Player Engagement

Website: Keywords Studios

Dive into the latest Player: Engage podcast with Greg and guest Peter Gerson from Keywords Studios. Peter’s journey from a potential pyrotechnical engineer to a gaming industry leader at EA and Keywords is as explosive as it is inspiring. He dives into the essence of player engagement: understanding and prioritizing player needs for a remarkable gaming experience.

Peter highlights the crucial role of AI and automation in enhancing customer support and teases the exciting potential of Web 3.0, AR, and VR in gaming’s future. He champions user-generated content and the power of community in retaining player loyalty.

Player Engagement Logo Keywords Studios

End your listen with an invite to the Community Clubhouse, a haven for gaming and customer experience professionals to share insights. This episode is a compact yet comprehensive look into the heart of gaming customer support and player engagement. Tune in for a journey full of industry insights!


Intro: 00:00: 00:15: Welcome to the Player Engage podcast, where we dive into the biggest challenges, technologies, trends, and best practices for creating unforgettable player experiences. Player Engage is brought to you as a collaboration between Keyword Studios and Helpshift. Here is your host, Greg Posner.
Greg Posner: 00:16: 01:24: Hey everybody, welcome to the Player Engaged Podcast. My name’s Greg and I’m really excited about today’s podcast. Today I’m joined by Peter Gerson from Keywords. A little bit about Peter before I get into him. I think he’s got one of the coolest roles in gaming and you’ll hear why I think so. And I’m really excited about this. So just to talk a little bit about Peter’s story career here. He started off as a sales director at EA. Then decided, you know what, I’m going to go into financial services and spent 10 plus years in financial services because who leaves gaming for financial services? At that point, he made a return to host numerous roles at 5CA when now for the past four years, he has led the head of player engagement solutions at Keywords. He’s also a Community Clubhouse founding member, and he’s really an expert in customer experience principles. And the reason I’m really excited about this is because he’s got a really cool role. His role is about meeting people, knowing people, and understanding and figuring out how to find solutions for these people. So before I gush too much about Peter, Peter, thank you for joining us today. You want to say a little bit about yourself?

Peter Gerson: 01:24: 04:48: I think you said most of it there. What I really wanted to just say is that I’ve always felt that my role in life was being a dad first, I think a good loving family man second, and career third. And that’s kind of how you want to look at things. But the bottom line is career often takes up a lot more time than you think. And so you better do what you really like doing. And I thought it was quite funny when you said like who leaves gaming for financial services and the whole process there was to bring structure and focus to what a financial advisor or a trusted advisor should do for their customers. Because my experience was so bad, when I started to earn a little bit of money and started to plan for the future, I got such poor service and so many people trying to sell me rotten stuff. I thought, no, there’s a better way to do it. And so we kind of gamified and set up a a situation which was what our business really was, was supporting financial advisors and trusted advisors with a software platform to do better planning and to put the customer first. The money comes if you do the right things for the customer. So it kind of became a bit of a gamified setup. And we built an amazing system having to bootstrap the whole thing, built it on the back of a Unix environment where we could get most of the software and most of the apps for free. in terms of the community sharing the knowledge they had. We actually ended up having quite a nice time with it, and that business was bought over by a commercial bank in South Africa who wanted to now get into personal services for the customers that they’d been serving for all these years in small to medium businesses. They were sort of the commercial private bank for small to medium businesses, but had no real personal services. side for financial planning was taken over. And that’s where that business ended up, which is then how I got back into gaming after that process was all settled. The opportunity to move to the Netherlands from South Africa, open up and lo and behold, customer service. And it’s again, the same thing. Everything was geared towards how do you make the journey easier for a customer. And gaming was really booming But the customer services, we’re not keeping pace. You have to get out of the game, go to some form, stick away. process together and answer an email, then wait for someone to come back to you. But gaming is instant. So you could see the churn and all of these things. So we became really interested, how do you make that process better? So I really do appreciate that you say it’s a really cool job. I think so too. I’m not sure everyone does, but I think so too. And the idea is literally to listen to people and see if there’s a way with what we have or what’s in the market or who we need to partner with. that we can put together an end-to-end solution for what that use case or what that specific game or those players really need the help with. And so that’s the fun part. The hard part is then making it a reality and actually delivering on what you create. And that takes a lot more skill and people who are probably a lot cleverer than I am to help us. And that’s why I think I found a home at Keywords, because we’re blessed with a team of individuals who look at operational excellence in that way. They need the creatives to come up with doing things and I’m often in trouble like why did you do that? We don’t normally do that when I because that’s how we solve the problem and then finally enough in every case They’ve been able to deliver that solution. So yeah, I do have fun coming to work every day

