Adam Lieb is the CEO of Gamesight, a technology platform driving revenue for games. As a seasoned entrepreneur in the gaming industry — building and selling his first website at the age of 11 — he’s developed products, services, and companies that reach billions of gamers. Before Gamesight, Adam was the Founder and CEO of Duxter, a social network for gamers that offered virtual currency for completed social and game-related goals. From 2007-2011, he was the Founder and CEO of Gaming Synergies, a network of over 20 websites servicing gamers with in-house assets, leveling, and coaching in the top MMO and FPS games.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Adam Lieb reflects on his entrepreneurial journey that started at age 11
- What is Gamesight — and what inspired Adam to create the platform?
- The secret behind successful video game companies
- How did COVID-19 affect game companies’ marketing?
- Trends in game marketing
- Influencer marketing: beneficial or false advertising?
- How to determine which platform works best for your game
- Adam shares success stories for Gamesight
- Valuable tips for emerging entrepreneurs
- How to get a job in the gaming industry
In this episode…
Congratulations! You’ve developed a video game you consider engaging and enjoyable. But, with the influx of games on the market, how can you set your product apart from the competition?
As with any product launch, you want to devise an impactful marketing strategy. Tactics such as creating a compelling trailer, building a website, and reaching out to relevant media outlets are a sufficient start. You may also consider attending conventions, running ads, or partnering with an influencer. Adam Lieb, a serial gaming entrepreneur who’s founded multiple gaming companies, understands the importance of marketing, so he launched a platform dedicated to marketing solutions to drive revenue to newly developed games. His team of experts at Gamesight partners with respected gaming companies worldwide, managing influencer campaigns and analyzing gaming data points. These resources enable them to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing plan
In this episode of the Here’s Waldo Podcast, Lizzie Mintus welcomes Adam Lieb, CEO of Gamesight, to discuss tactics developers can use to engage their fanbase and foster a successful product. Adam reflects on his entrepreneurial journey, Gamesight’s mission, and the inspiration for building the platform. He also addresses the secret behind successful gaming companies and how to determine the best platforms for your video games.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
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This episode is brought to you by Here’s Waldo Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in the video game industry that prioritizes quality over quantity and values transparency, communication, and diversity. We partner with companies, creatives, and programmers to understand the why behind their needs and provide a white-glove experience that ensures a win-win outcome.
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Welcome to the Here's Waldo podcast, where we sit down with top visionaries and creatives in the video game industry. Together, we'll unravel their journeys and learn more about the path they're forging ahead. Now, let's get started with the show.
Lizzie Mintus: I'm Lizzie Mintus, founder and CEO of Here's Waldo Recruiting, a boutique video game recruitment firm. This is the Here's Waldo podcast. In every episode, we dive deep into conversations with creatives, founders, and executives about what it takes to be successful. You can expect to hear valuable lessons from their journey and get a glimpse into the future of the industry.
This episode is brought to you by Here's Waldo Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in the video game industry that prioritizes quality over quantity and values transparency, communication, and diversity. We partner with companies, creatives, and programmers to understand the why behind their needs and provide a white glove experience that ensures a win- win outcome.
Today we have Adam Lieb with us. He is an entrepreneur from Seattle with 20 years of experience building and growing technology companies. He has quite an impressive introduction. He started his first venture building gaming communities.
When he was 11, he sold his growing website to IGN or News Corp. At 15, he started generating $10,000 a week in virtual goods sales. He built out a marketplace for virtual goods in a popular MMORPG game. When he was 16, he graduated from high school and began studying at the University of Washington. He started and built gaming synergies to a multimillion -dollar revenue business operating 25 different properties in the gaming space.
Following a childhood dream, he decided to continue running his successful business while he enrolled in law school. He spent four years living by the beach in West LA while he learned his JD and MBA, all while continuing to run game synergies. Shortly after graduation, Adam founded Dexter, a company focused on building massive communities of obsessed gamers.
He went on to raise millions of dollars, recruit a team of passionate developers, and build Dexter out into a major player in the game industry. Adam is now the CEO of GameSite, which helps developers build, understand, and engage their fanbase in order to foster success for the games and bring joy to their gamers.
Adam has been recognized by the White House as one of the top entrepreneurs under 30. He regularly speaks to startups and at games conferences, as well as written contributions to publications such as Forbes, entrepreneur.com, and social media today. Let's get started. Thank you so much for being here, Adam.
First of all, tell me about your entrepreneurial venture when you were 11. How did you start that? How did you know that you wanted to start something?
Adam: Yeah, it's so funny because obviously, now I'm a regular adult and the stuff you're reflecting on and you tell a story how you tell the story.
But at the time, if I had to put myself back in my 11 year -year-old brain, I never thought that I was starting a business. I never thought that I was an entrepreneur or a founder. Those weren't words that I probably knew or understood. I was really just building a website, which is what I would have called it at the time.
If you knew me, I would have said, "Oh yeah, I build a website," and it was a website for video game website. It did a couple of different things that kind of were interesting at the time. One was doing, I guess, tips and tricks probably what would have been called back then, but a lot of it were guides and walkthroughs on how to beat games or get to the last level or strategy for how to be successful in games. This was during the AOL internet days. There was information like this on the internet, but there wasn't a lot of it. There certainly wasn't social media, there wasn't Twitch, there wasn't YouTube, there was no way to learn and watch how someone beats a game or gets good at a game. And so I started writing web, website content for games that I played and liked. I don't really remember exactly how it started other than someone must have just asked if they could send the web admin email address, which is probably the only one that I had at the time and asked for a guide on a different game that I didn't play, or maybe even didn't know what it was. And then now I'm on the internet trying to find someone else who plays those games and understands those games and can write content. And you do that enough that you end up with a lot of content and a bunch of different games and topics. So I guess it grew organically from there. It was definitely not something I sat down with a business plan and made a cognitive thought of this is what I'm going to be doing. It just all happened, happened out of interest and something that I wanted to do and thought was fun. And then IGN bought the website when I was a kid. It wasn't major M&A, but they bought the website. At the time they were pretty focused on printing their magazine stuff not digital and it was my first experience with, you know, working with a big company. Again, funny I can tell the story now that I was, you know, I was an 11 year -year-old entrepreneur. But I certainly wouldn't have thought that at the time.
