Interview: Glu Mobile's Jill Braff on Mobile Licenses
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when virtually any property could have its mobile rights snapped up, no matter how strange the license seemed. In this exclusive interview Modojo speaks with Glu Mobile's Jill Braff about why this trend is fadin
Mobile game licenses run the gamut from the inspired (Zuma), to the
questionable (Brady Bunch Kung-Fu), to the downright right weird (Pamela Anderson - Exposed!). It's certainly true that a good license does not a good game make (and vice versa), but there are still some TV and film licenses that are better left unexploited by the interactive entertainment medium.
A few months in to 2006 has shown the mobile market begin to shift away from its previous wide-open stance. Carriers are beginning to change their "more is better" stance, and publishers are shifting more towards a hit-driven market, not unlike that seen in the console space. It's (thankfully) becoming more and more difficult for a company to release poor mobile games with recognizable licenses and remain afloat over the long term.
Modojo spoke with Glu Mobile's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing and North American GM Jill Braff about the mobile industry's shifting license scene, and how Glu markets their multiple types of licensed mobile titles.
Carriers Now Gatekeeping
As the content available on carriers' decks continues to evolve and mature, mobile publishers have begun to experience more and more resistance in the approval process. Essentially, some much-needed standards are now being developed.
"We're seeing less strange licensed titles because carriers have begun to put a yellow or red light on some of that," Braff explained. "The license itself is no longer enough to work- quality and the execution of that brand are now much more important. Carriers are more and more focused on making less games of a higher quality available on their decks."
Expanding Console Licenses
It often seems to Modojo that the common practice of a mobile company acquiring the mobile rights to popular a console title doesn't make a lot of sense. Hardcore gamers aren't too interested in the mobile title, because they can experience the console release. Casual mobile gamers aren't too interested because to them that console license is meaningless. Braff explained that these types of licenses provide Glu with their own unique value, however.
"One big example is our Driv3r title. That licenses provided us with significant brand equity, particularly overseas in Europe, where [console Driv3r developer] Reflections is based," she explained. "These types of licenses give your title an instant fanbase. If even a small percentage of Driv3r's fans are interested in the mobile release, that can add up to significant mobile downloads.
Additionally, releasing a mobile SKU of a console title allows for heavy marketing piggybacking, allowing for significantly more mobile attention than would have been possible.
"In the case of Marc Ecko's Getting Up, the mobile title launched well ahead of the console release, because it [the console version] was pushed back," Braff said. "Now that the game is being released next week, we're seeing a big rebirth in our title. We're tagged in all of the game's TV and print ads, creating a lot of new exposure."
Original IP in the Mobile Landscape
So with carriers now allowing less arbitrary licensed titles onto their decks, does that endanger the release of original mobile IPs? Such titles are already at a disadvantage thanks to the inherent "casualness" of the market- there's are essentially no hardcore mobile gamers to evangelize the good mobile games that don't have a license behind them, like there are in the console space.
"It basically comes down to publisher credibility," Braff said. "When we want to get an original IP out there we have to show the carrier that the game is great, and that its something we're going to put a lot of weight behind it so it doesn't just sit on the deck taking up space. It also helps if an original title fills a hole on a carrier's deck by providing new a new gameplay genre."
"A general rule of thumb for Glu has been to release about one original IP a quarter. That allows us to give it the attention in needs to survive in the license-dominated landscape."