Greg Posner: 04:49: 06:42: I’m taking a few notes here because you’re saying a lot of great things. And the first thing I’m going to say that sticks out to me and something Peter doesn’t know yet, but he introduced me to our future podcast guests that you’ll hear in a few weeks after this one with Veronica is that he went to financial services because he had a bad experience and he figured out how can we make this a better experience? And he looked at his gaming background, right? And you’ll hear with our future guests, Veronica, who comes on, also went to another industry and figured out how can we solve this problem? And it’s the same type of thing, you know, I’ve always believed that gaming helped kind of lead the way for customer support, because you have to move quick. You know, you’re playing online games, you have millions of players that are playing for free. And you still need to support them. And it’s hard to support that many people at scale. So gaming has the ability to quickly move and quickly flex and figure out what works. And they were the first to invest in bots and scale from there. So I think that’s fascinating. And the part I love about your job is that you figure out who to partner with. Like your job is all about networking. We talk about this skill often on the podcast, like I love the idea of networking. I was bad at it and I like to think I’m getting better at it. But these relationships that you make, especially at the companies you’ve been at, are important because these relationships carry over from one job to the next job to the next job. No one gets pissed off when you reach out and old colleague reach out to say hi, like it’s exciting to catch up. So network with your audience. And finally, the other part I love about your role, which is Similar is solving problems, right? That’s the role of a sales engineer or solutions engineer, right? Anyone, right? Like, at the end of the day, we just want our problem solved. If the product doesn’t work quite like that, can we make it work? Can you make it work, right? And I think a lot of studios get excited about trying out these new concepts that can work or may work. And that’s kind of what I think is important about this role is trying to think outside the box, trying to see what is the best solution for this customer. And you can build out that solution from there.

Peter Gerson: 06:43: 11:02: And I think just to add to that point, and we won’t steal Veronica’s thunder, let her tell the story. But again, we had to find an interesting solution for when she came knocking on our door, when she couldn’t find it in the mainstream, because she completely left the gaming industry where she went. And so it’s a really cool story. So I do say, to those that are listening, that’s going to be one that’s really worth listening to. And we found a really cool solution for her. But what you were saying makes a ton of sense. And that’s what makes working at Keyword so cool, because we focus specifically on the video game industry. but with a lot of depth and a lot of breadth of services. So a lot of things that we can try and encounter just at the end of the process when a game is now going into the player’s hands. We can get far more deeply involved in that whole game development cycle earlier on, being at Keywords. So we can start to help studios who set up, and they don’t have to spend money, they just have to pick our brains, to start thinking about designing things. And so I chuck it always back at anyone and they say like, hey, we want to build a game. He said, well, what’s the first thing you should ask? And then I said, is it going to be an MMO? Is it going to be an RPG? Is it going to be on the web? Is it web 3? Is it going to be on PC? Is it going to be on console? And my answer is no, that’s absolutely not the first question. The first question is, who are you building this game for? Who’s going to be the player? What community is going to come play this game? You need to understand that. And the second question I then said, well, you know, I said, well, it’s a very simple one. When they come and play the game, how are you going to keep them safe, happy and supported? Because that’s what the game’s for, right? You’re building a game for this community, you need to nurture and manage that community, and you need to look after that community. And that’s, in essence, our job in two lines. If anyone just gets that today, then that’s what we’re about. It sounds really simple. The complexities of managing that is where it comes in, because you’ve got to have technology, you’ve got to have humans, you’ve got to be able to blend them You’ve got to be able to put it into game. You’ve got to make it appropriate. It’s got to be in a voice that makes sense for that community in terms of perhaps language, in terms of perhaps culture. It’s got to be proactive in that it’s got to be reaching out to tell more about what’s happening. So the context of the environment is you’ve got to get focused on making the community self-police. And by that, I mean, there’s usually only a small percentage of bad actors in any community. But like anything in the world when you see today, it’s the small percentage that make the most noise or the most radical that cause the trouble and the silent majority just then leave. They usually vote by their silence or by leaving or going to another game. And so what you want to do is you want to proactively manage that you keep those bad actors down and you reward good behavior as a proactive measure for putting your trust and safety and your good support structures in place. But then when you do have bad actors or you do have issues that need to be solved, how can you do those so quickly and efficiently that it doesn’t affect the community or the game? Those challenges are quite complex. And the earlier you can design that into the game you’re building, the platform you’re going to be on and the kind of things you’re building out, the easier it is to scale, ramp up your support when you need it, or not, without costing a fortune. And the longer you leave that process, and I do find this is the thing that we’ve often had people, hey, we’re launching our game next month. Hey, we’re launching our game next week. Hey, we launched yesterday. Could we get some support, please? And it’s like, oh my God, we’re really going to have a problem now. And people don’t sometimes get that it’s that complicated. You can’t just put someone the next day who’s going to be able to magically answer all the questions in a gaming environment. It’s usually quite complex. Usually more so than, say, a standard product in the normal environment, like a banking or insurance process. So you’re right, we do become innovative and we do have to push the envelope in gaming. And that’s why it’s exciting to, whilst it’s a small and focused environment, often push the envelope before the rest of the market catches up. Still today most contact centers in the US in mainstream industries are phone driven. 60 odd percent is still on the phone. If you come into our industry it’s less than 1% that’s managed through a phone interface to look after customers. Live messaging and all sorts of other channels are the way it’s gone. You see the growth of Discord for example as a channel for many things. So, yeah, I find it stimulating, and every day there’s another challenge.