Lizzie Mintus: So did you stay on when they bought it to advise or was it just a plain transaction?
Adam: For a little bit, I remember getting free games in the mail. That was a big perk. Get free games and write kind of reviews on them. It wasn't really something that was being, in a friend of mine who was the other main writer. We were kids. Having a job was not really that interesting. Having to report to someone or having to send something in by a certain date. So it was more or less a clean transition. It was a short -lived time where I felt we can write reviews and guides mostly for a magazine.
Lizzie Mintus: I love it. And tell us a little bit more about GameSite. What inspired that? Where did you start? Where are you today?
Adam: Yeah, GameSite is a marketing platform for games. We work with several hundred games- everything from indie, triple I to triple A, heavily PC console. We work with games to help them understand where audiences are and grow their playership. A bunch of different kinds of tools and services that do that. Some core technology that basically integrates with games as well as all digital marketing spend. So whether that's Facebook, Google, Reddit, Twitch, Tik Tok, and TV, all the different places that somebody might be looking to tell, find gamers and tell them about the game they're making, integrate with all those things, as well as the games to help figure out what is effective, where they should spend their money, how they should grow their games. It's a cool business. We're 40 people now. Business is quasi -based in Seattle, where we used to be fully based in Seattle. And then during COVID shutdown, went fully remote and stayed fully remote. We still have maybe a dozen people here in Seattle, so it's a decent hub for us. It's a ton of fun. We get to work with tons of great companies and some of my favorite studios and favorite games that we get to work on and help them grow their games and sell more copies and make more money. We do something special and unique that game studios don't generally want to do. Marketing technology and analytics are not core competencies for the vast majority of game studios. They want to build great and fun games. So they do that and we can do some of this more boring marketing tech, ad tech stuff. And yeah, it's a lot of fun to get to work with games that you love and companies that you love. And contribute something unique and meaningful to their businesses. That's a childhood dream come true. If I told my 11 year-old self that one day my life was going to be just working with games to help them sell more copies. That's cool, that's a job. I don't know that I would have thought that was a job back then. Certainly that's a big part of my life story as a kid. It was loving video games and wanting to be a part of it. But at the time, I don't think gaming was ever something that any teacher would have said, "Oh yeah, that's a big industry." And there's so many jobs in gaming. The world has changed now. Obviously gaming wasn't as big 25- 30 years ago as it is now. So I don't know that they would have been entirely wrong, but at the very least, it was not commonly understood as a 200 billion industry or whatever it is now where there's so many jobs and so many careers. And I've got two little kids and for sure they look at that as a very possible life path. Like, I might make a video game when I get older, I might do X, Y, or Z in video games. And that's just something that I don't think was obvious to me as a kid or offered to me as a kid, but I was interested in that and wanted that to be a thing. And fast forward how many years and here we are.
Lizzie Mintus: You made it a thing. Our businesses are similar because we work with so many studios too and get to see the inside scoop. You have such an interesting perspective because you get to see what all the top influencers are doing and what all the companies are doing that makes them so successful. Without giving away any really big secrets, what do you feel like the secret to success there is?
Adam: I think that the secret is like in the process for most companies. You look at the companies that have the most success - it's usually because they are smart and thoughtful and do something that is both a combination of creativity and unique creative genius combined with typically fairly rigid analytics and understanding of what they're doing. And if you can do those things, each one is uniquely really challenging. Being detail-oriented as well as being sort of a genius. If you can do both of those things, then nothing else I think really matters you will figure everything else out. Because whether the trend is cross-path game or the trend is VR, whatever the various things are. You’d be successful in this world, you just kind have a ability to analyze and understand the data that is available
But I think those are the two ingredients and maybe the secret is not so secret. But I would say anyone that ever tells you that the secret is Tiktok or the secret is X. It's just not true. Sure, there's flash in the pans and there's random success stories where someone did something weird and it happened to work and they sold a bunch of copies of their game. That's not going to really be a repeatable success story. Whereas the companies that continue to find ways to be successful in the kind of the world as it stands now both like technology, consumer preferences - all of those things that they can be adaptable. Those are the companies that are the forever companies that are worth billions of dollars and will be worth more than that tomorrow. So, good luck. Those are really hard things to do, but I would always focus on the hard things, not the easy ethereal things that might come and go.
Lizzie Mintus: What company or companies do you feel are the pinnacle of hard marketing and who really has it down that everybody is admiring right now?
Adam: That's a good question. I think that there's definitely a lot of different archetypes of what success looks like. In a lot of ways, there's companies that probably have the science behind marketing as well as anyone. And they've been able to have pretty mastery in success on every game that they publish and a big part of that.
Making great games is a threshold thing. I don't know a company that is like, they're great at marketing, they just make crappy games. I suppose that's theoretically possible, but most of what makes marketing successful is you have something great and marketing is really just the, make a phone to tell a lot of people about the great thing that you made. So making a great game is the first thing. But then I think about data -driven analyses. And again, that kind of creative inspiration around how to message that, I think companies probably Scopely are be the ones that are the pinnacle of it from that perspective.
Blizzard with Diablo 4, I think that's a launch a lot of people look at and go like, wow, it was so amazing and I wish we could do the same thing. And I think in a lot of ways, massive budgets dictate the size of the game and the size of the game market that you're producing for will dictate a lot of marketing spendage. You're never going to spend a hundred million dollars marketing a game that can only ever sell a hundred million dollars worth of units. Whereas you're building a game that you're hoping to make a billion dollars. Spending 100 million on marketing is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. So I think sometimes people conflate the size and scale of marketing budgets with how good they are, but it's a totally different function trying to figure out how to reach 100 million gamers than it is you're making an indie game for a very specific audience and we need to find all the people on the internet to play this type of game.
