Wayne Gretzky (www.timelessquotes.com 4/10/06)
This quote identifies the most critical strategic consideration for Top Dollar Enterprises expansion into the eCommerce marketplace. By producing the most comprehensive on-line presence in the business, an eCommerce solution will propel this company profitably through the next transition of the gaming industry and beyond.
While the plan for design, development, implementation and marketing of a high-end web site might seem difficult or even unrealistic at the outset; proper planning, project management and a graduated implementation scale will produce a result which will meet the ongoing goals and objectives of this organization. Unrelenting support from all company assets will secure the competitive edge Top Dollar Enterprises will require to be a peer among industry leaders.
There are several well established models we can compare in assessing the requirements of this project: On-line giant Amazon, discount outlets such as Target and WalMart as well as specialty sites including GameSpot. Niche competitors like GameSpot have some (but not all) of the features in common that we will discuss. Popular examples include: Forums, where users discuss games, play, design and other subjects of interest;
Blogs, (an internet exclusive term) where industry professionals discuss current topics between themselves and the users; Cheats, special codes or tokens imbedded in the game program which give the avatar, etc. added abilities, advance the play beyond the current level or may allow the user access to formerly unknown and unadvertised levels of play; Links, to other areas and websites of interest, in addition to the various gaming consoles and software. These extra features are not found at Amazon, WalMart or Target Stores on-line.
The proposal set before you is unique in its scope. Five major objectives are outlined.
In the effort to keep up with the vast array of changes in the technology sector we must be ready to deliver the product that our customers will need.
These are predictions which take into account current trends in the Gaming Industry from one of the leading sources:
Overall hardware unit sales are predicted to grow 30% from 2006 to 2011. Most of that growth will be in handheld hardware, which has been tipped to grow 45% over the next cycle.
Software growth is predicted to go from $7.0 billion in 2005 to $10.0 billion in 2008. The analysts say that the sector as a whole should outperform broader market indices.
The introduction of PS3 and Revolution in the U.S. is pegged to be late 2006 with Sony introducing the rumored HD equipped PSP (presumably to tap into the iPod market) in mid-2006. (Piper Jaffray; http://www.next-gen.biz 09/30/05)
The next consumer product in software for gaming consoles will be downloads. Advancements in technology, micro memory storage and hard drive units, as well as the widespread use of broadband by consumers have overcome the obstacles to on demand software publishing. Existing sites selling cartridges or disks cannot easily expand to include this class of functionality. In addition to downloading the programs, there will be a need for either an eBook or separate document download with instructions for each program. As is usual with this sort of product, there will also be a need for broader Technical Support services.
Pro Active Liability Minimization
There are two problems facing the Video Game industry that should be examined here:
The first is unauthorized copy and distribution of proprietary software. Copy Right infringement is a serious problem for all media concerns worldwide. Top Dollar Enterprises should be informed and ready to implement any new technology that becomes available. In the interim, Registration Keys are common software theft deterrent devices. Use of a Registration Key is not foolproof, but is used industry wide and should be adequate for this purpose. A timed Registration Key is also available for subscription based services in addition to the other products we are able to make available to the consumer.
The second problem relates to the availability of mature and adult rated content to underage users. Several states and private litigants have, thus far, unsuccessfully tried to hold the game makers liable in these cases, but a new proposal has been put before the United States Senate:
Family Entertainment and Protection Act (FEPA)
Under the terms of FEPA, the federal government would enforce penalties of up to $5,000 against retailers convicted of selling Mature or Adults Only-rated games to minors; it also calls for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to find out whether theyve been properly rating games.
Whats alarming about this, in the eyes of video game activists and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) itself, is that this isnt a state bill. This is a federal bill thats being considered in the United States Senate. If its passed, it would impose regulations across all 50 states. (Peter Cohen; Macworld Game Room Weblog; http://www.macworld.com; March 15, 2006)
We can and must address this issue from the outset! The model proposed is one used successfully by both on-line casinos and adult pay sites. Adult pay sites require a validated credit card number, 3 digit code, expiration date and email address before they will send a password to access the site. Casinos use a similar, but more advanced system which is recommended here. In partnership with on-line banking establishments such as NeTeller and FirePay, the user sets up an online account which can be used at hundreds of merchant sites all over the world. A unique feature of on-line banking security measures is a timed verification questionnaire which is practically impossible to answer correctly unless you are the account holder.
In addition, a verbal verification with the account holder is conducted by phone (phone number and records matched), thus virtually eliminating the issues associated with stolen Credit Cards as well as under age use. This function will also allow concerned parents to set up a sub-account with funds and ratings limits, giving younger users a safe and appropriate gaming experience without direct parental supervision. Using these functions, the site can be designed from the outset with a teen and under section as well as password protected sectors for both mature and adult users.
In addition to the models listed in the earlier segment there are additional security measures available such as Authenticity Certificates, SSL (Secure Socket Layer) technology and 128 bit encryption. These once obscure protocols have enjoyed such success that eCommerce has been branded as a safe way to do business. Absolutely the best platforms and solutions will be used to insure a secure customer and product database as well as appropriate infrastructure and firewall protection.
The ability to implement this plan in stages as well as flexibility in an ever changing technology sector make the scalability of this venture crucial to its success. More detail will be discussed under the Implementation heading of this report.
In summation, this web site would be better described as a mega site! Purchases of both cassette or disk software and downloads will be available with a click of the mouse. A separate download section for mobile devices can exponentially increase the available products to be purchased.