Greg Posner: 11:02: 11:36: So I want to circle back in a minute to when to get started, but one of the things you said that I want to kind of dig into is you said protection of players, and that’s an interesting one because just a couple of days ago we had the GTA 6 trailer launch, and I think about to when GTA 3 came out, and I was in high school at that point. I think I was in high school at that point, I don’t remember. Everyone was talking about violence in games and we have to protect our kids from violence in games. But I think that’s less of the issue of violence these days. But like, when you say protection, I mean, we’re talking from a customer support point of view. What is protection in your mind? Like, how are we protecting people with customer support?

Peter Gerson: 11:36: 16:03: So there’s a couple of areas that you have to be more aware of these days. The world is more and more interconnected. Anyone who honestly believe you’ve been online in any way shape or form, joined communities, joined forums, shared comments, running any of the major social media channels like your, it’s now called X, Twitter, your Facebook, been in Discord channels, joined some kind of gaming community, joined a clan, are registered for games, or anything like it, and plus anything mainstream. You’re fooling yourself if you think you have privacy. because your stuff’s out there, it’s been sold. I mean, if you really drove in and go look at people with legitimate interest, you’d be quite frightened at what people think is legitimate interest versus what you would understand it to be in terms of your details being shared when you share your cookies and stuff. So it’s about protecting that. So the right to privacy whilst you play a game. So if someone reaches out and has a problem, details can be shared. How do you protect and make sure that those are not leaked or there’s crashes? So there’s that standard normal stuff. But by the way, that’s a challenge for all industry, not just gaming, but particularly in gaming because of the high volume of transactions and high time. You mean, how often do you go online to check on your insurance policy? Maybe once a month, there’s some kind of debit order from your bank. but how many times a day could you play a game? Sometimes twice, sometimes three times, and there’s an interaction in your live and your digital. It’s a far higher frequency, so we do have that challenge. The second one is within the community. How do you feel safe playing in the community that you’re not getting bullied or harassed or attacked for a number of reasons. I’ll never forget when we went to Gamescom just before COVID. I was fortunate enough to be hired to what was then going to be a Call of Duty pre-release, and the top players in Germany were all invited. And we were, because of our association in terms of, as you say, network, providing support and stuff, invited, but not really a good Call of Duty player. And of course, I was getting murdered left, right and center, and I was on a team with four other German really good players, and they kept like You know, I won’t use the swear words they use, but there were some choice German swear words like, who’s this guy on the team who keeps dying and costing us? So I went and hid in a cave and became a sniper for the balance of the day. But even that, that life in that thing, I was in a way a bit nervous and a rest. Okay, my fault, I’m not a great player. But it’s a game, guys. And so then the four of you make a plan and I just die. And so what? So what? Why is it so bad you know and there was just a small example that I personally felt with broad shoulders and stuff I shook it off but you can imagine it could be quite hurtful someone trying to join or get into a community or so there’s a small example what if it scales and people do take the time and in modern times it’s not too difficult to go find people look them up and then start bullying them and harassing them so you got you got to protect against that and then of course the cheats frauds cheating in-game fraudulent you know hacking accounts that’s another level And all of these become responsibility of publishers that they didn’t really have in the old days. When you put a game out, someone paid X pounds, took the game home, played the game and then bought the next version the next year. Something started to go online. But again, it didn’t have the same openness that it has now. So there’s a lot more challenges that I think we haven’t all fully become aware of yet. And it’s part of when you create these solutions, you should be looking at what technologies go in behind the scenes in your trust and safety envelope. And I always say that that’s the starting point whenever I have a conversation with anyone around it. customer support solution, what is the trust and safety envelope within which all of this is going to work? And then we look at what other parts of the solution need to do just for the support piece. You shouldn’t have them, and often these things are siloed, and they don’t need to be. The interconnectedness of this really does help the more you can be aware of even things like self-harm and raising awareness. Why should it be a separate team and scaled through another system? And it just, you lose time, you lose insight, you lose the ability to understand what’s going on. where it’s within a connected system. If a player has consistently had bad results and then they start talking about self-harm, they don’t just do it in a minute, it could be over three or four or five weeks, then it suddenly starts ramping up. You can be far more reactive to that than if it suddenly gets ramped up to a point where some kind of AI says, hey, there’s a problem, pushes it to somebody sitting somewhere and says, hey, look into this, and there isn’t the same urgency or the understanding of the situation. Those are the kinds of things I’m addressing or talking about, if that makes sense.

