Interview: TIGA Casual Games Committee

Interview: TIGA Casual Games Committee
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

March 30th 2011 at 3:00PM

Mike Hawkyard breaks down what this new committee means for UK devs

Casual games creators will now be represented by UK trade body TIGA.

TIGA announced the expansion of their games industry remit with the formation of a ‘Casual Games Committee’.

This committee, currently chaired by Mike Hawkyard, who is co-founder of 4T2, an award-winning agency specialising in online games for children, has been set up to ensure UK games producers can maximise commercial opportunities, through advice, networking and marketing support.

The premier meeting of the committee is scheduled for May 13th, and a number of influential parties are confirmed to be attending, including the BBC, Microsoft and Playdom.

Ahead of the launch, Develop contacted Hawkyard to learn more about how the committee will benefit developers, what they hope to achieve and where TIGA see casual games as part of the games business.

Is the games industry in transition as far as casual games are concerned?
Without doubt, there will always be a small number of key titles such as FIFA, Call of Duty, Gears of War and Mass Effect that are responsible for a huge percentage of the overall revenue, PR and marketing in this industry. But the concept of walking to a shop (or more likely a supermarket in the near future), handing over cash and purchasing a complete game experience, may soon only exist for these few prestigious titles.

In my opinion, the majority of games will instead be commercialised via microtransactions, alternative payment methods, advertising / sponsorship, subscription or a high volume / low cost model. In all but the last example, the game could be free at first. Once you are hooked, you can frequently pay to access additional content, should you require it.

This trend has been driven by three key factors:

1. Social games took advantage of relatively new communication channels to rapidly increase their spread and adjusted their content to suit the media. ‘Short and frequent’ (as opposed to ‘long and late’) gameplay sessions were adopted by a much wider audience to suit their busy lifestyles.

2. The iPhone and App Store was the first cost effective, simple and reliable route to globally monetising casual games on a mobile device. Mobile gaming is also suited to short play sessions with rapid gaming gratification. Thus suitable content rapidly improved in quality due to increased competition driving the need for innovation.

3. Spare cash? Free time? These terms were last heard in 2006 and are now only found in history books. Fast and cheap is the obvious way forward.

Therefore, the casual games section of the industry was and is ideally placed to take full advantage of this evolution. The games they produce have always focused on compelling and addictive gameplay. They already have access to low cost marketing and global distribution channels. The freemium business model is at the root of all things casual. This market is expanding at an amazing pace. You’d be a brave person to open a new console game company today, whereas casual game companies are forming all the time.

Your background is in online games for children. Why did you feel ready to lead this new TIGA ‘casual games committee’?
4T2 specialised in children’s brands because that market saw the benefits of casual games before any other. Thus the sector is already mature and there are global pitch opportunities and substantial budgets available. Over the last three years, this has seen us pitted against the very best game developers in Argentina, Spain, France, Canada, Australia and the US. Therefore I know the challenges many UK game companies will be facing in the immediate future, when other market sectors inevitably reach the same level of maturity.

I passionately believe that UK casual gaming companies needs to help support each other and position themselves distinctively compared to our overseas competitors. If we fail to do this, despite the amazing opportunities in front of us all currently, some development companies will fail. TIGA’s vision is to make the UK the best place in the world to do games business. It is relentless in fighting for the interests of the UK video games industry. I am delighted to work with TIGA to power the UK casual games industry ahead. With the combined support from companies like Kempt, Kerb, Matmi, Mo Pay, Neon Play, Playniac, Preloaded and Stick Sports, I am very confident we can succeed. I hope that more casual game developers will join TIGA over the months ahead.

How will you judge the initiatives success and what do you hope to achieve?
Currently I’m reaching out to companies in this market and asking them to consider joining TIGA. If you work for such a company, or a company in an associated business, please email me at mike@tiga.org.

We’ve already got enough members to start talking seriously about what we could achieve together and I’ll be organising a meeting to do just that in the immediate future. I see my role as making sure whatever actions are agreed during that meeting being both achievable and acted upon. I’ve been to many similar events in the past that are all talk, no action. They frustrate me. This will not be the case here. TIGA delivers results.

I can also help introduce our members to many new opportunities and contacts as business development is my personal skill set. Richard Wilson, Vanessa Joyce, Lorna Evans and the rest of the TIGA team each have their own distinct strengths that can support our members on many other fronts.

Our official launch event takes place on May 13th. Already people from the BBC, BBC Worldwide, Microsoft, Playdom and RIM have agreed to give presentations. It’s going to be a very interesting afternoon.