Key Note Address: Ireland Games Fleadh (Festival) 2012


Key Note Speaker at GAMES FLEADH 2012 (8th Annual)

March 14th, 2012


Me on the News: RTE

The Official Games Fleadh Website

The 2012 GamesPro Webpage

Article: Talent is Ireland’s Secret Weapon in Digital Games Race

Article: Industry leaders predict huge growth in Ireland’s Digital Gaming Sector

Article: Game developer graduates in demand and guaranteed jobs in Ireland

LIT-Tipperary team TippSoc M with Philip Bourke - Mentor, Martell Malone - Team Captain and making presentation Jason Livingston, Director of Customer Services, BioWare, Galway


From: SiliconRepublic

Games programming festival Game Fleadh 2012 will take place at LIT Tipperary this week, which will host a range of events to showcase the talent of Ireland’s young developers for the games industry. There will also be an award ceremony with a number of games companies located in Ireland shortlisted.

More than 2,000 second and third-level students from across the country are expected to attend the two-day event on 14-15 March to watch or participate in a range of intervarsity gaming competitions.

There will be events such as an artificial intelligence programming competition for first undergraduates students, the Microsoft XNA Game Studio and DirectX Challenge, gaming tournaments and GamesPro Talks from experts from Microsoft Ireland, BioWare, PopCap Games and Open Emotion Studios.

The Engineers Ireland Game Developer Awards will also be part of this year’s Games Fleadh, with eight Irish and international games companies shortlisted for the awards.

Companies shortlisted include Limerick-based Open Emotion Studios with four nominations and PopCap Games with two nominations. Others include SuperFunPlay, Asturm Nival/, Eyesodic Games, BatCat Games, Tribal City, Pufferfish Games and Redwind Software.

“Given the rapid growth of the industry and Ireland’s growing reputation as an international gaming hub, it is only right that we would have an annual awards event to acknowledge the cutting-edge creativity of Irish companies,” said Philip Bourke, Digital Games Design Course co-ordinator at the institute’s Department of Technology, Media and Science and Games Fleadh founder.

“This really is a hot sector. According to the recent Forfas report, The Games Sector in Ireland: An Action Plan for Growth, the overall global video-games market is reckoned to be worth around €62bn each year, is growing rapidly and is one of the fastest-growing segments of the entertainment and media industry.

“Ireland is already showing a real aptitude and is being recognised internationally as an emerging hub. Critically, we must deliver top quality graduates for the sector so we can fill the 2,500 posts the industry here can create by the end of 2014,” he said.

Bourke added that some companies within the industry will attend the Games Fleadh to “talent scout”.

I had the incredible invitation to provide the Key Note Address at the 8th annual Ireland Games Fleadh in Thurles, Ireland on March 14th, 2012.  I spoke to a standing room only auditorium, while live streamed on their website to an audience engaged in entering, developing, and participating in the growth and development of the games industry.

The following is my address:

Expanding the Gaming Galaxy: One Satisfied Customer at a Time

 In an article entitle “Why We Haven’t Met any Aliens” by Geoffrey Miller…he postulates as follows:

 Sometime in the 1940s, Enrico Fermi was talking about the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence with some other physicists. They were impressed that life had evolved quickly and progressively on Earth. They figured our galaxy holds about 100 billion stars, and that an intelligent, exponentially-reproducing species could colonize the galaxy in just a few million years. They reasoned that extraterrestrial intelligence should be common by now. Fermi listened patiently, then asked, simply, “So, where is everybody?” That is, if extraterrestrial intelligence is common, why haven’t we met any bright aliens yet? This conundrum became known as Fermi’s Paradox.