Greg Posner: 16:03: 16:56: Yeah, no, that’s great. You know, I think a lot of people don’t realize these days, but trust and safety is a very large component of what people are doing. When you’re playing online, there’s there’s people behind the scenes that are protecting you. And I think a lot of people just don’t have that visibility into it. Right. I mean, I played Call of Duty the other day. And before you start online, you have to check a bunch of boxes just saying, I’m going to be nice. I’m going to do all this stuff. So, there are people behind the scenes that are doing that. So, you know, when you talked about customer support, you just mentioned trust and safety. So, like, if you look at the pillars of customer support or customer engagement, right, or player engagement, whatever you want to call it, you have trust and safety. You also earlier had mentioned a little bit about community. You talked about channels that are coming online. And then you also made a mention of when you talk to a company and say, hey, we’re launching in a month, like, hey, how can you help us? It’s a little too late at that point. You know, when do you get started? You know, there’s these different elements of support. So when would you get started?

Peter Gerson: 16:56: 19:08: So usually you get started in the early design phase of like, what kind of channel is this going to go on? What sort of are they? What game platform they’re building on Unity Unreal Engine, others in-house bespoke? How are we going to put systems into the game and does it make sense to start incorporating? Because we honestly believe that you need to have a mix of technology. AI, certainly embrace AI. It certainly can help, certainly in the trust and safety space and in the ability to resolve. People always think, I don’t really want to talk to bots. Think about anything you do in your personal life. Most people today, they go to the web quickly, they look it up, they might go to an FAQ page, they go to some self-help, they do a bit of investigation. Then if they really feel they need to reach out, they’ll reach out to the company. And it’s harder and harder these days to get hold of somebody and then you have to start the whole process again. So just thinking about the design of what is the flow. If someone is going How are you doing, Greg? I see that you’re talking to us about this, this and this. Yeah, none of the articles seem to help. Let’s take a look at this together. According to us, you need A, B and C and we can solve your problem. And the humans should be dealing with those problems that are harder and harder to solve. while the automation and the AI gets smarter in time, it should be dealing with things. Like, you should never have to speak to a human to do a password reset. That should have 10 years ago, that shouldn’t have been the case. It still happens in some cases, but it should be so easy to automate. And you know that these days it is, you know, when is the last time you ever spoke to anyone when you did a password reset? Click here, we send, do a bit of a security check, and then they send you something somewhere where there’s a link, and you can reset and sort things out yourself. That makes perfect sense. So people who say, oh, I don’t really like bots. We’re dealing with them all the time. We just don’t realize it. And we prefer that. Can you imagine sitting on the phone waiting while your call is important to us and you’re in the queue and you call a number four. And what you want to do is do password reset.

Greg Posner: 19:08: 19:10: Hey, some people like to torture themselves.

Peter Gerson: 19:11: 19:41: So those are the kinds of things I say, getting that balance. And so the earlier you can think about these processes and what technology you need to build in, the easier you can budget and the more it becomes realistic and how you’re going to scale the game. It’s about iteration once you go live because you never quite know how big the game is going to scale and how many people are going to come play, but it should be scalable. And often that’s something, if you’re adding things at the back end, integration, building back, going to find where things are kept, it becomes very expensive and difficult.

Greg Posner: 19:42: 21:07: You’re pulling at my heartstrings as a sales engineer, Peter. We talk to our customers on a daily basis that insist, Hey, we want every player to talk to an agent and I get it. It’s great service, but the thing is, it doesn’t scale. And me as a VIP player, great. I love to be able to talk to an agent, but when I reset a password, don’t talk to me. I just want to reset my password. And the more systems you can get starting to talk to each other, whether it be a reward system, whether it be a CRM, whether it be a password reset system, authentication server, right? You can build these seamless experience and choose when to talk to your customer. Cause there are times I do want to talk to an agent and there’s times I don’t want to be able to talk to an agent and make this experience. better. And it all comes down to that player experience. Like you said, get started early. If you want to make it a really interconnected, seamless experience for your player, you want to be part of it. You don’t want to be like, oh, support’s this whole other part of their game. You have to go somewhere else. Again, I keep saying I was playing Call of Duty, but last night we were playing, me and my buddy, and there was a new patch and he kept getting kicked out. He kept getting kicked out. So I was like, you know what? I’m going to poke around the systems here and see how I can open up a support ticket. And it’s not easy to open up a support ticket from tools like, like from a systems like console, right? Like, I’m not going to use the edge browser on Xbox. That’s, that’s a miserable experience. So like, how do I make that experience better? And I think it’s, I like how you said that, like, get it started as early as possible when you’re planning and stuff, because it is part of the journey for the player. And you want it to be feel like it for the player.

