Ian Chamber談Mind Candy如何調整策略重回正軌

本文原作者Christopher Dring 譯者ciel chen

Ian Chamber作爲Mind Candy的CEO正努力地將這家創造了《Moshi Monsters》的公司從懸崖邊上解救上來

Ian Chamber並不想談論公司最近的歷史

“我們已經談過很多過去了,”他坐在位於倫敦總部的公司董事會會議室裏跟我們這樣說道。“公司在過去經歷了艱難的幾年,這並不是祕密。我是一年前加入到公司的,是爲了公司未來而來的。”

Chamber有着如此積極的嚮往是有充分理由的。在過去的幾年裏,Mind Candy公司沒有被老天眷顧。公司曾經創作了《Moshi Monsters》,這款數字網絡兒童遊戲/平臺曾爲公司帶來過利潤豐厚的品牌授權業務。很多年來,它都一直是兒童市場上的領軍角色,它催生了與之相關的書籍、玩具、服裝以及各種各樣的東西。該公司的創始人Michael Acton-Smith包攬了無數獎項。他和他的公司已然曾是一個真正的英國成功故事。

《Mind Candy》是不是進入智能手機市場的步伐邁得太慢了?也許。但不管怎樣,隨着面向兒童的其他產品逐漸增多,這個品牌開始在市場上沉溺蹤跡。玩具銷量大幅下降、用戶數量驟減,而《Mind Candy》想實現多元化的努力——包括其力作《World Of Warriors(勇士世界)》最後沒能得到足夠的資金來彌補失去的收入。

12個月前,當Chambers擔任這家公司的CEO時,這家公司正欠着債務無力償還,並且面臨破產的威脅。

“我不會從事一項我覺得沒有潛力的業務,”Chambers,他曾經在很多遊戲公司呆過,包括Ubisoft、IGN和GAME,“我來的時候清楚地知道這家公司所處的境地。請記住,我們還有每個月25萬的孩子們在玩着《Moshi》的頁遊——它還有希望復活的。”

“媒體上報道的故事都圍繞着債務。就和其他正在成長的企業一樣,它也在尋求融資。所以這筆債務是很正常的。在這種情況下,你需要展示出來的是進步。”

Chambers就在這上面(展示進步)成功了。債務已經重組,新的投資已經投入到業務中(達到150萬美元),投資者也對公司充滿了信息。那麼,到底是什麼讓有錢人相信說Mind Candy是值得拯救的呢?

“我們創造了一個新的願景,”Chambers堅持道,我們問他:“‘《Mind Candy》的特別指出在哪?’他回到說特別在它能創造世界。

“我們試圖想要創建一個生態系統。中心是我們的業務線:‘創造激發想象力的世界。’然後關鍵內容有人物、故事、技術、人性化的大家庭。如果我們對IP有這種權利,那麼我們在它創造點什麼好呢?”

“我們想要的不僅僅是單件產品。人們經常會對我們說他們看過我們的新的《Petlandia》書。但是《Petlandia》不僅僅是一本書而已。它就是我們正在創造的產品之一。”

啊是了——《Petlandia》。這是一個網絡概念遊戲,在這裏人們可以創造出虛擬的寵物。已經有65萬人玩了這個遊戲了,而Mind Candy通過稱之爲‘人性化平臺’已經開始盈利了。公司還退出了定製版實體書籍,裏面的主角是他們自己擁有的寵物。據Chamber說,從剛開始到現在已經售出了價值100萬英鎊的定製書了。

Petlandia(from gamesindustry.biz)

Petlandia(from gamesindustry.biz)

“寵物市場相當吸引人——它是一個價值1000億美元的全球市場。還有很多顛覆性的科技、可穿戴設備、個性化狗糧……所有你能想到的應有盡有,”Chambers說道。“有相當多的生意都是因爲人們對自家寵物的愛而產生的。”

公司現在正與“寵物名人”節目進行交流,試圖讓他們參與到《Petlandia》中,目前已經有關於它的視頻和T恤了……公司希望能通過社交媒體讓貓貓狗狗紅起來,到目前爲止,看上去似乎真的奏效了。

“這種書是按需求印刷的,我們經過製作然後寄出去,”Chambers這樣解釋道。“書以主人和寵物以及他們生活的地方、還有各種各樣人性化的細節爲特色。非常簡潔,人們很喜歡。我們能達到這樣的淨推薦值(用來衡量客戶體驗和預測商業增長)真的是超過了我們的預期。我們收到了6000個回覆,現在仍有81分。這個市場真的很令人吃驚,我們賣出了4萬本書。”

