Last September (2013), Grand Theft Auto V made video game history when its launch reached over $1 billion in sales in less than three days. To put that in perspective, it took Avatar 17 days to generate $1 billion at the box office.
According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 59 percent of Americans played video games on a regular basis in 2013. In order to determine which video games are going to be a hit with players, companies like E.A. Games, Sony, and Zynga are calling in VG Market to test their consumer waters.
Founded by now 32-year-old, Michael Gluck, the firm has grown to become a leading global provider of market research for entertainment, media, and technology since its inception in 2007.
MiLLENNiAL caught up with Michael as he was passing through Los Angeles on his way back to Florida. He had just flown in from Tahiti days before and greeted us at the legendary Pacific Design Center with the biggest smile on his face. But this smile was obviously tied to a life much more enriching than an exotic vacation to the tropics.
Growing VG Market from 1 to 30 employees
For the last seven years, Michael and his growing team of 30 employees have been privileged to work on all top-selling games. He has turned $5,000 into $20 million within five years by utilizing a model of market research that allows for both qualitative and quantitative data analysis, a hybrid deliverable he claims to have created. “My idea was to create a specialized service for the video game industry that provided tailored information that was most relevant to the people in the space,” he tells us.
But this business didn’t just come out of the blue. In fact, Michael says that it is nearly impossible to break into this industry unless you’ve worked for a major gaming network. After graduating from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in market research, Michael landed his first job as a research analyst for E.A. Games.
During his time at E.A., Michael learned the inefficiencies of how market research was being conducted at the time. He was soon moved to sales where he learned how to forecast games and later went on to become a producer for the SIMs and SIM City 5. But witnessing these failed market research practices on the daily was all it took for Michael to think he could perform the same duties for a fraction of the price and time.
“Historically, multi-million dollar ideas were being made on small sample sizes of people. Video game companies would bring in a few focus groups of six to eight people, and then based on those small samples would make large decisions,” Michael explains. These decisions were largely based on outsourced research companies that were not “video game specific research vendors, but large multi-purpose research vendors” who created a larger margin for error.
Being an avid video game player with a knack for market trends, Michael approached his boss to let him conduct the research. As if pressure wasn’t high enough, Michael was able to deliver his first job within 72 hours (something that normally took three weeks to complete) and VG Market was born.
How Relationships Create Building Blocks for Success
Crediting his boss for the initial success he had with his business, Michael stresses the importance of building strong business relationships. “The importance of mentorship is the fact that any business you are eventually going to create or anything that you are going to do is 100 percent dependent on the strengths of your relationships.” He continues by saying that everything you learn in school is about the details and “all that matters are relationships with people.”
Now consumed with testing video games and identifying market trends, Michael believes the market is shifting. When he started his business in 2007 most of the games he was working with were for a console, today they are mostly for mobile devices. He informs us the market is looking to play “games that you can pick up and put down quickly because people are playing with their phones and it’s not about a captive experience anymore.” Rather, it’s about a “multi-tasking experience” free of tutorials. He adds that people want know how to play immediately.
And with this instant gratification mentality comes the desire for new experiences. Michael sees this in the form of virtual reality, where a player is completely immersed in the game. He believes that in 2020, the whole video game experience will be much more integrated. “I think there is a movement for the unification of a single device.”
Will Video Games Reach the Point of Singularity
When asked about his thoughts on singularity, Michael replied with a quote from Einstein, “I fear the day that technology will surpass human interaction; we will have a generation of idiots.” Even though Michael is a video game fanatic, he still enjoys human connection more than a cyber network and prefers speaking with people in person.
He even flies to various parts of the country to meet his testers in person and have conversations either one-on-one or in groups to obtain the most direct feedback. “I think of myself as one small humble piece of the pie.” It is this very small but important piece that is responsible for pushing games to market and determining which products will hit the App store.
To learn more about Michael Gluck or how to become a beta tester, visit VG Market.