That's a very different challenge. I think it's really hard to just compare. Blizzard's Diablo 4 marketing was so awesome. We should do the same for our game with a 10 million budget. The answer is almost certainly not to do that. There is almost no way that will be successful. Even if you just said we'll just scale it down to one one -hundredth the size. That just won't work, right? A lot of those things only work for games and marketing budgets at that scale. So I think one of the challenging things both about game development and games marketing and distribution is that you need to match the specific unique things about your game with how you market it.
There are some games where my POV is that they should spend 100% of their marketing budget on Twitch or YouTube - just getting people to play their game and getting their game in front of people because the game is awesome, but you need to see it. I think there are a lot of games that you could read about them and they wouldn't sound that interesting, but then you watch people play and it looks awesome. Making a game like that's probably where you should focus. There are games that we see where TikTok ends up being this huge growth vertical for them. There's short clips of their game, people doing funny things like horror games. Actually, one of the genres that does extremely well on TikTok or YouTube shorts- —basically a short form content where you're watching a lot of reaction videos. It would be like me watching you play a horror game and you freaking out about something than that, and then me reacting to it. That is kind of a unique phenomenon that happens in horror games that works really well on TikTok.
People laugh, watch it for 20 seconds. The person freaks out, they fall out of their chair, they scream, whatever. Subscribe to the next video. That works super well. Oh, this company does it so well, we should copy their strategy. Well, is this going to work for my game? It kind of goes back to my original question. If you're really smart and analytical, and you're also really creative, you'll figure those things out uniquely for your game, rather than trying to find a blueprint someone else has already created.
Lizzie Mintus: So do you do a lot of advising with companies, they'll come in and they say we have X amount of money and we're thinking about doing X, Y, Z, and then you help them come up with a plan or they're coming up with a plan and you're analyzing, you're giving them the metrics?
Adam: More so the latter. I'm not a consultant or advisor. We have a platform that should offer that kind of data. What I just said is based on a bunch of data that I've seen around our games and where people discover and play horror games based on, but those are insights that you can for yourself. My meta point around being analytical and learning from data- —if you're doing all of those things, you'll come up with those insights for your game without having to rely on one person, tell you how it's supposed to work.
Lizzie Mintus: Did the pandemic really alter the way people think about marketing? I would imagine you're not doing any in person. And then now that the pandemic's over, how do the in-person events play into things now?
Adam: For sure, things like PAX, which were a big part of events, marketing, show marketing, have been a big part of the marketing playbook for a lot of game companies for a very long time. They all stopped by definition during the pandemic. I would say it's still a little bit like TBD on how all of that shakes out. E3 didn't happen this year, and part of the reason E3 didn't happen, and this would be more opinion than fact, is that a lot of companies used to spend a lot of money at shows like E3. They know how many copies of their games they sold, they assume that E3 was an important part of that. The pandemic happens, they don't do E3 because it doesn't exist. They still sell roughly the same amount of game units and go, Hmm, well, you know, we sold the same amount of games, but we didn't spend all the money on E3. Well, why don't we just keep not spending the money on E3 and keep selling the same amount of games? I think there are a lot of companies that basically did that analysis, and I think it's maybe not wholly dissimilar to what I'm sure you deal with a lot, which is just remote work versus in person work. And there are a lot of companies that used to spend a ton of money on office space that they assumed you needed to do in order to recruit people, retain people, et cetera. In the pandemic, if they were still able to recruit, retain and hire quality talent, why have the really expensive office space we're just paying for no reason. So I would say that kind of recoil from in person events happened. And then there's been another backlash, but another whiplash of companies that go, Oh, great. Now, there's Fewer companies that are doing this in part in person marketing. So maybe it's a better time for our company that maybe has a smaller budget than EA and Activision that maybe we can do a big activation at a show like E3 or PAX or something. So I don't think it's fully settled yet as to whether or not that's going to be a big part of games marketing going forward. I think almost certainly will be a part of games marketing for some companies, probably forever. There, there are some games that were better if you can just get people to put their hands on and get people to play that, that maybe, you kind of normal online distribution of games that you really want to get people hands on, especially when you're doing earlier playtesting, you're trying to build a community, you're doing early access. Yeah, it's boots on the ground, getting people to put a game in front of them, I think is still a super effective way to, I don't kickstart marketing or start that community building. So I don't think that's gone or going away, but it has definitely changed because of COVID.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, a lot more games are going early access doing a lot of play testing. Is that a pretty big trend that you see? And tell me more. What other trends are big and what can companies do to stay ahead of the curve?
Adam: Definitely that is the idea that a game ships and the first time anyone that plays it or hears about it is like, the game ships 30 days before.