Since then, the Paradox has become ever more baffling. Paleontology has shown that organic life evolved quickly after the Earth’s surface cooled and became life-hospitable. Given simple life forms, evolution shows progressive trends toward larger bodies, brains, and social complexity. Evolutionary psychology has revealed several credible paths from simpler social minds to human-level creative intelligence. So evolving intelligence seems likely, given a propitious habitat—and astronomers think such habitats are common. Moreover, at least 150 extrasolar planets have been identified in the last few years, suggesting that life-hospitable planets orbit most stars. Yet 40 years of intensive searching for extraterrestrial intelligence have yielded nothing: no radio signals, no credible spacecraft sightings, no close encounters of any kind.

 So where are they?  Where are the Wookies, the Zabrak, the Chiss, the Talz, the Jawa?  Where are the Jedi and Sith with their Light sabres?

One idea, the prevalent idea, was that they turned inward to war one with another.  That rather than reaching for the stars, they reached out and blew each other up.  Sounds familiar, and for a while the Fermi’s Paradox was a cautionary warning against modern day cold-war escalation.

However, in his article…Geoffery continues with another idea:

 I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games.

Mr. Miller’s argument went on to focus on the concept that the aliens had all turned to self-pleasure and inward; that the desire to expand and to reach beyond was lost.  Essentially, that they were and are all sitting at home thumbing away at video games.

As a business man, and trust me, this is a business…the games industry is a business…I look at this and think…wow!  We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the games market!  Imagine how much our market share will grow once they do finish playing and build their star cruisers and show up!  We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the games market on planet earth!

If this is indeed the case, then the rapidly growing market that is Gaming could very well include intergalactic customers at someday in our future.  Truth is that we’re growing fast enough already.  You’re in a good place and in a great career path.

In a recent analyst report  released by Robert W. Baird & Co. it suggest that the video Game industry will grow beyond 80 billion by 2014.  Online game revenue is set to explode at 15-20% growth year on year.  Analysts at PWC recently reported that “Gaming is a Financial Force to be reckoned with.”

The market is growing, and growth means opportunity.   The proof is in the pudding.

If any of your parents are asking why you’re messing around wasting time and money studying how to make video games, be sure to go over the report with them!

The truth is that the industry is still young and the market shares are growing not changing lines.  Having come from another industry before joining BioWare, my previous experience had me committing in large all-hands meetings with company executives to “kill” our competitors, signing our names in blood and burning their logos in effigy.

In the games industry, we gather at events like this, and GDC to not only met our competition, but to sit down and share just how we’re achieving success.  It’s refreshing and short-lived.  The time will come when that will change.  Remember what I said earlier, it is a business.

I joined BioWare 3 years ago as the Director of Customer Support.  My previous role was Director of Customer Experience at AOL, covering our support experiences for Europe.  I joined the industry to bring the best of real-world application to the launch of a massive project for EA and BioWare which some of you may have heard of: (SWTOR).

So Why BioWare?  Star Wars! DUH! All kidding aside…

  1. The reality is that BioWare is leading the charge in online delivery of their incredible products.
  2. They have a proven legacy of excellence and passion for creating emotional investment.
  3. They care about their teams, their product, and their players.  They show true commitment to the consumer experience.

For those of you who need an illustration and for those of you who haven’t experienced the amazing experience that is Mass Effect, let me paint you a picture.  The day I joined the BioWare team, I went home to my little corporate apartment and started playing Mass Effect.  Within minutes I was so swept up, so blown away at the experience that I actually jumped on the phone to call my wife, a long way away.  As I started gushing about the experience her excitement turned to dismay, and she stopped me…”You’re seriously calling me to tell me about a video game!?”  Needless to say, she hung up.  The best way to explain it is that media is changing.  We’re entering the age where we don’t have to watch a movie, we live the movie, we make the choices, live with the consequences and experience first-hand the emotional turmoil of the characters.  Commander Shepherd is my friend.  I like hanging out with him, I want him to succeed.

If you’ve ever read a book so compelling, so engrossing – that when you finish it, despite the happy ending you are heartbroken.  Heartbroken, because you no longer get to hang out with these characters, your new friends and experience their lives.  This is what BioWare delivers…passion.