Peter Gerson: 21:08: 23:47: 100% correct. And it needs to be, as you said, even VIP players, it doesn’t automatically. I’ll take it step just any player, never mind a VIP player. Why make the assumption that you need to be available 24 seven on every single channel, because that’s how your customer is going to talk to you. People are, are you reasonable, if you’re very transparent, and you say, we want to help you, this is how we help you help us help you, they will work with the system. which means you can plan correctly for how you’re going to flow them through and give them an experience. And you said the word player experience. And everyone thinks that customer support is one small piece of a player experience and it’s the reactive piece when they reach out to you. No, just think about any gaming company that has maybe direct to customer and has a bit of a store and sell some of the IP. How, when someone’s browsing that, what’s the experience? And if they want to ask questions, how could they do that and get simple answers and not waste time? And how many carts are abandoned because you’ve created a bad experience? But it’s, that’s all part of a customer support process. It’s a pre-sale support, but it’s still support. It’s, so sometimes that’s misunderstood. And that’s also part of when I talk about, you know, our approach, it isn’t, we’re not, we’re not really genuinely in there to be hardcore salespeople. We’re genuinely in there to be problem solvers and trusted advisors of, hey, do you have a need to serve a community and look after that community? Then let us help you build out what works well. And why I like, as I said, the setup with us being focused on video games, is the experience we bring across all of the games we’ve done over 25 years. And what we’ve learned is the industry has grown up, changed, morphed, platforms have come, platforms have shifted and also evolved. New platforms are coming. We talked Web3 and all that happened this year with that. How, you know, some of those things fired and then misfired. These are all challenges we have to adapt with. If you’re just building your game and you’ve only got a limited expense in that environment, or you were previously AAA, putting out games that were paid on a Steam platform and then once a game was played and it wasn’t really a massive community and now you’re moving to a free-to-play model. you know, use people who have hundreds of games that we’ve supported in that environment and can share best practices with you. That’s kind of the approach we want to take and what we’re encouraging people to do. So the earlier you, you know, you often see stealth projects and we’ll let you know more when we get to alpha. Maybe that’s a little late because you’re making a lot of assumptions on the way when you don’t really know We’re not going to tell you how to build a game. That’s the expertise of the core dev team. But we’re going to be able to help you do a lot more around the game. That’s our core expertise. That’s how it should work.

Greg Posner: 23:47: 24:05: So I want to take a quick time out here, because in the middle of the podcast, we typically do kind of some spitfire questions. I don’t know if we have an official name for it yet, but we call it the fire round. I’m going to ask you very simple questions. Don’t put much thought into it. Just shoot me with an answer here. Cool? Sure. If you’re going to go to a bar, what’s the drink you’re ordering?

Peter Gerson: 24:05: 24:10: Whiskey on the rocks. At least a single malt at least 12 years old.

Greg Posner: 24:10: 24:16: See, now you’re getting particular here. Now we know what to order you next time. What did you have for breakfast?

Peter Gerson: 24:16: 24:18: Did you say breakfast? Sorry, you broke up a second.

Greg Posner: 24:18: 24:20: Yes, breakfast. I’m sorry.

Peter Gerson: 24:20: 24:25: Love American breakfast. Crispy bacon, scrambled or fried eggs, sourdough bread.

Greg Posner: 24:25: 24:31: There you go. Peter is a well-versed traveler, but what is your dream vacation?

Peter Gerson: 24:31: 25:02: Wow. I love traveling to the historic center towns of Europe. going back and really seeing history that’s like thousand or more years older in terms of the development of some history. So coming from a country like South Africa or you in America, we’re 400 maybe 300 years old when you look at that kind of setup. But you can come into places in Europe where the original village started 2000 years ago and then developed from Roman times into modern times. That’s just fascinating.

Greg Posner: 25:02: 25:14: It’s something we miss here in the States. We have some stuff, but nowhere compared to Europe or Asia, the countries over there. What was the last book you read?

Peter Gerson: 25:14: 25:21: The last book I read was the book about negotiating is Don’t Split the Difference.

Greg Posner: 25:21: 25:24: Nice. And last question, last game you played?

Peter Gerson: 25:28: 25:35: every morning a little bit of games, determining which customer I’m with. And today I actually played Empaths and Puzzles and Golf Clash.

Greg Posner: 25:35: 26:16: Nice. All right. We’re off the hot seat. And I want to go back to what you said earlier, because it’s something that I think is two things that stand out to me. One is I think what’s fun about our job is that We love gaming, right? Like it’s something we’re selling, but we do. Right. And when you talk to us, we’re going to give you what we think is best because we are gamers. We are players. We are in the industry. And I think it’s important. And something we’re hearing a lot from our customers is understanding how do we treat our VIP customers? That’s something I’ve been on a bunch of calls recently, and I keep hearing, like, how do we make sure, how do we identify? How are these challenges you see being addressed in the market? Is it something that Keywords is looking into? Yeah, I don’t know.