I think early access was a tool phenomenon that steam started and big companies for a long time- —Oh, that's like an indie game thing for people who can't finish their games and they need to get some money for the game that's not finished yet. So they do this early access thing to sell some pre orders or some early plays. And then what I think companies have started to learn is that you can really build the excitement and hype up for a game by letting some amount of people play it early. You can get user feedback if there are problems with the game or polishing. You're not going to change the entire game, but more polished level stuff you want to do. I do think that it's become more of a marketing feature than a development feature. I think early access for a long time was about User testing and user feedback. And I think it is now, especially for larger companies, to become a little bit more of a thing that they do as part of marketing the game. Like let's get people to play our game and say good things about it on the internet earlier, that's more likely to pump up pre orders more likely to have an earlier view, well perceived and all of that type of stuff. So I think it has now become a little more of a marketing function than just a pure necessity of game development. And I think it's a good trend at getting people's hands on games. Everything's always subject to change. It goes too far and everyone's sick of all these games being in beta. And wake me up when the game ships. There is a bit of a sentiment around that. Especially for triple A's where there's a little bit of a recognition that it is a marketing tactic as opposed to a development tactic. At a certain point that goes too far into, and gamers are like, "Oh, this sucks. Stop doing it." And then it's all stop. But right now, I think it's probably still a reasonable tactic that I see fairly frequently. I think the one that has worked really well is this early access call for 24, 48 hours, say 72 hours before the game launches if you buy the premium edition. I think Hogwarts Legacy was the game that was the most successful doing this. There were three versions of the game. It was like 70, or something. And then, I think the second and third highest SKUs both allowed that early access. And that was super successful. I'm pretty sure it's still the best -selling game of the year, if not, it's top three, but I'm pretty sure it's still the number one selling game of the year. And when you do that, I think that there's this kind of unique element of people who just are really excited about the game and love the game and sort of value the game at 90 or 100 instead of the 60 or 70 price point. And so you give them the opportunity to price segment into where they would prefer to be, which is a higher tier, give them some more stuff for that. And one of the things is that early access. The other thing that it really does, definitely for Hogwarts Legacy. And I actually wrote some articles and there's some decent press around this phenomenon where it also allowed a lot of content creators to start streaming the game. They bought that, you know, 70, 90 or the 90 version. They can get content up quickly and early. There are a lot of people who maybe were waiting for that release date. But they got to experience the game and figure out if they wanted to buy it or get excited about the game beforehand because they could watch content creators play it in that two -day window. So I'll have to pull the date on this, but I'm pretty sure it's still the number one. Most viewed game on Twitch on launch for a single -player game. I think it's the number three game of all time. I went behind Valorant and something else. But for a single player story-driven game - Hogwarts Legacy was, it was the most successful content creator launch ever. And I think a huge piece of that was that early access period. You charge people for it. It's 10 or 20 bucks to have access to the game early. Companies are still playing with those different models. I don't know which one will be the winner. There probably won't be one. That'll probably work for a while and then too many games will do it. People get annoyed with it and it'll go away.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, but it worked really well for them. And it's interesting. You could sell a game at a higher price point when it's the same game. I feel like games have been the same price for such a long time.
Adam: It's funny because that's really not true. This has been a thing for a long time. I kept a year's check, but I remember buying Halo 3 and they had three versions. They had the Heroic Edition, they had the Legendary Edition. Legendary Edition, I think was 120, base edition was 60, and the Legendary Edition came with the Master Chief helmet, it came with the booklet, a big fancy box, all of these things. I don't think that most people like me who bought that game for 120 were like, man, I love this helmet. I'm going to spend 60 on the helmet. Helmet was cool, no doubt, but I don't think that most of us bought it for the helmet. Most of us bought it because we loved Halo so much. We were fans and we wanted to both support the studio that made the game and also prove to other people that we're fans. One way to prove you're a fan is you have the fancy edition with all the cool stuff. So, I think that has been a thing for a long time. If you think about it, the base economic case is for premium games, buying large PC console games for a long time, their challenge with pricing is that there's this sort of curve of willingness to pay and how much people value your game and how much people are willing to spend on it. And for Halo 3, there were three price points under the curve, 60, 90, 120, whatever the three were. And they were able to capture all the value under the curve. Anyone who valued the game at one of those three price points would pay those price points. And that's it. What free to play gaming has done, heavily in mobile obviously because it's elsewhere, but what free to play gaming by and large does is captures every single player's willingness to pay under that price point curve. So no matter where you are, whether you want to spend a dollar a month, you want to buy a season pass for 10 bucks a month, or you want to buy every single cosmetic thing, up to the moon for, 50,000 a month, you can do that. That entire curve is fully represented. So it's been a much more successful way of monetizing games than games have been monetized for the last 35 years, but it doesn't work for everyone, obviously. Hogwarts legacy, for example, playing with rather than just selling the game, not that 70% price point, you only get people who are willing to pay exactly that amount. They're able to price discriminate a little bit based on a few different things. Definitely smart, good pricing strategy. WB is a big company. They probably have people with pricing strategy in their job title that think about this stuff and do lots of user research and make these decisions.
Lizzie Mintus: You talked about super successful marketing campaigns, but only working to a certain point where people get sick of it and want something new. Do you feel there are marketing campaigns that do really well? Short term, they make a lot of money, but then longer term, they end up offending the user base or end up training people a lot, even though there is money short term, just not long term. Do you see them backfire?
Adam: I don't know that I would say anything backfires like that. I do think tactics work for a period of time and then eventually they don't. That's pretty much true with probably anything, but definitely with marketing is that stuff works for a while and then it stops working. Some of that is competitive forces. If it works, everyone else does it. It drives the price up. Most of these things are. To some extent, auction -based markets, even TV ads, if no one wanted to advertise on TV, it'd be really cheap, and the few companies that did would probably be super successful. Then a bunch of other companies come in. They also want to advertise on TV, drive up the price, and all of a sudden, the effectiveness of that is, has gone way down. That happens pretty much everywhere. If you look at the most successful Game companies of all times, most of them rode some particular strategy that they were like either first or best at for quite a while. Eventually everyone copies it, and it doesn't work as well anymore. But companies like Supercell - they were one of the first companies to really figure out in- game ads, playable ads, video ads, rewarded ads, performance marketing ads on mobile. In the heyday, they were spending 5 million a day on ads on phones to get people to play Clash of Clans. And the game was so great, and people loved it so much, and they spent so much money on it that they could spend 5 million a day on ads and still make money. They figured that out eventually. A bunch of other companies copied them, they moved in, they started doing the same thing. The cost of all those ads went way up, it was no longer effective to do it, they slowed down or stopped doing it. I think Roblox, and large, was a huge successful publicly traded company now. By and large was like on the back of partnering with lots and lots of YouTubers and the way that most people discovered Roblox was watching a YouTuber play it. That was a tactic that worked for them. Sure, eventually a bunch of other companies all try to contract those same Roblox creators and the cost of those videos goes way, way up. It's maybe not an effective tactic for everyone anymore. Being early on something and then also being right. Zynga was so successful because they were on Facebook and they were able to take advantage of the systems in place where everyone was sending you a notification a hundred times a day to water their crops in Farmville.