This is the area that I thrive in…PASSION.

Customer Experience is understanding your customer’s passion and helping them achieve and retain that passion.

The journey so far:

  1. In April of 2009 BioWare engaged with the Irish and Dutch authorities to review various options for a European Support Site.
  2. In March of 2010 BioWare announced the engagement of an agreement with the IDA to establish a support studio in Galway Ireland to support 200+ jobs.
  3. In June 2010 the office was opened.
  4. In September of 2011 BioWare Ireland’s official building location was inaugurated and opened officially by Ray and Greg, along with the Prime Minister of Ireland Enda Kenny.
  5. On September 26, 2011 BWI announced an additional 200 jobs (bringing the total to 400).
  6. In December 2011, BWI successfully launched support for SWTOR.
  7. On Feb 1st, EA announced the successful launch and growth of SWTOR to 1.7 million users and growing.

Player engagement for Star Wars: The Old Republic has not slowed since launch, as the community achieved the following incredible gameplay milestones in just over a month since launch:

  • Over 239 million in-game hours, or over 332,000 months and over 27,000 years of in-game time.
  • Over 20 billion NPC’s killed.
  • Over 148 billion credits spent.

Star Wars: The Old Republic is one of the most critically acclaimed MMOs of all time, having won MSNBC’s “Game of the Year” award, “Editor’s Choice” award from IGN, PC Gamer and “Best MMO of 2011” awards from Gameinformer,, Massively, Ten Ton Hammer and more.

On Feb 29th We announced the launch of SWTOR in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

I expect to see SWTOR, and BioWare continue to perform.

Their formula is solid, it’s good, it works.

So how do you do it?

What is the magic that allows companies to be continually successful in any industry, and what is it that causes so many of these same companies to eventually lose sight of it and eventually fail?  The answer is so simple, so basic, that it seems too easy.  The customer.  Period.

I’ll share with you my formula.  The path I setup for our successful launch of SWTOR support:

  • 1. Launch Support

–      Build an extremely agile and flexible model for the CS support for launch.

–      Launch with the best suite of people, tools, and management available.

  • 2. Capture the Beast and Tame it.

–      Accurately begin capturing customer key data points from launch.

–      Build historical modeling and forecasting for workforce management, retention, and proactive strategic opportunities going forward.

–      Understand who our customers are.

  • 3. Maximize Efficiencies, Minimize Costs

–      Using aggregated data, implement proactive opportunities to extend customer lifecycle.

–      Maintain a VOC to deliver back to the business silo’s retention opportunities.

–      Seek out the right opportunity to proactively sell product.

Some of this may be to deep for you, and you may be thinking…”I write code and make games.”  Well, eventually you have to start thinking about selling those games, supporting your player base, and engaging with them.  You’ll have to learn to listen.

Listen, Trust, Build…expand one person at a time.

Happy customers tell 3 friends, unhappy customers tell 3000.  Computer Generate Media (CGM), the social web, all of it leads to your success or your failure…and the root?

The root is that this is not a bank, not a mortgage, not a car payment, or creditor.  Not something that people must have to live life.  What we do, what we offer in this industry is a service, a product, an experience.  What does it cost?

It costs them their FREE TIME and their EXTRA MONEY.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there are few things on earth that people care more passionately about then their FREE TIME and EXTRA MONEY.  That’s passion.

Learn your business.  Understand that there is more to making games than writing code.  Even dentists who study for years are subjected to long courses in how to run a business, as they will eventually have to run a practice in addition to managing your teeth.  If your university doesn’t provide education on the full business aspects of the gaming business, then ask for them.  Lobby for them.

The sky is the limit and the future is yours.  Get in the door however you can.  Work in CS and you’ll know your customer and you’ll be that much more hirable…far beyond your fellow graduates just walking out of university.

What an amazing opportunity is ahead of you…I wish you the best.  Thank you.


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