Finding business acclaim early, Trip Hawkins, founder and first CEO of Electronic Arts (EA) has been featured in every major media outlet. This includes the rare distinction as one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” while also being crowned “King of the Nerds” by The Economist. A CEO for 33 years in four global companies, and an advisor to many other CEOs, Trip believes that success is only in part about how far we rise. The principles he practices and teaches today, which include strategies for financial gain—also address living with happiness, purpose and meaning while overcoming setbacks with grace, wisdom and tenacity.
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?
It’s a mass market social phenomenon at last! In the early days Atari had imploded and the media had declared video games to be DOA. It shifted to computers and became an expensive, nerdy hobby. Nobody in the business world thought it would go anywhere and yet I believed it would become a mass market. But they were all so skeptical that I found myself saying, “in fifty years all the people that don’t play games will be dead”. We’re almost there! What bothers me is the messed-up value chains, born by Nintendo, where we now have walled garden games sitting on top of walled garden platforms with 30% tax rates, and players are expected to put money in with no way to get it back out. I believe this is going to change, a lot, in the coming years.
Which key learnings in marketing can other industries draw from the games industry?
Social value, interactivity and celebrity entertainment are fundamental marketing efficiencies that reduce UA cost.
Who are your role models in the industry?
I especially admire Tencent as the rare case of a big company that innovates regularly and can make disruptive products. Personally, I am a big fan of Gabe Newell from Valve, Tim Sweeney of Epic, the streamer Ninja, and my former colleague, Ilkka Paananen.
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?
With tens of millions of apps, games and websites, there is no longer marketing value in storefronts – especially if they carry a 30% tax – and it is entirely on the backs of the developers and publishers to drive traffic to discover their games.
Which social media channels do you see as key for the games industry?
Any and all of them! Ironically, the biggest games themselves are marketing beasts as they have become vertical social media platforms, notably Fortnite and Roblox, the early contenders for the metaverse.
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?
I’m helping DMarket.com pioneer in this area with game-related NFTs, because streamers lack power and rewards in the current value chain.
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?
Legit journalism has diminished, sadly. But in the digital world we can make our own noise; and when we have a great news story, some real journalists will want to write about it.
Bonus question: Which project / topic in your career are you particularly proud of?
I have always loved helping people and lifting the underdogs.
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