It's a joke, it's a meme, but it worked because we all know it. And we can all reference it because it was such a pervasive part of being an internet user for three or four years that grew them to a publicly traded company and worth whatever 10 billion at some point. So yeah, it didn't work anymore, but other companies did it eventually, everyone hated it. Everyone blocked all the notifications, Facebook shut it down. That stopped being an effective marketing tactic.
But for a while, it was the best marketing tactic in the world. And I think that's back to our first discussion, which is if you're smart and you're creative. You're going to figure those things out and what works for your game and what doesn't. And if you're on the back end of the curve of where something is working, you got to figure out how to stop it quickly and find a new thing, or you're going to be the one that's sending all the notifications on Facebook that no one sees.
And that was not a good place to be. And there were a lot of game developers that were chasing that Zynga thing and got a game that's like Farmville, but better. I went to play it. That could have been true. Almost certainly there are games that were better games than Mafia Wars or Farmville or whatever, but that we're never able to get tens of millions of people to play them.
And that's a big part of making games successful is not just making a great game, but getting a lot of people to buy it or play it.
Lizzie Mintus: Right time, right tactics. Talk to me about influencer marketing. What makes an influencer the right influencer for your game?
Adam: That's a good question. Right now, one of the most effective tactics to distribute games is that many gamers decide what games they play based on watching other people play them. And that's what we broadly call influencer marketing. You're watching a Twitch streamer or a YouTuber or TikToker who's talking about or playing a game. Those become, in a lot of ways, the kind of trusted reviews that review sites used to be or magazines and sadly in my day you read the reviews and what did critics say? What's better than a critic who you don't know? Not only do you get to hear their opinion of the game, you literally get to watch them play it and make the determination for yourself.
Does this game look fun? Maybe a streamer who I love likes it, but it looks lame to me, so I'm not going to buy it. So it really gives probably the best "try before you buy" experience short of playing it for yourself. And I think even if you could, for a lot of games that do things like free trials and, try before you buy stuff, watching someone else play it is sometimes a better experience because it's less work, it's more passive. It's easier to just sit back and watch someone play or watch multiple people play and I think that's a big part of the purchase decision journey for many players is watching multiple content creators play a game and making that determination again whether they think that they'd like it. So hugely important. Maybe with some rare exceptions, you should be thinking about launching a game without having a really robust content creator strategy, influencer strategy for how you're going to work with creators, how you're going to make a game that is fun to watch, not just play. Certainly that's not required, but if you look at the most successful games today. At least off mobile, they're all games that do really well on Twitch and YouTube, and that's because the games aren't just fun to play, but they're fun to watch. That's just part of the world we live in today, and so I certainly think it's one worth embracing.
Lizzie Mintus: And there's a content creator or platform that you partner closely with, right?
Adam: We work with all of the platforms - Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok are the three biggest. There are many smaller ones. Those three are the biggest by a lot. You can slice and dice in different ways.
TikTok generates the most views, but they're the more minimal views right there, someone scrolls and sees something for two seconds, it's a view, but it's not as impactful. YouTube, more dedicated videos, longer watch times, fewer viewers, and then Twitch, like the smallest number of viewers in terms of actual unique people who watch something, but the highest form of engagement.
Again, if you watch someone play a brand new game, you watch them stream it for an hour. At the end of that hour, you should have enough context to make your purchase decision whether you think this game is great and you want to buy it or not. Maybe you buy it, maybe you wishlist it, or maybe you decide, hey, this game sucks, I don't wanna play it. That's fine too, but that engagement experience on a smaller number is worth a whole lot more. With all those platforms, every game is a little different in terms of which platforms are going to work best on what type of content their game can generate. There's certain games that are fun, fun to watch clips of, but maybe you don't want to watch someone play it for an hour straight. Maybe it's boring and for a long set, but it's great for those highlights. And there are other games where watching the Full match and watching a 40 minute session is what's fun either suspense or build up or whatever the things are. So yeah, all those platforms I would say are valuable and useful, but for different reasons.
Lizzie Mintus: And do you feel like people need a creative genius to determine what platform is going to work best for their game? Or like you said, horror games do really well in short form. Are there some hard and fast rules that people generally follow?
Adam: No, I think that is more dynamic. That one I would say is closer to a hard and fast rule. But for most games, they're all shades of gray. There are very few games or game genres that only work on YouTube and don't work at all on Twitch. That's pretty rare. Usually it's gradients, but when you have finite resources, you need to determine where you're going to put your time and resources and money.
I would say that's more data than not, but I wonder whether the games are successful on those platforms. Often, that's a lot of that is game development and that's what type of game you're building and how you can make it successful on those platforms. Simplest example of all is things like spectator mode. There are some games where just watching the creators POV in the game may not be the best sort of streaming or YouTube experience, right? You might want to cut out a bunch of their UI so you can just focus on it. The gameplay plus the match stats, but you don't need all of their UI that the player might use. So having a mode where it's basically a streamer can stream where the viewers get a spectator mode is sometimes really valuable. Those games that don't matter for those games that it does.
But I would say those are the types of things where sometimes there is creative genius around how we can make sure that this game is fun to watch, and that's beyond my scope of anything I could have given good examples on how I would even go about doing that. But there are some games that have done that extremely well and have been really successful. And then there's games that don't. If you really think about it, the most successful games in the last five years on Twitch have been battle royales like PUBG and Fortnite. And one of the reasons those games have been so successful in the world is because they're really, they're fun to watch. There's the sort of combination of short-ish game sessions. The build up to this kind of climax of a match where you, when you start as one of a hundred and then every minute you go, people are dropping off and it gets more and more entertaining and more and more fun to watch over time. To the moment of winner, winner, chicken dinner or whatever that is. It is really fun to watch. That was genius of the game design to make that suspenseful viewership watching as opposed to another shooter that as a first to 50 kills and just doesn't quite have the same POV build up from an individual content creator. So there's there are things that you can do in game development, of course, it makes your game more fun to be viewable and that matters a lot, but in terms of what platforms you're going to want to focus on that I would say is more so a science decision, not an art decision.