《Petlandia》已經見證了65萬隻寵物被玩家創造,賣出了4萬定製書

Chambers說道,儘管Petlandia是吸取資金的關鍵,然而光靠它還是不夠有說服力。

“我們需要更多的好想法。我們研究Moshi的模式有一段時間了,我和Micheal(Acton-Smith)坐在一起,想象着如果把這種個性化平臺應用到《Moshi》會如何。於是《Moshi Monsters Egg Hunt》就應運而生了。而原本的《Moshi Monster》頁遊是六選一的怪物領養模式,在《Egg Hunt》手機版中則是孵化你自己個性化定製的怪物,然後你要看護照顧好它。我們希望我們的APP能跟網頁版的《Moshi Monsters》一樣,讓玩家和寵物之間建立起深刻的羈絆。”

手遊《Egg Hunt》發行開始時便引起了廣大玩家的關注。在第一週我們就登上了免費兒童應用排行榜的第二名,僅次於YouTube,獲得了超過60萬次的下載量。這款是爲孩子們精心製作的,它邀請孩子們每天上線,但不會佔用他們太多時間,甚至包含着教育性質的內容。它是家長們的最好選擇,而且沒有應用內購買項目,完全免費。

Chambers正確地預測道:“你接下來應該會問我們要怎麼盈利。這就要歸結於我們的《Monshi Monster》所以留下的寶貴財產了——我們有授權合作伙伴,還有我們的個性化平臺,這樣我們就可以把我們的授權產品——日曆、T恤、海報等等周邊(個性化的怪獸定製版)銷售給家長們。”

“在遊戲中,一旦到了合適的時候,你就可以跟全世界分享你自己創建的角色。因爲這這個年齡段,孩子們的朋友不在社交媒體上,而是在操場上。所以這時家長們就可以購買個性化怪獸定製版的交換卡片,會有孩子所擁有怪獸圖案。而且每張卡都會有一個密碼——有了這些卡,你可以在學校給你的朋友,跟他們交換他媽呢的,然後你輸入密碼到他們的遊戲裏,他們的怪獸就會出現了。這種分享是需要親身操作的,而這正是五到六歲兒童的分享方式。”

“要進行更大範圍的零售就有賴於我們的交換卡了。遊戲中每一段內容和角色都有一張交換卡,每張卡背面都有可以刮開,你可以選擇刮開或者拿去交換——這是使用即失效的一種卡。你可以用刮開後顯示的數字代碼得到遊戲中的物品。這是一個實體版數字遊戲交換卡片。”

他還說:“我們不希望出現孩子向媽媽要1.99英鎊來買遊戲內項目的情況出現。現在真的有人解決這種問題了嗎?這是個開放性的問題。但是我們很自信我們有我們的模式——我們有已經成熟的IP。這很重要——是《Pokemon》去年的成功讓我們知道一個IP的力量有多強大。”
書籍、日曆、寵物手辦、海報、Youtube視頻(公司創造了一系列《Moshi Monsters》短片爲《EggHunt》的發行做鋪墊)……Mind Candy似乎越來越不像一家遊戲公司了。

Mind Candy通過努力,再次把《Moshi Monsters Egg Hunt》的品牌建立起來了

“不是這樣的。《Moshi Monsters: Egg Hunt》就是一款遊戲沒毛病,而且這款遊戲纔是所有體驗的核心部分。《Petlandia》的話嘛……是拉,目前爲止,從我們構建《Petlandia》的角度來看,他確實是一款有數字內容的實體產品。我覺的一隻能在你的手機遊戲裏的寵物是可以在任何地方存在的,而我們有遊戲程序員、有原畫師以及其他你所希望的一切——他們正在《Moshi》上做努力。”

“我覺得與其說我們不再是一家遊戲公司,我想不如說我們是一個成功的IP企業。你得關注用戶的所有娛樂方式——App就是其中一種。我對Facebook的機器人Alexa非常感興趣,這種和科技對話感覺讓人着迷。你可以看到我們那裏有HTC Vive,並且一直在致力於做VR產品的原型。等到了合適的時候,做AR產品對我們正在做的事來說也是自然而然的事。”

“我不會想說它是‘遊戲’還是‘不是遊戲’,我只會覺得它是一種娛樂形式,而我們所使用的娛樂途徑恰恰佔了天時與人和。”

Mind Candy還在醞釀着一些其他方面的東西——Chamber告訴我們,公司正在測試《Moshi Monster》的概念版訂閱BOX,然後是《勇士世界(World of Worriors)》很快就會浸入PS4平臺。

