The Elusive Tween Girl Gamer by Star Stable is an excellent example of how winning moves can result in the game’s epic growth worldwide. They have 6 million players with 200,000 added each month. At Casual Connect USA, Star Stable’s CEO and Chairman Fredric Gunnarson and CMO Taina Malén, spoke about their their playbook, which includes a steady introduction of in-game features and ongoing story development, as well as showcase the power of social to cement a long-term relationship with the tween gamer. The tween girl spends $30 billion of their own money annually and influences another $150 billion of their parents’ spending. With this market comes certain challenges: content, safety and marketing. Each are different for the various ages they target. “So the eight year old is just really happy with this pony . . . The game for them is very oriented around that. When you get slightly older, maybe Harry Potter age, the adventure part of the game becomes more and more interesting. . . When they get to be older, the social part of the game becomes much more interesting”, Fredric reflected. Tune in below to hear how Star Stable has fared with the elusive tween girl.
Star Stable, a game company and online horse adventure MMO, is tapping into a largely ignored demographic – and it’s proving to be a great move. The game, designed for tween and teen girls, is the fastest growing game of its kind and already boasts 6 million players.
At the helm of Star Stable are CEO Fredric Gunnarson and CMO Taina Malen, both of whom boast impressive backgrounds in entertainment, gaming and business.
Fredric has dabbled with e-sports and video game intellectual property, founded mobile technology company Lociloci, and was part of Lunarstorm, a highly successful social networking website that has managed to engage with 90 percent of Swedish tweens.
Taina, meanwhile, has had years of experience in digital media and entertainment working for BMG Music, Universal Pictures, Virgin Music, and Warner Bros. She is also the co-founder of Esportal AB, an e-gaming platform, and has held several board positions.
Fredric first came into contact with Star Stable by helping the company get its first round of funding. However, he quickly became wrapped up in what Star Stable was trying to do, saying “I closely followed the company after and just got so caught up by the great energy in the company.”
As CEO of Star Stable, Fredric initially kept tabs and worked on everything – both big and small. However, as the company has grown his focus has shifted to team building and propelling growth.
With Taina’s skills and network, she was a natural choice for the company’s CMO. As the company began to rapidly expand, everyone agreed that she was needed. Taina found the opportunity Star Stable offered appealing as well. “The focus on content and the importance of having a great-quality, fun, engaging product have always been the factors that give my work traction,” she says. “After all, a hit is a hit is a hit!”
Star Stable has been a rewarding experience for both Fredric and Taina. Fredric loves the players’ engagement and how much they show their appreciation for the game while Taina loves the diverse work environment and the global focus on empowering young women.
“The most fun part of going to work is the community that supports our product and knowing that we have so many fantastic users that love what we do,” she says. ”We unite our audience, we keep them company and most importantly, we empower girls.”
Taina says Star Stable’s business model is tightly focused on not only producing a great game and keeping it gripping, fun, trustworthy and secure; but also on making sure the game entertains and empowers girls everywhere, allowing them to connect with something that can give them a real sense of self.
Star Stable’s focus on girls is based on more than just female empowerment though. Fredric notes that he expects to see the female demographic become increasingly more important in the future. “I think we’ll see many more girls playing AAA titles, and that more titles will be produced for them.”
While the work at Star Stable is rewarding, it’s not without its challenges. First, there is the inherent challenge that comes with any technology or gaming business: adaptability. Fredric notes that people need to incorporate and support “a playful approach” to new things.
Star Stable makes sure to do this by having a philosophy of staying flexible and fluid. Taina points out that the company keeps up with trends and they constantly update any part of their workflow that needs to change in order to stay relevant and ahead of the curve.
Then there is the challenge of growth outpacing the cash flow. Fredric says for a while the company was under-invested in infrastructure and people, but that the company is beginning to catch up.
There are also the day-to-day challenges that come with running a business. “We overcome them as we go along,” Taina says. “It’s not about always smashing the ball – more knowing how to hold the bat right. That way you are always ready for the pitch every time.”
The X Factor
An additional challenge for both Fredric and Taina when they came to Star Stable was getting to understand a new audience: tween and teen girls. Fredric explains that you need to be really careful in assuming you know what they value and enjoy, while Taina has discovered that following how they talk, move, and behave has been “a true education.”
Their audience’s relationship with Star Stable has also been surprising in a number of ways – but the way YouTube has factored into things has particularly fascinated both Fredric and Taina.
Fredric reveals that their audience is “almost unfathomably compelled” by user-generated content. He sees it as a “beautifully genuine and organic” extension of PR and marketing. “The way they advocate our product is extraordinary, and I truly feel their enthusiasm makes up no small part of our drive to deliver the amazing game they deserve.”
Taina similarly emphasizes that Star Stable is lucky to have an engaged and hyped community like the kind built around YouTube stars LetsPlay and PewDiePie. “I’m staggered and fascinated: Thousands and thousands of Star Stable videos are uploaded to YouTube every week, and watching that organic spread of our product and our brand by kids who believe in us is simply awesome.”
With the incredible fan base, is Star Stable worried about competition?
Fredric certainly isn’t worried. “I think people see Star Stable as a unique offering in a not-too-crowded area of the industry, so as long as we continue to produce content from our strong IP that delights and engages our players and fans, I can stay pretty fearless.”
Taina agrees. “I believe it’d be pretty hard to produce a better MMORPG game for girls than we have right now!”