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Gameloft's Guillemot on iPhone games: 'We're not in the volume business: we're in the experience business'

'App Store consumers are sophisticated'

Product: Gameloft news | Manufacturer: Gameloft
Gameloft news iPhone, thumbnail 1
With 40 titles and counting, Gameloft has established itself as a key player in iPhone gaming, and it's easy to understand why.

From casual classics like Bubble Bash and Brain Challenge to hardcore action in Hero of Sparta and the inventive remake of The Oregon Trail, this is a publisher that consistently places a premium on quality. "We attempt to push the envelope with our games," smiles Gameloft CEO Michel Guillemot.

Having long been a leader in the mobile space, Guillemot has set his sights on conquering a new era of touchscreen gaming, and he's well on his way. On the eve of Apple's release of iPhone OS firmware update 3.0, Gameloft is prepared to charge into new territory with an emphasis on quality and an intelligent focus on responding to consumer demand.

To hear Guillemot profess the desire to address App Store consumer feedback may be startling given his company's magnitude, but it's part of what he deems to be critical to delivering compelling entertainment.

"The experience accumulated over the last 11 months since the launch of the App Store has been helpful," he says. Consumer feedback, media relations, pricing, and the role quality plays in shaping the success of games have led to shifts in the way Gameloft approaches iPhone.

"App Store consumers are sophisticated," Guillemot insists. User reviews provide buyers with more information about games than ever before, which in turn has raised a consumer generation more savvy than those that purchase handheld or console titles.

iPhone gamers are more sensitive to quality, he claims. The ability to sift through user reviews allows for "much more balanced opinions," as he puts it, that in turn influence attitudes to price.

It's a point articulated well in the release of Terminator Salvation. Originally launched at $9.99, the game was quickly halved in price. Guillemot explains, "Consumer expectations were that the price should be lowered and we responded."

Expect new lessons to be learnt, he says, with the introduction of in-app commerce.

While supporting well-known titles with additional content - as will happen with the upcoming Asphalt 5 - is likely to be successful, Guillemot admits in-app purchases are uncharted territory.

In the case of Asphalt 5, offering an additional track and a trio of cars for $0.99 may make sense today, but the fluid nature of the iPhone market could result in radically different expectations several months from now.

Pressure from the media also had a hand in shaping consumer attitudes toward the game's price. Guillemot doesn't believe, however, that the press plays as important a role on with regard to iPhone release as in other markets. "The media is useful, even if it is not as critical to business as in traditional video games."

While media can often spur conversation and influence consumer expectations, information on games can be gathered from a number of alternative sources, which has the effect of mitigating its role. He does however insist on the vital responsibility the media has to promote quality games.

The glut of games on the App Store has resulted in dizzying media coverage that often results in decent titles sliding by with little or no recognition. Some companies release so many games that ultimately the portfolio competes with itself.

Chillingo's recent release of two tower defence titles within a single week - Knights Onrush and Defender Chronicles - provides case-in-point. Neither has proved to be a wild success, with Defender Chronicles barely breaking the top 100 chart for games.

In contrast, Gameloft currently holds six spots on the top 100 paid games chart and three on the overall paid apps list. Even more striking is our average review scores for these games: 8. "We're not in the volume business," Guillemot quips. "We're in the experience business."

Rather than flooding the App Store with titles, his desire lies in spacing game releases to maximise impact. "It's more tempting to stagger releases for the consumer. You can't take care of your titles when you're releasing them shotgun."

Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson 17 June 2009
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