Stephen Hey’s career spans nearly 30 years of games PR, advertising, marketing and latterly the role of marketing director at EA studio, Chillingo. Although Hey loves games, he is ‘terrible’ at them, but has a deep understanding of why people play games and what triggers people to buy them. He is lucky enough to have worked on some stand out games and franchises from Worms, Lego Star Wars, Resident Evil, Cut The Rope and Micro Machines to WWE, FIFA, PES and other acronym based classics. He now runs games marketing consultancy HeyStephenHey where his clients have included Red Bull, Merge, Milky Tea, Northern Ireland Screen, Ripstone and Wargaming.
Hey joins the speaker lineup for Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki Digital 2020 for a session titled ‘My Dream Pitch’.
Before the event takes place, we caught up with Hey to see what’s changed in the games industry since he joined, and what trends he expects to see over the next 12 months in the industry.
PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a bit about your company
I love my job because it's eclectic, exciting and I get to work with some tremendously talented people
Stephen Hey: HeyStephenHey works with developers and publishers to market games, publishers to find new games, and other companies wanting to learn more about the video games industry as well as mentoring developers and other marketing folk.
What does your role entail?
If I'm marketing a game it is putting together a go to market plan and then helping companies execute this to target the right people across the best channels. If I am mentoring then it's working with companies to make sure they build marketing into what they do at every stage of the development process. If I am working with companies on the edge or outside the industry it is often a case of helping them navigate the industry and bringing the weight of my years of experience to bear on the problems they have. I love my job because it's eclectic, exciting and I get to work with some tremendously talented people.
Why did you want to work in the games industry?
I didn't have ambitions to work in the industry but I did fall into it after working for a few months in a PR agency. Now, I can't think of anything I'd rather do - I love the medium of games passionately. I am terrible at playing most games, but it doesn't stop me loving them.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into it?
Embrace it, love it, read about it, listen to podcasts, be passionate. Specialise but also be aware that there are so many roles in the games industry aside from just developing games so keep an open mind and if you get the slightest chance to get in, cease it, even if the role might not be ideal. Once you are in it is easier to move around. Also, keep track of events you can attend such as Colin Macdonald's 'Games Jobs Live' series (sign up for news here.
What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?
To me the innovation is not in the game content but in how the industry is reinventing ways to market
I think we are starting to make some real progress towards representation and diversity - we have a long way to go, but it's great to see that we are moving in the right direction. COVID-19 has made people think differently about working and events and I think this brings benefits - it gives accessibility to positions that perhaps would not have been possible without the mass adoption of home working that this blasted virus has caused. Also, games have shown itself to be a very robust industry in the face of this, this means we are even more attractive to investment. So maybe there is some slight silver lining to what has been a very grim year for many.
What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?
Obviously we've been obsessed with the 'next generation' but to me the innovation is not in the game content (as each 'reveal' of the latest franchise footage just reminds me of the last generation events) but in how the industry is reinventing ways to market. From Cloud Imperium creating a powerfully committed active community that is helping to create worlds in Star Citizen, to Microsoft delivering new models to consume games - I think the real innovation will be taking place outside of games.
How has the games industry changed since you first started?
In some ways hugely, in others, not at all. The big change is that games used to be this novelty amusement even for quite committed gamers. However, now it is an accepted social activity which brings people together and has become a part of the cultural landscape alongside cinema, theatre, TV, etc. And then you have charities like SpecialEffect, who are doing wonderful things with games that change people's lives. Games are no novelty any more.
Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?
There are some excellent speakers so I will be looking forward to learning from their experiences. However, I can't wait to reveal my genius game idea to the world with my pretend pitch deck.