Peter Gerson: 26:17: 29:05: It’s a great, that’s a great segue to wrap up on and I appreciate the opportunity. We look at it from two points of view. There is, you know, how do you define firstly, let’s understand what is a VIP to that specific company. A great example is EVE Online treats anyone who starts any one of their games in those first 24, 48, 72 hours as a VIP. Because if you’re going to get them playing, you need to make them as happy as possible should anything go wrong. So that’s a VIP queue for them, anyone who’s just started up the game. But if you’re talking about a monetization approach, then clearly you’re talking about people who spend money in the game. And often you hear the term whales or dolphins or super players So there’s two approaches there. One is how do you affect a better SLA? In other words, how can you ramp service to them without detracting service? Because in a gaming environment, you need to keep everybody playing. The people who do spend money in the game still need the people who don’t spend money in the game to play, especially if it’s free to play online, anything where it’s player versus player. You need to have that population solid and you need to look after everyone. But you can speed up the service to a player that spends more. One of the other areas, though, is we look at a revenue generation approach. How do you work in a responsible way? Gaming can be quite addictive. Video gaming can be quite addictive, similar to gaming. And I think we have a moral responsibility to make sure people are not spending too much in a game or spending too much time in a game. The one thing humans only have on this planet that is worth more than anything else besides their health is time. It’s the real currency of life. And so if people are spending too much time in a game or spending too much money and time in a game, I think there’s a responsibility. So we have a strong proactive outreach VIP program that we can help people build, which helps you manage and do your revenue better, but also puts these warning signals in there around protecting and looking after the community. If you get known for that, the game also gets trust and people care because, you know, some people could have a problem and you need to deal with it. So we do take those two approaches. One is more passive and reactive, where if someone does reach out to you and they happen to be a VIP in your game, you can respond to them more quickly, but what about proactive outreach in managing relationships and creating better relationships and better experiences for the players that want to engage with the game, even in terms of feedback where some key people can come once or twice a year to a specific function And so we’re happy to help people build those programs after we have those capabilities, and we can teach people how to maximize that interaction or engagement with their VIP and high spending players.

Greg Posner: 29:05: 30:22: It’s always fun to hear about the different strategies different studios have, and they’re all respected and go about different. I love what you talked about with Eve, right, where everyone gets treated the same the first 72 hours. You deserve that good experience, right? If you have a player that’s coming to play your game for the first time, you want to make sure that it’s not broken and you’re hearing from them. It’s important to touch base with them. And again, you never want to Every customer, every player, sorry, is a priority. You want to make sure you can hear from all of them. But again, understand that, call it a VIP, call it a whale, right? You need to be able to provide them the platform that keeps spending it. And this goes back to a funny strategy that we’ve been hearing about more often. It goes back to what you said that 60% of customer support is still done on the phone in other industries. We’re seeing some studios go back to providing phone support for some of their VIPs. And I think that’s fascinating. I think it’s great, especially when you look at the different demographics of gamers that you have. If you looked a few years ago, my mom would not be playing Candy Crush or playing any type of game on her phone. But here she is now playing different types of games, whether it be the New York Times or Candy Crush. Some of them want to use that phone support because that’s the type of support that they’re used to. So by providing them the channels that they’re used to, you’ll keep them hooked in the game. I think that’s super important for any company that’s looking into a strategy to understand that. Cater to your audience, know who your audience is.

Peter Gerson: 30:22: 30:54: That’s a great, great, great point you make. Don’t assume because they play a game, they consider themselves to be a gamer. You just explain the profile. If you went to your mom and said, Hey mom, are you a gamer? What would her answer be? No, I’m not. But never play the games. And so that’s it’s understanding the audience, understanding how they react to what they want, what experience are they looking for. And it’s, it’s very, it’s really a game like you just mentioned, Candy Crash, will have all sorts of profiles playing it. So it’s really interesting. So a good point.

Greg Posner: 30:54: 31:15: I’m curious, just personally, Peter, how did you end up in this position? Right? Were you growing up dreaming of working in the video game industry? And becoming a kind of a, I’d like to say generalist. I don’t know if you take it as an insult, but know a lot about everything. Kind of the whole flow. What were you dreaming of being when Peter was growing up?

