New COO Kevin Dent on how P4RC is building the best loyalty scheme for mobile gamers
Creating retention and monetisation for developers
Outspoken, freewheeling game consultant Kevin Dent has finally got a regular job. Not - as he argues - because he needed one, but because he wanted one.
The target of his affections - at least after winning $50 of Starbucks vouchers researching its real rewards/mobile engagement platform - is US start up P4RC (pronounced 'park').
"I think they hate me already," he says, after a couple of weeks in position as COO.
"I hope in a good way."
Pocket Gamer: You've been a consultant for a while so why is now the time to join a company, and why P4RC?
Kevin Dent: I decided I hate money and a regular sleep pattern!
When I first started Tiswaz, I labeled myself as a consultant. What I did not realise was that in America that translates to "please give me a job".
My job prior to that was at Hands-On Mobile, which was just a terrible experience. I always felt it had great staff, but not so much on the management side. I decided to leave six months into my job after having to explain to the guy that would eventually become CEO that Final Fantasy was a game.
So I swore off taking a job from that point onwards. I had sold a few companies so I certainly could take 10 years off without breaking a sweat. I intended to keep it like that for a long time.
I was lucky in that I had a mid-six figure income and a knack for fixing problems. I discovered I was incredibly good at it, so when the team at P4RC reached out to me, I said "No".
They reached out again and I said "Maybe".
During my due diligence [on the company] I managed to accumulate enough points to buy $50 worth of Starbucks cards. So I was in a Starbucks with a developer friend and said "My treat". He asked me if I got a gift...
Long story short, that evening he called me and said "Take the job". The integration took him 48 minutes and he loved how P4RC lifted the game experience.
The next day, I called the CEO Jason and said that I was in if I could raise the money needed.
We raised a significant amount of capital in a three week period and added Michael Pachter and Jeff Lapin to the board. Both of these guys are legends in the space. Michael's job is to focus on business models and the investment community. Jeff has been an investor for a long time, but has been in video game publishing for three decades. Both men are wonderful.
I have done a lot of capital raises over the years and this one was pretty awesome. That said, we will not be announcing how much we raised for the simple reason that it's always been a pet hate of mine. Announcing to the market how much money you got weakens your strategic positioning and is adds zero value to developers and gamers.
Just to be super clear, I will never do anything that does not directly benefit developers and gamers. If I benefit as a byproduct of them succeeding; great- I did my job!
There are a lot of real rewards outfits so why do you think P4RC has the dukes to succeed?
But are there really? I know that there are a lot of firms out there that want to shove a bag of chips, dip and coffee in your face...
P4RC is about three pillars: rewarding people for playing; democratic rewards where the gamer gets to choose which reward they have; and being as unintrusive as possible to the gaming experience.
You never have to leave the experience, your points are added as you go along, which drives me crazy when I see other solutions. There is nothing wrong with chips, dip or coffee; but the person has to actually want them.
My other issue with those types of platforms is that they cherish 'moments'. We reward all time spent playing.
Mobile is 100 percent about immediacy: immediately finishing a game because you are getting called into the doctor's office etc. Who has time for 'moments'? We will have moments too, but the gamer gets rewarded regardless of whether they hit that achievement.
So, yes, I think we have the ideas that are smart enough to win in this space. If we don't it's because I failed the developer community and I don't plan on failing the development community.
In terms of being COO, what's your day-to-day role?
Initially I wanted my title to be Chief Mayhem Officer. I am already annoying the hell out of my fellow executives.
If sometime isn't perfect in my eyes, no-one see's it. I found a bug in our Unity plug-in and it took us four weeks to recreate it. I am sure the guys wanted to kill me, but if it isn't perfect, it doesn't ship.
I am pretty focused on roadmap and developers/publishers; making sure that we are delivering actual value and not just paying lip service.
In terms of growth, I don't plan to make specific announcements about titles unless developers ask me to - again, my job is to elevate the content, not P4RC - but in the short time that I have been here (a few weeks), we have seen our developer sign up go from three titles per month to 65 titles per week. I expect us to grow aggressively for the next 24 months.
The reason behind this growth is due to the team. Our CTO Armando Pena worked at the Jet Propulsion Lab at the California Institute of Technology. He is literally a rocket scientist. Our CEO Jason Seldon has one of the best finance and operational minds I have been lucky enough to come across.
But ultimately it will come down to the fact that a lot of the team know the feeling of staring at a build and thinking "Wow, I made the worst game ever". Yes guys. We all have this thought from time to time, it means you care. Few of the other platforms really have that passion for video games and we plan to demonstrate that with P4RC.
What are the key issues facing developers that P4RC will help solve?
The current mobile gaming market is fundamentally broken: incentivised downloads simply do not work.
The truth is that I would prefer to have 10 people playing my game than 1,000 people combined spending the same time playing my game as those 10. I have seen the price per download exceed $8, which is stupid. Developers are wasting their money. It makes zero sense.
This should be every developers mantra "If they are not playing, they are not paying".
We have hard data from before and after that demonstrate that we convert 17.3 percent of gamers into P4RC users, and their average session time increases by over 370 percent; not "up to", not "sometimes" but "on average".
P4RC allows you to achieve this by getting players playing, keeping them playing, and as a byproduct the developer can organically monetise that increased engagement.
The key word is Organically.
Gamers are getting wise to developers sticking their hands in their wallets too early. My message to developers is to date the gamer before you propose marriage.
You will see what I mean with my first best practices game Tap Rocket, which will be launching soon.
With the closure of OpenFeint , do you think developers really care that much about social gaming any more?
I want to be super clear on this, we are not a social platform. We have co-op modes such as Race2Win, in which you and your friends can group together to win Xboxes, iPads etc, but we are not trying to be an OpenFeint, DeNA or GREE.
If those guys want to go after that [social] market, fair enough. We may even support them.
Do you think additional revenue is a big enough reason for developers to use P4RC?
If a developer's only reason to use P4RC is for additional revenue, well then - gun-to-foot time - I don't want their business.
We are doing this to create a better gaming experience, to reward gamers with rewards that they choose, that they want. I want to create an air miles loyalty program for video games.
I want to reward them because of the emotions they fill me with when they play one of my games. I cannot describe the utopian feeling of joy I get from a single person enjoying something that I was part of making! How great is that?
In terms of how the company operates, should it be viewed as a consumer-facing outfit or a b2b one?
Both actually! The consumer interfaces with us, but the developer owns the in-game data.
That data feedback will tell developers at which point the gamer was turned off etc and how many points their gamers accumulated at the end of everyday - real time is on the roadmap - so they can improve the gaming experience.
Finally, what should we expect next from the Dent-fueled P4RC?
My PR handler said "No, Kevin. You should definitely not say "Whiskey, smoking and fast women…." So let's just keep that between me and the PG.Biz community...
I suppose the official response should be this: I want to make games better. I want to P4RC to be in the pockets of my customers.
Team P4RC is embarking on a wonderful adventure and yes, we may fail. But if we do, it will be doing the right thing and focusing on elevating gamers and game developers.
Use our platform. The solution takes 45 minutes to integrate. I can do it in 35 minutes. See if it is for you and if it isn't, dump us. If we ever lie to you, dump us. If we ever fail to meet your expectations, dump us.
Thanks to Kevin for his time.
You can check out P4RC's news and SDK here.
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