Lizzie Mintus: That makes sense. Can you tell us your biggest success story for GameSight? Is there one company? Feel free to anonymize. It just really kind of had a turning point, given all the data.
Adam: Yeah, that's a tough one. I don't know if there is a turning point. I think it's a lot of these things. At some point you wake up and you say, Oh, it's like an overnight success story, but at what point did that happen? I'm not sure. I think that in terms of personal success, which I will, I will anonymize there. There's a company we work with and a large AAA developer, but making games for a really long time, lots of really successful games, you know, billions of dollars in revenue for their games and IPs. And they were, I would say super old school with how they did marketing and viewed marketing. They were not data driven. They were very much art over science type folks. And what ended up happening was they had a new team leader who came in with a different perspective. Way more science over art or data over brand, if you will. And that person took a different turn. We started working with them, it took at least a year and a half for this person to turn over the marketing department and team to more of their way of thinking and a huge part of that I know was partnering with us and using our technology to change how they think about and make decisions. And they were more successful than they've ever been. Already very successful, even more successful. And that's awesome. It's fun to be a part of a huge kind of turnaround and especially something that already wants success to go, wow, we only thought we could sell this many copies and now we're selling this many copies and we're doing all these different tactics that we'd never done or never thought about doing. We stopped doing some things that were not effective or a waste of money. And now we're doing all these other things that are super effective. We have larger budgets and more success. Now it's been a few years and they're doing a lot more projects. Now they're spending a lot more money. They're making a lot more money. All of those things are great. Certainly not trying to take credit for any of that, but being a part of that journey, that kind of success story has been great. That's definitely been a super rewarding thing. I would say that's probably it may be lame without names, but I, if they're good reasons, unfortunately can't share that.
Lizzie Mintus: That is rewarding. And that's great. That's sort of why I do what I do to it too. You get to be a little part of it. You get to find that person that makes that killer feature in the game so successful. And for you, it's tactics and data.
Adam: Yeah, that's right. No matter who you are, when you're talking about these giant games that thousands of people work on, there is no one person that's ever going to be anyone. It's just a small part of the overall success story. And there isn't a single person, even the game director, that's the person that's responsible for it. It takes a lot of people. I think it's easy for us to forget we're in the weeds of it, just like how big it is. Games bigger than movies, TV, and sports. It's the biggest form of entertainment in the world. And to be a part of some of the largest success stories. It's a Herculean effort that obviously takes lots of years and lots of people. It's fun to be a part of that. At the end, you know, more towards the end. I'm not there for the five years of early stage development where there's, no playable builds and a lot of whiteboarding and tons and tons of development, but not anything close to a finished product.I get to mostly work on stuff closer to the finished product. So it's a faster feedback cycle from when we'll usually start working on something to when it's launched and generated revenue.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah. That makes sense. How did you figure out this need in the market for your business in general?
Adam: I was working on a different project and product, and a partner of ours, customer game studio, basically flagged this as a need.
We're doing this stuff on Facebook and we'd love to know if it's successful. Our Facebook rep tells us we need to do X, Y, and Z, but it's not working. Any ideas? And that's really how Robert, and I would say, stumbled into it because we definitely did not set out to build marketing technology tools for game studios. It was not really like the thought, but that was clearly a need from one developer and one, one marketer at one studio, we worked with him on it. And it was successful, and he says, I think a lot of other studios will need the same thing. It didn't take us long to figure out that he was right, and that there were lots of other studios that needed the same thing. It was born out of basically a customer of another business and it's now a future customer and current customer of ours, is a random suggestion. I don't think it was a super well thought out thing. It was sort of, Hey, yeah, this is kind of annoying that we don't have any visibility here. And we don't really know if our Facebook budget is selling any copies of our game. Could you help us figure out if it is? And we were able to help figure it out. And it made a business difference to him and has for a bunch of games he's worked on since. So that's, that's also, I don't know, maybe that'd have been my second answer to, you know, kind of biggest win was, you know, that, that person who we worked with on that first studio, I think we've now worked with him across three different, he's worked at three companies since then, and we've worked with him at every studio. So that's always a fun level of continuity.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, games are fun because everyone works at the same studio. Well, you worked with one studio, came over to another and just a big community.
Adam: Yeah, it's a small, you know, small industry, I guess, small world.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, absolutely. What do you wish you knew when you started? You've had three businesses. So either you started, I mean, you started your first business when you were 11. So I'm sure you wish you knew a lot then. But what are the biggest lessons along the way that you would share for somebody who's has their own business or is thinking about starting?
Adam: It's a good question.
I think that the most important thing as a founder is trusting your own gut or trusting your own judgment. And that is, I think, way harder to do than it sounds like. I think it's especially hard when you are young or inexperienced at the specific thing you're doing. Because, as a reasonably smart person, I don't really know that much about this. Let me trust someone who does. And I think that the inclination to ask questions and learn from other people is really great. But I think at the end of the day, it still needs to be you that makes the decision. And every single one of the biggest mistakes I can point to in my career, I'm like, wow, I really screwed this up and there were major consequences for it- all of them have been something where I had an instinct or judgment to do something and I didn't do it. I trusted someone else. An investor, an advisor. These are well intentioned people that were trying to help me. And it wasn't like they were giving me objectively bad advice. But it was maybe good advice for them, not good advice for me. I think if you put it in a matrix and you imagine there's four boxes where you trust your own judgment and make the right decision. Don't trust your judgment and make the wrong decision. You look at all the different outcomes and if you trust your own judgment and make the right choice. Obviously that's great. You've reinforced that you know what you're doing and that you should keep doing those things. If you trust your judgment and make the wrong decision, which is the thing you, I guess, you'd be afraid of doing, you're going to learn. And I think that that's kind of the challenge of when you don't trust your judgment and then you, you do what someone else says you should do, and do that, and then it ends up being wrong. There isn't really a lot to learn from that. You're like, well, I guess don't, don't listen to that guy again, but oftentimes it's not that person whose input wasn't wrong, you just kind of applied it incorrectly. Mine is really trusting your judgment and then getting good at figuring out how to listen to yourself because it's not again not always easy to do. I would say that happens to me a lot when something comes to me like, hmm, I don't really know how I feel about this. I need to take some time and actively think about how I feel about a certain issue before I take action. And when I think about employees, investors, partners, one of the reasons people work here is they trust my judgment. One of the reasons people to invest in my companies and give me money is because they trust my judgment. One of the reasons customers work with us is hopefully they trust the leadership's judgment that we're building the right products and all those things. A lot of people have already put their faith in, in my judgment. So by me, not doing that, I am, I'm kind of doing them a disservice. So I would say that's my biggest piece of advice. And I know it can be a hard thing to do, but I, at the end of the day, I think it's extremely important to, to be willing to, to trust your own instincts and, you know, be prepared to be wrong and, you know, own up to that and learn from it and don't do the same thing again. When you just let someone else make a decision for you, then you're really not going to ever get any better.
