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The purpose of this post is to provide ideas on how Microsoft can leverage the powering of streaming (xCloud) to gain access to the two billion gamer who game on mobile, tablet devices or other devices.

Mobile Gaming and its Significance

According to a report published by newzoo.com mobile gaming represented 18% of total gaming revenue in 2012, by 2014 it had grown grew to 34%. Mobile gaming revenue is estimated to represent $70.3 billion in 2018 nearly double console game revenue in the same year.

According to a report by limelight.com gamers play on average 5.96 hours per week with mobile devices globally being the predominate device of play.

Gaining Traction in the Mobile Space

As the market is moving toward mobile gaming, companies like Sony, Google and according to rumours Amazon and Verizon are all investing in game streaming technology. Microsoft could take a number of different paths to gain traction within the mobile gaming space that include:

  • Microsoft could produce games on Android and iOS, an example of this would be Gears Pop.
  • Become a platform holder, the Microsoft Phones was an example of this position.
  • Providing services to the mobile space. Services like Azure, Xbox live or the Havoc engine can be used my mobile game developers.
  • Provide a cloud gaming platform that runs on mobile devices.  Microsoft Project xCloud is an example of this.

What is Project xCloud?

At E3 2018, Phil Spencer Microsoft VP of gaming announced a cloud gaming/streaming project that Microsoft has been actively working on.

 

 

Project xCloud is enabling Console Native games to stream through our Azure-hosted game servers and streaming clients. Any Console Native game currently shipping in the Microsoft Store on Xbox will be capable of streaming to a mobile device. Project xCloud is an open platform with a customizable Client UX where streaming starts with Xbox game developers not having to modify a single line of existing game code. source

Competitor Space – Google Stadia

 

Google in March 2019 announced their cloud gaming platform – Google Stadia. 

Engaging Mobile Gamers by leveraging Project xCloud

I am going to use the AIDA model developed by E. St. Elmo Lewis to illustrate how Microsoft could create engagement with gamers. 

Introducing the Purchase Funnel – AIDA

The AIDA model is used to describe the steps or stages a consumer goes through to make a purchase. The stages are:

  • AAwareness – the customer is aware of the existence of a product or service.
  • IInterest – actively expressing an interest in a product group.
  • DDesire – aspiring to a particular brand or product.
  • AAction – taking the next step towards purchasing the chosen product.

Creating Awareness of Project xCloud – Gaming with You at the Centre

Using Google Trends comparing search volume for Google Stadia vs xCloud shows that Google achieved significantly more search volume/interest for the Google Stadia platform then Microsoft has for Project xCloud in the last 12 months.

Building awareness is essential when a product or service is new and unknown in the market. Here are some suggestions to create awareness.

Idea 1 – xCloud Event

  • Separate the presentation on Project xCloud from other Xbox announcements at E3.  Have its own event, use a time to achieve maximum day coverage throughout the world.  For example, 9am PST, is 12pm EST, 5pm GMT, 6pm CET, 9pm GST and 9pm IST. It may not need to be live or in front of an audience,  reach is more important.
  • A separate event allows for breadth and depth within the presentation. Media can focus on reporting on xCloud, rather then juggle xCloud, new hardware, new studios, new IPs or in depth story about Halo/Gears of War.  
  • A separate event also gives marketing an opportunity to build top of mind awareness for the event and project xCloud. The focus of the event should be:
    • Why game in the cloud?
    • What makes Microsoft solution unique?
    • What games do they expect to see?
    • What can they do to learn more about xCloud? Get an email address or a follow in Social Media.
    • The road map for the future i.e. what to expect.
  • Post event, measure online sentiment, search volume and ensure the conversation continues.  Marketing tools such as YouTube Ads, Banner ads, ads over social media, press releases, exclusive interviews or outdoor advertising can be all used to keep the conversation going.

Idea 2 – Website

Searching on Google or Bing for the keyword ‘project x-cloud’ brings up a blog post from the Microsoft blog site and a news posts from the Xbox site in position 1 of the SERPs.