Peter Gerson: 31:15: 34:48: Super question. What I wanted to be more than anything in the world was a pyrotechnical engineer. Love to blow stuff up. And unfortunately, in South Africa, there wasn’t anywhere we could study for that. You had to go overseas and I just didn’t have the money. Not really knowing what I wanted to do post-school. And at the time, South Africa, unfortunately, had a conscription army. So if you didn’t go study straight from school, you went straight to the army. I took the option of just joining up for a business degree. Thought I’d do some kind of generalist business degree, Bachelor of Commerce, and then see where it went from there. I had quite a strict dad. I then got into a sport called rowing and rowed at university to the extent that I didn’t really attend all of my lectures in that first year and managed to fail two subjects. I failed accounting and I failed business. No, accounting and maths and statistics. And my dad said, hey, I had to deal with you. You fail, I don’t pay. So year two, I had to go find a job. And I’d grown up in the family business, which was restaurant, beverages, hotels, etc. My dad was a chef, my mom was front of house, and they ran restaurants, a la carte high end restaurant. So I’d grown up always working in that. So one day I saw an advert in the newspaper for NCR Corporation, which said, trainee programmer wanted must have food and beverage background. And I have to pay for university. So I applied, went part-time to university and started my career as a programmer, doing programming in Fortran, hexadecimal and COBOL 74 of all things, writing front-end, back-end hotel cash register systems for remote printers and stuff like that, which is quite interesting. And that’s when I started to, and I hadn’t been in IT or been focused on that. So I started to get a love for technology. And it’s through that that I ended up working in hardware, mostly around PCs and stuff, because PCs were just coming out at that time. And through the PC background, I ended up with a company called Packard Bell, which was focused on the home user. And that’s how I started to discover gaming, because obviously home users bought PCs mostly to play games. And things like Sony PlayStation had started to come out, and the very first versions of that in Xbox. so ended up then working at Electronic Arts as a growth out of Packard Bell, because we had done quite a lot of partnership. We were always working on networking. To sell Packard Bell better, we did bundles of software, then you turn the computer on and you got. And so a company like Electronic Arts provided us last year’s games. plus trailers to upgrade to this year’s games if you spent a bit of money. That’s how they got it. And then you got all this free software. So if it was FIFA 2018, you got FIFA 2016 for free in your Packard Bell when you bought it. Well, of course, it was built into the price, it was cheap, but you understand, no, I want to get that and you go buy the 18. So that worked out quite well. And it was from that that I moved to the financial services, but always had this love. So when the opportunity came to come into gaming via customer support, and I’d had this whole trip around financial services, focusing on customer experience, customer support, and building out the system to make customers’ lives better in the financial planning that it set right back into gaming, was a way to get back into gaming. Very, very glad I ended up here. Have you blown anything up yet? And so, yeah, on that occasion I have, but that’s sort of been very amateurish. And now, of course, in Europe there’s a ban for fireworks and stuff. But if you do come to the Netherlands on New Year’s, ban or not, for some reason it does turn into a little bit of a mini World War III. People sneak fireworks from adjoining countries and tend to go mad. So, yeah, well, I’ll say no more in case it might incriminate me.

Greg Posner: 34:49: 34:58: I think we have to get you to Vegas and get you, you know, some of these bachelor parties, go to Vegas and you’re allowed to shoot like rocket launchers in the desert. It sounds like that’s what you need to go check out.

Peter Gerson: 34:58: 35:29: Well, that’s not as much as interesting as actually like, you know, creating the pyrotechnical firework is, is putting that whole process together. And it’s an amazing, uh, but you see it in movies and stuff. It’s, it’s actually quite an interesting, you’re blowing up a car to do the flip for any of the stunts. That’s what mostly the pyrotechnical engineers do. And that, I think, You’re looking back on it as it was a boyhood dream. I’m not unhappy that I never ended up there. I think if I’d gone into that, I would have somehow ended up here anyway.

Greg Posner: 35:29: 35:40: Hey, you know what? I feel like everyone’s path is already set. You just kind of work your way into it. Yeah. In 2024, are there any gaming trends that are exciting you or things that you’re seeing come to market?

Peter Gerson: 35:40: 37:28: I think what’s going to happen is version two of web three is going to start to really get working properly. It’s not been a massive success first time around and people didn’t jump onto it and blockchain and all these things I think a bit misunderstood. It’s not about monetizing and having people play and get worthless tokens. It’s about, I think, working on how the community can put a lot of time and effort into something where they get enjoyment out of it. But then, if they have built an asset, can, in a way, part own that and get some of that. Because user-generated content is going to be a massive thing going forward. And if user-generated content is making people money in YouTube or other channels, why not within gaming? So I think that’s going to be an interesting trend to watch. But in general, I think there’s going to be consolidation, still more consolidation in the market. There’s some uncertainty and not a bad thing. Covid was a complete boon for gaming and bust for most other things and life’s returned a bit more to normal. And people, as I said, time is the one thing people don’t have enough of. So should spend time with family and doing outings and getting out into the fresh air and walking and riding bicycles and playing games, but all within a balanced approach. So I think that now that again, if you look at where it is now, it’s above pre-Covid levels. but it’s not the same as COVID levels. And let’s hope we never have to go through that as the world again. So those are the things I think are going to be trending. And I’m also thinking that the way games are delivered on platforms and the way we’ll play games will also shift and change as technology I’m really waiting to see that breakthrough when AR and VR and the gaming environment really genuinely comes together. It still hasn’t quite happened yet and it’s been promising since the late 90s, but every iteration’s kind of not quite got there. So that’s another trend I’m watching.

Greg Posner: 37:29: 38:22: Yeah, the Quest 3 is an exciting piece of technology. I had no interest in it and I watched a video and my wife got mad because she knew I was automatically interested in it. But I think it’s coming, right? It’s slower than anyone wants and the use case is hard, but going back to the Web 3 stuff, I loved, and I don’t know if it’s technically Web3, but kind of what Pokemon Go did, and they now have Monster Hunter, that encourages people to go outside and move around. We did a podcast with Atlas Reality, and they do the same thing, where they encourage you to, like, they have stores online, which are stores in your town, they map to the same, like, go to Starbucks, get a coffee, get some rewards, go here. COVID, we were all locked up. We were all inside. That’s when I really thought VR would actually boom, is when we’re all locked up and we are pretending to go outside. But post-COVID, I think we all just want some fresh air. And I think encouraging people to go outside, even when you’re gaming, I think is something that’s exciting.

