in your job were you particularly proud of?
Getting a USK-16 rating for GTA 3 and Max Payne as an intern at Take2. That was particularly cool. And then a few years later, out of somewhat boredom, to make a multi-project deal with Ascaron and, as a producer, to have helped build Sacred into a worldwide brand. Without my initiative, that simply wouldn’t have happened. In that case, I learned that some things just don’t happen without you. And then doing Angry Birds Epic with my own company. The game design was completely ours and we wanted to make it a fantasy game, until Rovio called and said: ‘bad news is, we don’t want to do it that way – good news: Would you make your game with our IP?’. Of course that was an opportunity we jumped at, and 120 million downloads and very happy partners, players, and employees later, it was clear that I had probably produced one of the best games of my career.
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