As of April 2019, I could not find a sub-domain or an entire site or a social media handle owned by Microsoft about Project X-Cloud. Having a website and being social activity has numerous benefits which are established and beyond the scope of this article.  

Idea 3 – Mobile Game Discovery

A typical model for mobile gaming:

Discovery -> Download -> Play a freemium game -> Pay

What if we took a existing game or created a game title that was optimised for mobile devices (included touch control), wrapped it in an app and launched on the App Store. Optimise the app to rank within the store and marketing the game (banner advertising, influencers, reviews etc).

The marketing model would be:

Discovery -> Download -> Play for limited time -> Pay subscription for that title to unlock game.

Now that we have a paying user for single title, it would be all about upselling full access to xCloud or selling access to other games. 

Creating Interest for xCloud

Awareness is the doorway to interest. The purpose of this section is to how to generate interest for xCloud.

Idea 1 – Demos and Previews

Let users see the technology running on their devices. This will allow them to actualise what is possible. Give access to press, influencers to generate reach and hype and then the general public.

Idea 2 – Hands on Events

Organise hands on event in major cities. This will allow users to try the technology and help maintain top of the mind awareness.

Idea 3 – Content Marketing

Using different content types (audio/video, written, visual, Q&A) develop material on the following areas:

  1. What is Cloud Gaming?
  2. How does it work?
  3. Will it work on my Internet connection? (Giving the ability to test)
  4. Can I play whilst I am travelling?
  5. What do I need to play? And how do I sign up?
  6. Which devices will it work on?
  7. Is it safe for my children to play and how do I ensure they remain safe online?
  8. Can I play on my TV?
  9. Can I play co-op?
  10. What kind of games can I play?
  11. The cost of freemium games vs xCloud.
  12. How much does it cost?

Creating Desire

The purpose of this section is to provide recommendations to help create desire for xCloud.

Idea 1 – Leveraging Existing Titles 

Take a popular mobile game and develop and optimise for the xCloud. This could be improved AI, better graphics, the removal of freemium content, new and unique content or improved multiplayer/co-op options.  

Idea 2 – Cost Calculator

Playing a AAA games at its highest fidelity requires investment, especially if you looking to play it on a PC. Over time additional investment will be required. Having a simple cost saving calculator showing how much money will be saved over time will help build desire, Also including other benefits to cloud gaming e.g. time to install, hardware scaling to meeting the demand of developers, freedom to choose where and how you play will also help.

 

Idea 3 – Playing Together

 

Gaming can be very social. Make it easy for users in a single location to share a device eg a 4K TV, tablet (e.g. split screen gaming),  allow users including guests to drop in with a simple sign in process so they can play together. Save the set-up to make it easy to replicate in the future.  Taking this a step further; based upon the users and the location recommend which games to play, pick up from a previous game played game, keep score on a leader board, create videos of key moments to share (scoring a goal or point in a sports game).

Idea 4 – Game Challenges 

Allow gamers and game manufacturer to set up unique challenges to test the players skills or for fun by sharing a link to a game in play. For example having a baseball game in the last round when you team is down, or a fighting an end of level boss whose difficulties has been tweaked. The idea is to take an existing game and extend the experience for players.  

Idea 5 – Game Demos

For an Xbox player having the ability to demo a game on the cloud before buying the physically or digitally helps achieve two things:

  1. Help the user make an informed decision about the game.
  2. Let a user experience the benefits of cloud gaming.

Idea 6 – USPs, IPs and Gaming Franchises

When consumers have the option to choose from multiple different cloud gaming services, every distinguishing factor can lead to a competitive advantage for one service over another. There is no doubt a soccer game like Fifa will be incredibly popular on the cloud especially if cross-play is supported, but in many ways seen as must have. An exclusive game can be seen to an competitive advantage as it helps create desire.

Some gamers would be interested in Marvel games, some would want remakes or sequels, some new IPs and others new experience that could only be possible due to the power of the cloud. It is all about understanding what consumers are looking for and providing titles to match that desire. 

