@ CTIA — Yes, Trip Hawkins Gets It

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I wrote about Trip Hawkins and Digital Chocolate last week, when the company released some casual multiplayer games. I noted then that Digital Chocolate’s releases highlighted his understanding of the mass market for video games. While the games aren’t anything with fancy graphics or deep gameplay, they’re much more likely to resonate with a wide audience than the latest Madden football or Mortal Street Fighter Grand Theft Kombat Auto 37 are on mobile.

Hawkins gave a keynote Wednesday morning at CTIA and elaborated on this further, but probably the most interesting thing I took away from it was that he said games have to give people an excuse to be social. He raised the example of Trivial Pursuit when it came out — it gave people a reason to invite their friends over and have a party — and also fantasy sports leagues for guys, which becomes a way to reach out to and interact with their friends, rather than calling each other up to have intimate chats.

This drives Digital Chocolate’s choice of games, but also how it builds them. Not only does it create casual, social games, it also seeks to build communities around them that encourage both in-game and out-of-game communication among players. That’s where it gets interesting for carriers: instead of just getting $5 for a Java game download, they get that revenue, then additional revenues from all sorts of ancillary services: adding on additional content to games, messaging, sending in high scores, and so on.

Hawkins realizes that we all play games, but since a lot aren’t console games or the type of games teenagers play, we don’t always know it. But what he really gets is that the games most people play are built in one way or another around social interaction — and encouraging that, rather than flashy graphics, is how to attack the bulk of the market.

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