Chamber說:“企業經歷了不同的週期,而現在我們有了一個清晰的藍圖。蘊藏着兩個不同世界的兩個IP正在成長。這正是投資我們的好時候,資金可以讓我們繼續保持增長,而我們的債務已經根據我們的增長計劃進行了重組。”
“我們有實際的數據證明我們上升的勢頭。《Petlandia》並不是一個用幻燈片製作的IP——它是我們爲之驕傲的作品,我們讓人們喜歡上了它。我們從開始到現在已經賣出了價值1百萬英鎊的書籍了。這絕對不是件簡單的事。”

“《Moshi》作爲一個品牌給我們留下了所有的遺產,我們有着所有的內容並且還會繼續創造更多。並且我們始終和品牌授權商保持着很好的關係。”

“這就是我們得到投資的原因,自從公告發布以來,還有很多其他的投資者來找我們,我們會找找合適的投資者的。”

“所以我們的處境現在已經開始正向發展了。”

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Ian Chambers, the man in charge of Moshi Monsters firm Mind Candy, doesn’t want to talk about the company’s recent history.

“We have talked about the past,” he tells us sitting in the board room at the company’s London HQ. “There’s no secret that the company has had a few difficult years. I joined a year ago and really it’s about the future.”

There’s good reason for Chambers’ eagerness to look forward. The past few years haven’t been kind to Mind Candy. The company was built on Moshi Monsters, the online digital kids game/platform that spawned a hugely lucrative licensing business. For multiple years, it was a leading light in the kids market, spawning books, toys, clothes and everything in-between. It even had a movie and an album that briefly kept Madonna from topping the charts. The company’s founder Michael Acton-Smith would collect numerous awards. He and his company had become a true British success story.

Chambers joined Mind Candy in a difficult situation

Was Mind Candy too slow at moving to smartphones? Perhaps. But regardless, as can happen with kids IP, the brand began to fade from the playground. Toy sales plummeted, user numbers fell, and Mind Candy’s efforts to diversify – including the ambitious World of Warriors game – didn’t do enough to replace the lost income.

When Chambers came on-board as CEO 12 months ago, he joined a business that was failing to service its debt, and facing the threat of bankruptcy.

“I wouldn’t have joined the business if I didn’t think there was potential,” says Chambers, whose CV includes stints at an eclectic line-up of games companies – including Ubisoft, IGN and GAME. “I knew exactly the state of the business when I joined. Let’s keep in mind, we still have 250,000 kids playing on Moshi web every single month. The wheels haven’t come off this business.

“The stories in the press are all around the debt. As with any business that’s growing, it was looking at financing this and that. So there was this debt taken out. That’s perfectly normal. What you need to show in any situation like this is progress.”

Chambers has succeeded in doing just that. The debt has been restructured, fresh investment has been put in to the business (to the tune of $1.5m), and the investors are speaking confidently of the company. So what is it that has convinced the money men that Mind Candy is worth rescuing?

“I knew exactly the state of the business when I joined. Let’s keep in mind, we still have 250,000 kids playing on Moshi web every single month. The wheels haven’t come off this business”
“We’ve created a new vision,” insists Chambers. “We asked: ‘What is Mind Candy exceptional at?’ The answer is creating worlds.

“What we are trying to create is an ecosystem. At the centre is our business line: ‘creating worlds that fire the imagination.’ Then the key things are characters, story, tech, personalisation and family. If we get that right for the IP, then what do we create around it?

“We don’t think about just a single product. Often people are saying to us that they’ve seen our new Petlandia book. But Petlandia isn’t just a book. That’s just one of the products we are creating.”

Ah yes, Petlandia. This is an online concept where people can create a virtual version of their pet. 650,000 people have done so, and Mind Candy has monetised this via what it calls its “personalisation platform”. The firm has created a physical book that people can order, and it features their own pet. Chambers says it has sold £1m worth of these books from a standing start.

“The pet market is fascinating – it is a $100bn global market. And there’s loads of disruption in tech, wearables, personalised dog food… you name it,” begins Chambers. “There is an incredible number of businesses cropping up in this space because of people’s love for their pets.”

The company is talking to ‘celebrity pets’ to try and get them involved in Petlandia, it has created digital videos and t-shirts… the firm hopes to tap into the social media boom around cats and dogs, and so far it appears to be working.

“The book is print-on-demand that we create and send out,” Chambers explains. “It features the owner and the pet and where they live, and various other little personalised details. Very simple. And people love it. We have this Net Promoter score [which measures customer experience and predicts business growth] that is off the scale basically. We’ve had 6,000 responses and it’s still at 81. It’s an incredible market that we’ve tapped into. We’ve sold 40,000 books.”