Like the stock market you make an investment today with the belief that tomorrow would be even more bountiful. A platform like xCloud needs a strong catalogue of games across the various genres, a transparent pipeline for games in the short term and an understanding of the road map for the future.

Idea 7 – New Types of Games

Taking this genre of games further. Subscription services offers a way to fund games that may not exist in the freemium or the outright purchase model. Cross referencing games that are played vs the audiences that play them could reveal genres that need to be strengthened or types of games that should exist.  This insight can then be used to build games that may not exist without a subscription model. Educational games could be one example of this.  

Idea 8 – Social Media                            

With user consent show which xCloud games are popular amongst your friends on social media. It could as simple, your friend X is playing Y would you like to join them? Make it easy for them to try a game. 

Idea 9 – Make it Easy to Set Up

One of the use cases for xCloud is to be able to game on a home television without the need of a console. From a user perspective the application should be readily available on Smart TVs, TV dongles or Android boxes. From a marketing perspective is all about convey how easy it is to get up and running.

Taking Action

The purpose of the final section is to look at ideas on how to move the users from desire to taking action. Taking action is to provide a compelling reason to buy and removing any lingering doubts.

Idea 1 – Tailoring the Offer

Not one shoe size fits all. Some users would require a free trail, other a heavy discounted first month, others a discount over a longer period. Some would only want to pay when they play (pay per day), others monthly, other quarterly/yearly. It is all about testing and giving a user the ability to build a bundle that works for them. At the same time, it is important to consider that too many options can lead to confusion which reduces the chance of a sale.

Idea 2 – Bundling Offers

Bundling or providing offers are a great way to provide value to a potential customer and adds additional leverage to help acquire a paying customer. Examples could include:

  • Buy 12 months of xCloud and get a free digital Xbox game worth $60
  • Buy the Deluxe of a game and get 3 months of xCloud.
  • Gift a month of XCloud to a friend and receive a month for free.
  • Buy 6 month of xCloud get 6 months of Xbox Live for free.
  • Buy a game and get the xCloud edition of the game for free.

Idea 3 – Set up costs 

Owning an Xbox controller could be a barrier to signing up. It could be the price of a controller or the size of the controller relative the size of a mobile phone. Including the cost of the controller within the monthly fee of xCloud or offer a 50% discount on a controller from Xbox Design Lab could help the cost more attractive to a potential xCloud user. Having a smaller Xbox controller may appeal to some users as it will be easier to carry and use whilst travelling.

Idea 4 – Mobile Data

Playing on the go using a mobile network will consume data from the user’s phone package. Build relationships with mobile phone networks to provide uncapped data on mobile phones for gaming on xCloud. This will help remove a barrier to entry. 

Conclusion

I have outlined a number of different strategies that can be employed to help Microsoft grow the user base for xCloud. With every idea it is all about testing and taking the learning to iteratively improve. 

The challenges of running a business

Running a business has always been a challenge and especially today with all the possibilities and challenges that globalisation creates. Businesses can run 24/7, 365 days a year so having real time or near real time data helps in decision making, but the number of different metrics available can make it difficult to decide what to optimise for. Should it be revenue? Repeat business? Time spent of Site? Facebook Likes?

Optimising for some KPIs may have little to no impact on the success of the business. Sometimes different departments within a company may choose different KPIs to optimise for, but these departmental KPIs could negatively impact other departments. Simplifying metrics and creating an overarching metric not only makes decision making easier, it also help focus a company in a single direction.  This is where the idea of a North Star Metric comes in.

 

Product Core Value and an ‘a-ha’ moment

An ‘a-ha’ moment is a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight or comprehension, when something was unclear or uncertain becomes clear, we call that an ‘a-ha’ moment.  For example, when a customer realizes that your product resolves a problem that they are facing they have an ‘a-ha’ moment, they see can see how the core value of a product helps resolve their problem.

To illustrate with an example let’s take a look at Instagram.

Once the founders identified Burbn/Instagram would be all about photographs, they removed all other functions in the app. Photo and photo sharing became the core value of the product. Instagram launched and within a few hours became the number app in the app store.