Lizzie: That's really true. Everyone's advice is always to trust your gut, which is funny and hard to quantify. If you have to make a decision and you're a little bit torn and you're marinating on it, what do you do to decide? Do you make a list? Talk to other people, ask for experiences, go on a walk.
AdamL I think it depends, definitely depends. I definitely ask people. I ask people, I read stuff. I would say one of the things I think I'm pretty good at doing is rather than just asking people, I think, I think it's hard to get. It's hard decisions. They're complex. There's a lot of variables. There's a lot of factors. It's pretty much impossible to give someone else all the context that you have in your head to make the decision. So what I find is a little bit more useful is, I'll come up with a hypothesis of what I think I'm going to do or sometimes I think maybe this is the wrong answer. But what if it was the right answer? And I'll present that to people who I trust as though that's what I'm going to do. And then I kind of gauge people's feedback. It's hard. We're using this example in the abstract, but let's just imagine I was deciding between two C level hires. And they're really different people with really different backgrounds and a different direction for the company based on who we picked. And I'm really torn between the two. What I probably would do is I would... Okay. Pick candidate A, and then I would tell, oh, I don't know who, I have a CEO coach. I tell my CEO coach, 'Hey Peter, I think I'm really thinking that we're going to go with candidate A, here are all the reasons why I think candidate A is going to be better.' And then as I talk it out, and then as I hear him react, that will really help inform my decision. I think that I get way better feedback when I do that versus if I just said, 'Hey, Peter, I've got candidate A, candidate B, pros, cons, pros, cons, what do you think?' I mean, he could probably give me a decent answer, but I think he'll give me way better feedback if I told him why I want to hire candidate A, and... Maybe he's like, 'Yeah, those are all really good reasons. I mean, you should definitely do that.' Or is it? 'Oh, yeah. But what about this? Have you really thought about this?' And then maybe that's a more valuable conversation. So I definitely talk to people on my own personal thing and pick a side. I have a lawyer background. So I guess I have a little bit of that- pick a side of the argument and then argue for it. You can change it later. It doesn't want to stick with it just because you argued for it one time. That's probably what I do. I take walks. I take walks in the woods, I live in the woods. I like to take walks in the woods. That's something I do to think about problems. But when I'm close to an answer, that's probably what I do is I pick, pick a side and I would, I would try to convince people that's what to do. And I'll either, I usually will convince myself during that time that I want to do that. I don't want to do that.
Lizzie Mintus: That's great advice.
Adam: Maybe. I don't know if it worked for other people. I, it's just, it was my process. I'm not sure if that's a magic trick or anything.
Lizzie Mintus: Well, you didn't tell me to do it.
Adam: You just told me what works for you. Yeah, maybe I'm not. Yeah, definitely. If it works for you, do it.
Lizzie Mintus: I have one last question for you. Let's pretend we're at an award ceremony and you're getting a big award for a lifetime achievement for everything you've done up until this point, who are you going to thank?
Adam: Ooh. I don't know… Is there an answer different than… you think your mom first, you always think your mom first. I would probably go mom, and then maybe not fully chronological, but then family, wife and kids. Then it's team members, the people who I work with, customers, partners, maybe investors probably go last. Probably Robert specifically, who's my RCT on my, my business partner. And probably he'd probably get a personal shout out. Everyone else may be more of a team, but I suppose it also depends on the award. Maybe if there's more specifics why someone else would get a shout out, but yeah, that would be my answer: mom, wife, kids, team members, customers.
Lizzie Mintus: And Robert is somebody that you started... This is your second business with Robert. So Robert's the ying to your yang?
Adam: Yeah, yeah, Robert and I have worked together since 2011, so whatever that is, 12 years. 12 years now, so, um, Yeah, Robert and I started working together. Robert was 16. He was in high school, uh, and he was a software developer. At 16, we worked together on a project, and we've worked together ever since. So yeah, it's been a long ride with him.
Lizzie Mintus: How did you find each other? That's amazing. It's so hard to find someone that you jive with like that.
Adam: Uh, the internet. I was working on a project and he was working on a different project. And I was like, 'Hey, you should work on my project with me. It kind of has some similarities to some stuff you're doing. I think your code is really good and I think you'd be helpful to this project.' He said, 'Oh, sure. I guess I could do that.' And we did. I wouldn't say that it was something where we met and clicked. I think we worked together and he worked on this thing and had some synergies and it kind of worked together. And then over time, got to know each other more. It is weird. And it is random. I don't know all that well thought out. It was more just a kind of happenstance. How it all worked out. Robert's tremendous- the best engineer I've ever worked with or are known. He's a great guy and great partner and teammate, great manager, great leader for the engineering team and. Overall, smart dude.
Lizzie Mintus: I think he deserves a shout out. That's really sweet to hear. But you kind of had hunted him. Basically, you recruited him, it sounds like.