The latest news, features and commentary will be available in the Blog section; users with questions or comments will be able to freely participate in the moderated Forum; an easy to use Cheats and Codes database will allow users to experience their game to its fullest value and a subscription service will be available for those who do not wish to purchase a permanent copy of the game. Other sections of the website will be devoted to free trials of available software; interactive story lines; promotions and other marketing collateral.
There are currently no eCommerce Gaming or Video distribution sites using the available solutions to eliminate underage users access to mature and adult content. This function alone would make Top Dollar Enterprises the preferred supplier of games and content among concerned parents, educators and special interest groups.
As the industry changes, the product will too. Instead of having to rebuild or redesign to accommodate the market, Top Dollar Enterprises will simply apply the latest technology and user products to its existing portal, preserving time, money and most importantly: Market Share.
Top Dollar Enterprises game design and marketing teams should be used extensively for this project. The website must incorporate a design which makes using most aspects of the site feel like playing their favorite game. Use of story boards will facilitate the communication process between designers and developers.
There are several outstanding web development companies available. The consultation, proposal and bid process should be undertaken immediately.
Expansion of the existing market and distribution network and facilities is highly recommended. Two examples which express the need as well as the challenges of expansion follow.
We believe that in order to increase our sales in Asia, we will need to devote significant resources to hire local development talent and expand our infrastructure, most notably, the expansion and creation of studio facilities to develop content locally for each market. In addition, we may establish online game marketing, publishing and distribution functions in China.
EA generated 47% of revenues from outside the US and I expect well see that number surpass 50% by 2007, depending on the success of this center. Game localization is not as simple as localizing a Web site. Many of the violent products that sell well in the US wont make it past the censors in Asian and European markets. Which means the product itself must be changed. (http://goingglobal.corante.com/archives/; Video Game Globalization; John Yunker; 12/06/05)
According to JBI Localization President Eliane Barth, the Halo 2 project involved more than 80,000 words of script, including a promotional trailer, and the recording of more than 30 actors reading the lines of the various characters. In one instance, Barth said, a last minute script change required that 14 actors be rounded up for a next-day recording session. The actors arrived at the studio on schedule and the work was completed that day. Altogether, JBI delivered more than 16,000 audio files, including processing. (JohnYunker; Video Game Globalization; http://goingglobal.corante.com/archives/; 12/06/05)
Consultation with a field expert commensurate with the first phase of eCommerce development should be a priority. The time allotted for development and implementation of the website should be used to ramp up production of localized deliverables, warehousing and shipping to ensure fast, efficient service once the site is launched.
Initial implementation should be undertaken by the same company which designs and develops the site. Once the site has been launched, another independent service provider would likely be better suited to take over day-to-day operations. Some crossover activities such as technical support will be needed during this phase. It is recommended that operations be outsourced for a period of at least one year, giving Top Dollar Enterprises time to plan, execute and staff a corporate division to support all aspects of eCommerce operations.
Technical expertise, hardware and hosting are aspects of this enterprise which should also be outsourced. Eventually, Top Dollar Enterprises may find it cost effective to physically manage and house the technical aspects of the operation; however, taking into consideration hardware obsolescence and product improvements in this area of technology, permanent outsourcing is recommended.
Many implementation issues will arise as all of the separate aspects of the project come together.
Marketing opportunities abound. Traditional strategies will be implemented in all available media as a complement to the ongoing strategy.
In the interest of brevity, we will examine non-traditional and industry specific marketing opportunities.
In Game Advertising and Partnerships
One of the newer and more controversial revenue streams is from in game advertising. The following is an excerpt from a trade journal publication:
¦ Top video game maker Electronic Arts announced that the online version of its mega-hit The Sims will allow players to open McDonalds franchises and sell burgers to earn points in the game. The Sims Online, which is set to debut on the World Wide Web later this year, will also prominently feature Intel products. Both deals are reportedly worth millions of dollars.
Real life product brands have been featured in video games increasingly since Pole Position, but this is being hailed as the first time a company has paid to have its products placed in a game. Its also being hailed as the latest step the video game market has made towards the lucrative product-placement schemes that are common in the Hollywood film industry.
For McDonalds and Intel, they couldnt have chosen a better time to make the leap into the digital world. The Sims computer game where players control every aspect in the daily life of their character, from careers to relationships to taking a leak was the best-selling of all time, and the online version is one of the most anticipated in history. Its also one of the few video games to ever appeal to women in large numbers Electronic Arts says as many as half its players are women, an unprecedented figure. (Tom Babin; Meet the McSim family; http://www.ffwdweekly.com/Issues/2002/1003/; TECHNOLOGY)
Other non-typical avenues for advertising are movies, music and PDA/mobile devices.
PDA and Mobile devices are the next generation of interactive hardware, which also makes them the next generation platform for advertising. Partnerships with mobile telephone and PDA application developers could allow us to place demo games on their devices.
Similar games could be downloaded from our site for a fee. Music from our top selling games can be downloaded as ringtones and the list is only limited by our imaginations. Marketing of proprietary images, music and game clips can be promoted from a Happy Meal box, an answering machine, a television commercial, a soda can, a Slurpee cup, ad nausium. The sky and the budget are our limits!
In summation: Top Dollar Enterprises must make a crucial decision about the direction of the company for the next decade. If we wish to remain a mid-sized company vying for a piece of market share revenue, we can simply continue on our present course. However, if this company has the vision and the backing to not only take the next step, but take the next leap, Top Dollar Enterprises can become a viable competitor at the top levels if the industry.