Imagine for example Instagram after becoming the number one photo app focused on generating revenue rather than optimising and improving its core product, would it still exist today? This is where the idea of a North Star Metric comes in; it focuses a company to optimise their core value over any other priority. Businesses which optimise for their core value have great customer engagement, lower acquisition costs, higher retention rates and stronger referral rates.

 

What is a North Star Metric?

The North Star also known as Polaris sits almost directly about the North Pole. It isn’t the brightest star but before we had GPS or even road signs, the North Pole would be a reliable indicator of where North is, and once you know where North is you can calculate where South, East and West. Sailors or travellers once they located the North Star in the sky that could reach their destination safety.

The North Star Metric is a concept that has emerged from companies from Silicon Valley who invested in long term sustainable growth by creating and optimising that ‘a-ha’ moment with their customers. The North Star Metric is a single metric that focuses on the product’s core value. It defines the relationship between the customer problems that the product team is trying to solve (the ‘a-ha’ moment) and then the revenue that the business aims to generate by doing so. It has helped teams move beyond focusing on surface-level growth to long term customer growth as everyone and everything is focused on a single metric.

A North Star Metric may not be the flashiest number, nor is it a vanity metric, such as Facebook likes or Twitter followers. Getting one hundred new Twitter followers doesn’t equal growth. Likewise, focusing all your effort on a free trial signup, will not provide insight whether those people will actually use your product, or whether they’ll stick around when the free trial period has ended. North Star Metric is a leading (not lagging) indicator of a future business outcome that your company cares about.

 

What do you need a North Star Metric?

The North Star Metric provide three essential benefits.

  • It provides the company and its staff clarity and alignment on what needs to be optimised and what can be left alone.
  • It communicates in a simple single metric the progress of the product to the whole company.
  • It holds the company accountable to an outcome.

 

A north star metric should consist of 2 parts:

  • A statement of your product vision
  • A metric that serves as a key measure of your current product strategy.

 

Examples of North Star Metrics

 

Before we provide some guidance on how to define your own North Star Metrics I believe it would be beneficial to provide examples of different North Star Metrics.

Amplitude on their blog in an article called Product North Star Metric define their vision, their Key metric and North Star Metrics.

 

Airbnb

Core value: Connecting people who need a place with people who can host.

North Star Metric: Nights Booked.

 

Facebook

Core value: Build Social Value

North Star Metric: Daily Active Users.

 

Quora

Core value: Facilitate the sharing of knowledge in the world.

North Star Metric = Number of questions answered.

 

Amazon

Core value: Online shopping made easy.

North Star Metric = Sales

 

Medium

Core Value: Where people share ideas and stories.

North Star Metric: Total Time Reading.

 

Other examples of North Star Metrics include a real estate agent: number of open houses, restaurant: average meal check size, or a car salesman with number of test drives per day.

 

How do you define your own North Star Metric?

“Your product north star should be specific to your product and what your customers value.” Amplitude

To understand what your North Star Metric should be, look at how your product adds value to your customers. The data could be qualitative or quantitively. What is the one thing that they would miss the most if the product no longer existed?

Product Manager for Growth at GrowthHackers Hila Qu gives five points to keep in mind when selecting your North Star Metric:

  1. The metric should be used to measure if a user has experienced the core value of your product.
  2. It should reflect user’s engagement and activity level. The more they are engaged the higher the value, and vice versa.
  3. It is the single metric needed to indicate that the business is heading in the right direction.
  4. The metric should be easy to understand.
  5. It may not be possible to have the perfect North Star Metric. What you are trying is to find here is a metric that makes the most sense for the entire business to focus on. It might take a few iterations to finally find the right one.

Areas of the business that can help define what the North Star Metric could be, can come from the customers, the customer service team, the sales teams, analytics, marketing material or even a competitor.

When looking for a North Star Metric it should be the focal point of the business, a statement of your product vision, a persistent metric for real growth opposite to a vanity metric.