Peter Gerson: 38:22: 40:58: And I think more and more of that will happen in environments where things start to merge with the digital and that’s why I say waiting for AR and VR to really start to merge better. You can imagine that like you can see people running around looking at their phones trying to catch the Pokemon Go monster. If that now becomes a good set of glasses where you have full visibility in your surroundings and you’re not causing traffic problems because you’re watching what you’re doing but then you can also interact So I think it’s going to be very, very interesting, the way this goes. And often I look at some of the science fiction movies I watched growing up, and look at, hey, what have we got today? And it’s not far off, some of those realities, and something’s even ahead. And then some things that were just not predicted that happened, you know, in terms of where science fiction got it wrong, or science fantasy got it wrong. So it’s interesting to see. But yeah, those are the key areas, you know, the things you mentioned, the things I’ve mentioned, are I think the trends to watch out for. But in general, I think gaming is in a very strong place, and I think all platforms are going to show some growth. I think it’s also harder and harder for the bigger publishers and the medium publishers to bring games to market. It’s like anything in a movie. And again, I come back to that thing of time. They’ve also got to start to work a little more better together. The last thought I wanted to leave anyone who’s listening, which is something I heard from a very, very smart person at Warner Brothers, was as things get better and better and better and the quality gets better and better and better, the competition for your time. So look what it takes to play a game and the investment you have to make. If you bring a new game up and you’re going to play it from beginning to end, you’re going to invest some hours in it. If four brilliant games all launch at the same time, you can choose one because you don’t have the time to play all four. So you’re going to go with what you know, and so people should really take care of the communities, build out the communities, arm them for what’s coming, so that they keep that loyalty. Because if you’re going to compete, you’re going to compete. If four good games come out, you’re all competing. That’s why you’re seeing some of the disappointing numbers in games. It’s the same with movies if massive Summer movies come out or or interview holiday movies come out you can’t you often say well I’ll wait for that one to come on to One of the home streaming channels while I’ll go and see this one because I don’t have time to see them both That’s one of the challenges we have in the world and there’s enough games in the world to still make everyone happy, but those are the kinds of challenges that, and you know how much money goes into putting a proper game out these days, it’s become quite expensive in cost of acquisition of customers. So building out your whole system and taking care of your community and the retention thereof is why I say we really do add value and I think it’s often overlooked.

Greg Posner: 40:59: 41:42: Yeah, I think the most valuable part of what we talked about is just understanding that time is a finite resource and you need to be able to take advantage, whether it be with family or friends, work, your hobbies, right? Make sure you balance everything. I love gaming, but I learned to understand the importance of family and spending time with family. And I love what I do, but sometimes you just got to turn your computer off, turn your cell phone off and escape it and spend time in the moment. Time is short, right, in the grand scheme of things, so enjoy it while you can. And with that, our time is coming to an end, because I know you have a hard stop. Before we go, though, Peter, is there anything else you’d like to just share with the people that are listening, kind of understand who you are, what you are, why you’re here?

Peter Gerson: 41:42: 42:58: Yeah, I’m happy to have any conversation with anyone on any subject. If I don’t know, I’ll say I don’t know. If I do know, I’ll share my thoughts. But if you do want to pick our brains free of charge, on any issue around how to build a better mousetrap in the customer support, customer experience space. Let’s have that conversation because that’s what we’re passionate about and it’s no strings attached, let’s just have it. And that’s kind of why community clubhouse, it’s the last thing I’ll leave you with. Those that are looking in the community to understand more about community, about trust and safety and about player support or customer support, Join the Community Clubhouse if you’re in these pillars, because we set it up specifically to be a safe space for the community. No strings attached. No one’s going to try to sell you anything. It’s independent and free. It runs off sponsorship. We run at Gamescom. We run at GDC. We’ve got a Discord server up and running. There’s a Facebook page. It’s on LinkedIn. Just get on. I don’t know if it’s Facebook. I might be wrong, but there’s definitely a LinkedIn page. It’s on the Discord. Join the Community Clubhouse if you’re in the community that does do the player experience or player support site. There’s so many of your peers there that you can share, get information from. That would be our parting shot on the call that I would say people can get involved.

Greg Posner: 42:58: 43:25: And we will link all of everything Peter mentioned about Community Clubhouse, about keywords, about himself on the PlayerEngaged site. So you can check it out there. And like he said, reach out, give him a call. He’s friendly. Ask him anything except to be on your Call of Duty team. You do not want him on your Call of Duty team. But reach out to Peter. Peter, this was fun. I really appreciate you taking the time to come out and talk today. I hope if there’s nothing else you have, I thank you again. I hope you have a great rest of your day. Cool. Thanks, Greg.

Greg Posner

Avid gamer with a passion for storytelling. My goal is to unpack the narratives of customers, partners and others to better understand how industry-leaders tackle today's challenges.

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