Adam: Yeah., he was from his own high school. I don't think he had a lot of other job offers since he was a high schooler. He was building these really awesome community tools that a lot of game gaming communities were using. And I had no idea he was 16. You just know people’s online handles and they have usernames. It's not exactly like there was anything more to that for a while. At some point you figure those things out. You talk to each other and you get to know each other. But for a while I was like, 'Oh, this guy writes this, he has this great app and a lot of people seem to use it. And he has a good POV on how to do this one thing. So maybe he should be working on this project with us. I will say that I have definitely had a lot of success with headhunting. It's quite the word I'd use, especially on the development side, youfind somebody who's built something that you specifically are a fan of. I think it's an easier thing to recruit someone to be like, 'Hey, I'm a huge fan of this project that you've done, here's why, and here's the project I'm working on and why you should work on it with me, uh, that.' That works out really well. People obviously want to work on it if they liked the last thing they did. They'll be interested in your thing if they are similar in some kind of way. I've done that multiple times now to pretty decent success, I would say.
Lizzie Mintus: You're giving away my recruiting secrets. Personally reach out, see what they worked on, recognize that they have used it. I mean, of course they're going to reply to you.
Adam: I would think so. Most people like to talk about the stuff that they've done. I suppose you could go the other way…... like, 'I worked on that project, I hated it, it sucked, I hated everything about it.' Okay, fine. If that's true, then you don't want to, then they don't want to work with you, you don't want to work with them. So it kind of nets out to be the right answer anyway.
Lizzie Mintus: Yeah, that's true. But I think today it's just so much ChatGPT. I am impressed with your background. I have an opportunity that's great.
Adam: No. And maybe that works one out of 10,000 times and it costs nothing to do that. So maybe it is an effective strategy. But I think for most of us, that's probably the number one. I had just a panel at Seattle Tech Week last week and a fresh college graduate was asking about getting a job in games: what's your tip for getting a job in games? If you want to work at a game studio, you better have played the game and you better be able to talk about why you're interested in working at their company. The worst thing you can do is say, 'Hey, I want a job in games, you're a game company, hire me.' But why do you want to work at my game company? Not just like any games company. We had 17,000 job applicants last year to work at Gamesight. And the vast majority of them are by and large, 'Dear company, I want a job, you have a job, please give me a job.' And everyone wants to hear why you want this specific job at this specific company, not just a job in general. And being able to articulate that I think is supposed to be a harder skill than I think it is, because not that many people do it.
Lizzie Mintus: We talked about this the other day for the cover letter. 'Dear first name., I am interested in your job. '
Adam: Tell me more. You don't know me. You don't have to pretend you know me or care about me. That's fine, but at the very least, you could read the description on the website. Hopefully we do a good job in our job descriptions and you should be able to read it and go, 'Oh yeah, this is the kind of thing I'd be perfect at. I love doing X, Y, Z.' And a lot of our jobs now. They'll have specifics around types of games and game companies. You want to work on first person shooter games? If you can't in a cover letter say yes to that, you're probably not a good fit for this job.
Lizzie Mintus: Totally. That's basic things that are not rocket science that you would think would be more common, but they're not. But at least then it's easier to pick who you want. We had a job we had open for a week to work for Here's Waldo, and we had over 500 applicants, and we had to shut it down. I think people that made it to finals, we had one person make it to finals out of those 500 applicants.
Adam: Did you hire them?
Lizzie Mintus: Wild, yeah. I've heard that a lot. We had so many applicants, and for us, we spent so much time going through them, too. But then in the end, we recruited for ourselves and that was more effective.
Adam: It is crazy. You look at 500 applicants. Forget about qualifications. How many of them can get through first blush cover letter type things. You weed out the vast majority in that first step. I don't know if I sent you one of my favorites that I got flagged to me recently. It was someone said that they were in their cover letter, extremely detail oriented and they spelled detail wrong. If it was a joke, it was hilarious. And it wasn't a joke. It's not hilarious. Don't do that.
Lizzie Mintus: It's always entertaining. For sure.
Adam: Yes. I think I might have told you that at lunch. I think you should start like a TikTok of those. You have to blur the names. You're not trying to embarrass people, but there are, it would be, there's probably some pretty good fails.
We actually just started a new channel in our company Slack called America's best outreach email fails and most of them are recruiters, tech recruiters, various sales enablement tools. The stuff you'd expect in there. They're so there's so many funny ones.
Lizzie Mintus: Okay, if you could slack me those that would be great. Somebody offered me to feed a hungry dog a bowl of dog food if I took a call with them, and my friend, Kelly,
Adam: What if you don't.
Lizzie Mintus: I guess the dog's gonna starve. Should I ask them?
Adam: Is this a threat?
Lizzie Mintus: I don't know. People keep offering me Yeti mugs, and I keep getting this too. What is the strategy? There's an overarching sales enablement tool strategy conference. That was the Yeti mugs.
Adam: Maybe the Yeti sales team is just killing it. I did that once for a big tech product thing where they did the bribe in the email. It was a Nintendo, and I was like, 'I'll take a 30 minute call for a Nintendo switch.' And then I think, I don't know if I raffled it off at work. I gave it to someone else at the company, but said I'll do it for that. But they were difficult to get the switch out of after the call.
I was like, 'You don't have my address. So like, it can't be on the way. When am I going to get it?' And then they kept trying to book the second call. I just want to make sure you guys are truthful before I'm not going to work with a vendor that's not even truthful. They gave me my switch eventually.
Lizzie Mintus: Love it. Yeah. Please send me some of those. Okay. We've been talking to Adam Lieb, who's the founder of GameSite. Adam, where can people go to learn more about you? Maybe apply to work at GameSite with an appropriate cover letter.
Adam: Let's see. So I would say for me, Twitter is the best. It is @adamslieb on Twitter. Go to the company website, gamesite, G A M E S I G H T dot I O. If you go there, there's a career page on there. It's linked to the platform we used to manage all that. Our careers page talks about why to work at the company and job portal where people can apply. We do 100% of our sourcing through that tool.
Lizzie Mintus: Perfect. Thank you so much. It was fun.
Adam: Thank you.
Thanks so much for listening to the show this week. To catch all the latest from His Waldo, you can follow us on LinkedIn. Be sure to click subscribe to get future episodes.
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