Petlandia has seen 650,000 virtual pets created and 40,000 books sold

Chambers says that although Petlandia is key, it wasn’t enough on its own to convince the investors.

“We needed more than one idea,” Chambers said. “We have been looking at the Moshi formula for some time, and Michael [Acton-Smith] and I were sitting there and imagined what would happen if we applied this personalisation platform to Moshi. That’s where Moshi Monsters Egg Hunt was born. So whereas Moshi Monsters is adopt one of six monsters, in Egg Hunt you hatch your own unique moshling, which you can look after and care for. That connection we want to build through the app needs to be powerful. As it was with Moshi Monsters through the web.”

The Egg Hunt app is off to a strong start. In its first week it reached No.2 on the free kids app charts, beaten only by YouTube, and was downloaded more than 600,000 times. The app has been carefully built with kids in mind. It invites kids to play every day, but doesn’t demand much of their time and even includes educational elements. And best of all for parents, it’s completely free with no in-app purchases.

“”We don’t want that situation where kids are asking mum for £1.99 for an in-app purchase”

“Your next question will be how do we monetise it,” Chambers correctly predicts. “This is where our Moshi Monsters heritage comes in. We have our licensing partners, and we also have our personalisation platform, where we sell items to parents – calendars, t-shirts, posters, whatever – featuring this personalised moshling.

“In the game, once you get to the right point, you can share your character with the world. Now, at that age, your friends aren’t the ones on social media, they are in the playground. So parents can buy personalised trading cards, featuring their kids’ moshling. And each one has a secret code. You get these cards, you give one to your friend at school, they give you their card, and you put that code into their game and their moshling appears. So the sharing happens in person, the way that five and six-year-olds share.

“How this works on a grander scale with retail, is that we have normal trading cards. There is a trading card for every piece of content and character in the game. Each card has a scratch panel at the back, and you can either scratch or swap. It is a one-time use. You can then use the code behind the panel and the item will appear in their game. It is a digital-physical trading card game.”

He continues: “We don’t want that situation where kids are asking mum for £1.99 for an in-app purchase. Has anyone really cracked this issue yet? That’s an open question. But we are feeling very confident that we have a formula. We have the IP. That’s the important thing. The success of Pokemon last year shows how strong a character IP can be.”

Books, calendars, pet avatar creators, posters, YouTube videos (the firm has created a series of Moshi Monsters shorts to launch Egg Hunt)… Mind Candy doesn’t seem to resemble a games company anymore.

Moshi Monsters Egg Hunt is Mind Candy’s effort to establish the brand once again

“That’s not true,” Chambers insists. “Moshi Monsters: Egg Hunt is a game and that is the heart of the whole experience. Petlandia… yeah, right now, in terms of how we’re building Petlandia, it is digital content and physical products. But I see – and there are no plans for this yet – but I see your pet being in a game on your phone. The pet is a character that can live anywhere, and we have game developers and artists and all the things you’d expect. They’re just working on Moshi right now.

“Instead of me thinking of us as not so much a games company anymore, I think of us as being a successful IP business. You have to look at all of the ways your audience interacts with entertainment. So apps are one way, I am fascinated by Facebook bots. I am fascinated by Alexa, and talking to technology. You can see we have a HTC Vive over there, we have been prototyping VR stuff. At the right time we will do that. AR… that is a natural fit for what we’re doing as well.

“I don’t think of it as ‘games’ or ‘not games’. I just think of it as entertainment”

“I don’t think of it as ‘games’ or ‘not games’, I just think of it as entertainment, and we use the channels that are right for the audience at the right time.”

There are other things bubbling behind the scenes at Mind Candy. Chambers tells us that the firm is trialling a Moshi Monsters subscription box concept, and then there’s World of Warriors, which is coming to PS4 soon.

“Businesses go through different cycles,” Chambers opines. “We now have a clear vision. Two worlds – two IP – that are growing. And the investment was made at the right time to enable us to continue that growth. The debt has been restructured based on our growth plans.

“This is based on us proving the momentum. We have real numbers. Petlandia is not an IP created on a powerpoint slide. We have made something, we have people engaged with it, and we have sold £1m worth of books from a standing start. That is no mean feat.

“With Moshi, we have got all the heritage of that brand, we have all the content, and with more coming. But we also have these wonderful relationships with licensees.

“This is money being invested. We’ve had other investors come to us since the announcement, too, and we’ll look at that.

“This is not a scenario where there are some negative connotations.”(source:gamesindustry.biz