Part 2 – Player X MD Tony Pearce

Here, we look at what’s next for Player X – and why Pearce believes games aren’t enough to sustain mobile content providers.

According to Tony Pearce, Player X is now expanding beyond mobile, and planning a variety of mobile video and TV offerings, ranging from clips of Premiership football matches through to a mobile TV channel streaming a variety of short films, visual gags and other YouTube style content. So does Pearce see Player X now as a media company, rather than a games company?

“That’s exactly what we are, frankly,” he responds. “We’re a media company, and that’s the whole concept of Player X. Games, initially, are where the revenue is – that was our background, so we started off with games.

“But we will follow what the customers want, and you can’t just stick with games any more. You have to offer new and exciting content, to the public and to the operators, and video, mobile TV – that’s exciting.”

Controversially, Pearce argues that it’s vital to diversify into this new field – because mobile gaming, he believes, is restricted in the market it can reach.

“People who download games are gamers,” he says. “They’re people who enjoy playing games, and that’s not mass-market, because the phone isn’t a game device. A phone is a phone.

“Everyone knows what video and TV is, though, and if the customer experience is good – and it’s getting much better, as broadband becomes more common – so it will become more mass market.

“A content provider has to start looking at new content, and new ways to deliver content – and that’s why we’ve spent so much time and effort building up a video catalogue, even though games are 90 per cent of our revenue today.

“We’re looking two years ahead and what we’re doing is establishing Player X now, as a more serious player in video. We’ve set the groundwork, the concrete is in place – and we’re going to be pushing three or more TV channels out there, because people will regard us as a company that has done it before and are an established player.”

However, Pearce does concede that for now, games are the most important part of Player X’s business – and that while it may be a very exciting sector, mobile video is still in its infancy.

“The video market is a long-term investment,” he admits. “It’s not a risky market, because we’re already seeing good downloads on it, but we still need games to be the cash cow.

“That’s why the games division is still very strong for us – we’re still licensing new content, and our 2007 games schedule is awesome. It’s better than anything I’ve seen out there. We’re focusing on a lot of casual style games, like TV games – Family Fortunes, The Price Is Right – really mass-market brands.

“As I said before, given the audience – the people who download games – typically if you see videogame brands, they go onto the decks and they’re gone again in a month’s time, because only the gamers recognise it.

“Really, the people you want to hit are the people who go to the games menu and recognise Monopoly. They recognise Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, they recognise Family Fortunes – and that’s why they continually sell well, because they’re evergreen brands and people know how to play them.

“Our focus is to really look at brands that have longevity, and are well known and established in their own right. We have done some real videogame brands, but unless you put some marketing behind it and unless people are aware of it on the deck… Well, they’ll always just go for Tetris.”

Which is, we argue, a contradiction with what he just said – after all, isn’t Tetris itself a videogame brand?

“Yeah,” Pearce replies, “but it’s a casual game. It’s more than a videogame brand – it’s become a game in its own right, and it’s across many mediums. I’d say a videogame brand is something like Splinter Cell, that kind of stuff. A lot of people with phones in their pockets aren’t gamers, and wouldn’t have a clue what Splinter Cell was, but will recognise Tetris, Monopoly and stuff like that.

“Another issue with videogame brands is that the customer is probably going to be disappointed in the quality. In a way, I respect the fact that Grand Theft Auto hasn’t been launched on mobile yet – because today, it wouldn’t do the game any justice.

“In the next two years, when you get a really good quality handset coming out – and they’re starting to come out now – then you can start doing conversions between a game console and a phone that won’t harm the license. But at the moment, I think it could be dangerous to the brand, actually.”