“Remain true to your original game design,” Casey Pelkey advised his audience during Casual Connect USA 2014. “The thing that makes your game great for your fans is the thing you have to exploit the most and the farther you stray from them, the less likely that your fans will enjoy them.”
Casey Pelkey, vice president of marketing at Tetris Online, is closely watching the microconsole movement. He began evaluating the opportunity when OUYA received overwhelming support for their Kickstarter campaign. Then, when Amazon launched Fire TV in April, the company became an active supporter with a single player Tetris game. They quickly followed that with Tetris Battle: Fusion, a multi-player follow-up to their Facebook game, Tetris Battle. Although Pelkey recognizes that the market is still very small, with plenty of room for improvement, he thinks it is only a matter of time before these affordable devices become clear alternatives for playing games. His excitement about the future of microconsoles has grown with Google’s recent announcement to roll out Android TV, as well as the rumors surrounding Apples next update to Apple TV.
The two games Tetris Online has launched on Amazon TV will allow them to better understand how players will respond to playing on these types of devices. But he admits, “Games are unfortunately a secondary focus for many larger manufacturers, so we’re also trying to work closely with each of them to help improve the overall experience.”
Generating Revenue Through Partnerships
As vice president of marketing, Pelkey’s primary responsibility is to give their products the best chance of success by generating and executing marketing plans. He is also responsible for generating revenue outside of game sales and in-game purchases, including both advertising and partnerships. When not focused on revenue generation, he handles public relations and business development issues.
Working With Icons
When he was offered an executive role at Tetris Online, it was difficult to leave Nintendo after many successful years, but the timing was right for his family, and being based in Honolulu was certainly an added enticement. But the biggest reason he made the decision to accept the position was the opportunity to work with several industry icons he deeply admires, including Minoru Arakwa, Henk Rogers, and Alexey Pajitnov.
The launching of Wii brought Pelkey the time in his career that he remembers with the greatest pride. During his time at Nintendo, he assisted with many product launches, but none were as challenging as the launch of Wii. There was a lot of skepticism in the market prior to showing it at E3. Although E3 is not always the best indicator of how a product will perform, it is a relief to get a strong reaction from the media and retailers who are attending. But two days before E3, Pelkey had an emergency appendectomy and his doctor advised him not to attend. He relates, “Fat chance! The next day I jumped on a flight from Seattle to Los Angeles to attend the show. Fortunately, the stitches held and I got to see the reactions of the attendees first hand. It was great to see and the rest is history!”
In the games industry today, he has noticed a trend that isn’t getting the attention it should. That is the rapid and blatant copying of games. Although this has always been an issue to some extent, he feels what happened with Flappy Bird and Threes illustrates how quickly many small developers can jump on and idea of someone else and profit from it. He says, “I think we’re just scratching the surface of this issue, so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.”
For his personal gaming, Pelkey prefers using consoles, but because of its convenience and accessibility, he actually uses his smartphone most of the time. When he is not playing EA’s Tetris Blitz, it is Threes by Sirvo or Trials Frontier by Ubisoft. He usually prefers puzzle games because they work well with the touch interface, but Trials Frontier has been keeping him entertained for the past few weeks.
Although he usually limits his F2P purchases to less than five dollars, he did once spend $40 on Zynga’s Empires and Allies on Facebook. His motive was purely competitive, since many of his industry friends and co-workers were playing it. Originally, he refused to support Zynga’s mastery of the in-game up-sell, but in a moment of weakness, he succumbed.
The latest consoles are available at the office for employees to enjoy, so he hasn’t purchased any of them. But he owned almost every previous console and handheld gaming device in existence. He still keeps some of them in storage, planning to share them with his children.
When not working or gaming, Pelkey enjoys spending time with his family, usually on the beach or soccer field. And the rest of the time you will find him on the golf course.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.